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Made in Connecticut: PEZ Candy

Pez candy dispensers. Connecticut Explored https://www.ctexplored.org/orange-pez/

By Bobby Shipman

What’s your favorite candy? Is it PEZ? On average 3 billion PEZ candies are eaten in America every year! They are also one of the most popular candies in the world. They are sold in more than 80 countries—and they are made right here in Orange, Connecticut.

PEZ candies were invented in Austria in 1927. A confectionier named Eduard Haas III created it. His candy was for adults. He wanted to stop smoking by offering a candy instead. The name comes from the German word for peppermint: pfefferminz (say feff-er-minz). Peppermint was the first flavor. It came in pocket-sized tins.

The first dispenser debuted in 1949. It was invented by Oscar Uxa, a teenager who worked with Haas. It was shaped like a cigarette lighter. This was another part of the anti-smoking idea. When people asked you to light their cigarettes, you could hand them your PEZ dispenser. Instead of a light, out popped a candy.

Haas brought PEZ to the United States in 1952. But it didn’t sell well. Haas decided to try selling the candy to children. The dispenser was made into a toy. A character head was put on the top. You pulled back the head to get the candy. Santa Claus was one of the first dispensers for kids. It’s still the most popular one. They company added cartoon characters like Popeye and Mickey Mouse.

PEZ switched to fruit flavors like grape, orange, and strawberry. They tried a space gun dispenser in the 1960s. You could shoot the candy into your mouth. But it was dangerous. Kids were choking on the candies.

In the 1970s and 1980s PEZ was less popular. Then something happened to make it popular again. In 1993 a Tweety Bird dispenser was featured on a TV show. It played an important role in an episode of America’s most popular TV comedy, Seinfeld. Sales went way up.

The company moved its North American headquarters to Orange in 1974. Why to Orange? “Because there was no Grape, Lemon, or Strawberry, Connecticut,” joked Shawn Peterson, a PEZ spokesperson.

The PEZ factory is a sweet place to be. Twenty-five tons of sugar are delivered to the factory every four days. First the sugar is ground into a soft, fine powder. Then the sugar is mixed with flavoring, coloring, corn syrup, and plant-based fat. The mix is pressed into little bricks. It takes 3,000 pounds of pressure to make one PEZ brick! The bricks are wrapped and checked once again. They are packaged with a dispenser and shipped around the world.

In 2011 the company opened a visitors center. You can visit and see PEZ being made and dispensers of all kinds, including the the world’s largest one.

PEZ has changed a lot throughout the years. It went from an anti-smoking aid to children’s candy. It has gone from popular to unpopular to popular again. It has been packaged in many different ways. But ever since its creation, PEZ has been pleasing taste buds everywhere.

Bobby Shipman is a fifth grader at Tariffville School in Simsbury.

Sources:

Orange: PEZ“, Connecticut Explored, Summer 2016

History of PEZ, PEZ.com

Pez candy dispensers. Connecticut Explored https://www.ctexplored.org/orange-pez/