Peeps turn 70 this year, and to celebrate these little magic marshmallow treats, we’re going to take a look back at the history of these fun fluffy snacks!
The history of Peeps begins with Sam Born, an immigrant to the United States from France. He was born in Russia as Samuel Bernstein in 1891 and moved to Paris with his parents when they left Russia. He worked in a candy store in Paris, and learned the candy trade. In 1910, he moved to Philadelphia, listing his occupation as “Candy Maker”.
Sam immediately began to take the candy industry by storm. In 1916, he was awarded the Key to San Francisco after inventing the “Born Sucker Machine”, which was a stick-inserting machine for lollipops. US Patent 1195437. Also in 1916, he opened up several candy stores in New York City. But in 1923 he opened his own candy confectionery. He named it “Just Born”. It was a play on his name and the fact that his candy was so fresh it was like it was “just born!”. In 1929 he opened another shop called “Montclair Chocolate” at 110 Myrtle Ave in New York City.
Where the Peeps Come in
As his candy companies began to take off, Sam Born started to purchase other candy companies. He was joined by his two brothers-in-law and in 1926 they bought Norma Chocolate Works. They moved to Bethlehem, PA in 1932 and continued to purchase other companies and brands. Maillard, Kreem Made Fudge, Rodda, and Marlon were just a few of the brands they bought.
But in 1953 they purchased the Rodda Candy Company. They were small specialty handmade candy makers. Their line of marshmallow chicks had small wings and were handmade by about 80 women. They were more of a meringue than a marshmallow and had to air dry. In total, a single Peep took almost 27 hours to make! After acquiring the company, Sam Born automated the process and changed the formula to the marshmallow we know and love. Automating the process cut the time down to only 6 minutes per Peep, and had the side effect of cutting off the wings. The modern Peep had been born!
Not long after Born automated the process, his company, Just Born, began to experiment. In the ’60s, they began to put out seasonally themed Peeps. The ’80s saw the popular Bunny Peep be born, and by the ’90s, new colors and shapes were common.
New flavors of Peeps became popular in the early 2000s, with vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate Peeps.
It was in the early 2000s that they became popular outside of just candy. Lip balm, pillows, costumes, and even a TV franchise centered around Peeps were all created. Recipes for Peep s’mores, cakes, and even sushi began to take the internet by storm each year around Easter.
Peeps continue to be one of the most popular Easter candies, with new flavors still being announced. In 2021, Just Born announced a new limited-edition cola flavor.
Whether you enjoy them fresh and gooey, stale and crunchy, or baked into cakes, Peeps are one of the staples of Easter. And while the world record for Peeps eaten is 255 in five minutes, perhaps we should eat just a few fewer than that on Easter Day.
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