Inside the history of 5 classic Halloween treats

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Candy overflows from a bucket painted to look jack-o-lantern.

  • Many Halloween candies have a long and fascinating history. 
  • From circus peanuts to candy corn, some of these favorites go back a century or more.
  • Inflation may send candy prices higher this season.

Halloween is known throughout the United States as a time for tricks and treats. On the last day of October, children across the country will dress up as ghouls and witches and go door-to-door collecting candy from their neighbors. 

In 2022, candy makers like Hershey sounded the alarm on a possible treat shortage, owing to supply and labor issues. NPR reported that candy prices are also set to jump this year, thanks to inflation. But that likely won’t dull trick-or-treaters’ desire for sweets.

So where did some of the most popular holiday treats originate? Insider looked into the origins of some classic snacks associated with Halloween.

Candy corn

candy corn
Candy corn.

Candy corn was originally marketed as a year-round treat called “Chicken Feed,” back around the turn of the 20th century.

Despite its longevity, candy corn has also been a divisive candy in the US. In 2017, a survey from Mashable found that the treat is the “most hated type of candy” across 21 states. Plenty of people might disagree: The National Confectioners Association says candy corn is the second-most popular Halloween treat, behind chocolate and ahead of gummies. 

Circus peanuts

circus peanut candy halloween
Circus peanuts.

The misleadingly named sweets are in fact peanut-shaped marshmallow candies, not peanuts. Spangler Candy Co., which has been making circus peanuts since 1941, offers them in the familiar banana flavor, but also sells them in vanilla, cherry and lemon.

Eater reported that circus peanuts originated as one of the “penny candies” — along with candy corn and “bottle caps” — that came out of the 1800s.

Spangler says the candies were even used in wartime: “Circus Peanuts are so great that during World War II when sugar was rationed, Circus Peanuts slurry was jarred and sold as a sugar replacement,” the company’s website says. 

Popcorn balls

Popcorn balls
Popcorn balls.

Popcorn balls are another old-fashioned treat associated with Halloween.

They are believed to date back as far as 1861.  According to industry website, the snacks were “one of the most popular confections and often given as gifts” at Halloween in the late 19th century and early 20th century, but also became popular for other holidays, like Christmas and Easter. 

“Because of its low cost, popcorn was ideal for Christmas decorations, food, and gift giving,” the website said. 

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Reese's Cups

According to the site’s rankings, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are slated to be the most popular Halloween candy in the United States for 2022. The chocolate-and-peanut-butter confection dates back around a hundred years.

In the 1920s, a man named H.B. Reese worked at The Hershey Company, according to the company’s website. In his free time, Reese would experiment by coming up with new candies.

He came up with his namesake peanut butter cups in 1928, and the candies were an instant hit. Reese kicked off his own venture, but continued to work with Hershey, which supplied him with chocolate. Decades later, his family sold the business to his original employers.

Candy apples

Candy apples
Candy apples.

According to Food and Wine, the existence of candied apples — a Halloween and carnival staple — is a fluke. A candy maker named William W. Kolb glazed a few apples with his new candy confection as a means of marketing the red, cinnamon-flavored glaze in 1908. But consumers ended up enjoying the apple treats so much that he ended up sticking with the sweetened fruits rather than doubling down on the confection alone. 

Read the original article on Business Insider
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