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As Easter approaches, so too does the seasonal omnipresence of Peeps marshmallows. These candies, most commonly seen in their chick and bunny shapes, are a staple of Easter baskets. This Christian holiday isn’t the only time you’ll see Peeps, though — and these five facts about the marshmallow company’s history can help explain how this candy has become so prevalent even outside their usual season.
The earliest Peeps were made by hand
Before the privately-held company Just Born Inc. bought Rodda Candy Co. and thus formed what consumers now know as Peeps, Rodda employed 80 workers who formed individual Peeps chicks by hand, in a process that could take over 24 hours per individual Peep. These workers tediously squeezed marshmallows from pastry tubes, a process that Just Born Inc. figured out how to expedite and reduce errors by switching to machines. Nowadays, Just Born produces more than 5 million Peeps candies per day.
Peeps weren’t Just Born’s first rodeo
Based in Bethlehem, PA, Just Born got its start in 1910. The company is responsible for the well-known candies Mike and Ike and Hot Tamales, but its biggest contributions to the candy industry transcend individual brands. Just Born pioneered chocolate sprinkles and chocolate shell (liquid fudge that hardens when it comes into contact with cold ice cream), not to mention the machines that add sticks to lollipops. When it came time for Just Born to take over Peeps’ processes, the company had plenty of experience to draw from.
Early Peeps chicks had actual wings
Today’s Peeps chick is recognizable for its amorphous body and head, which manages to successfully convey a chick’s form without a beak or wings. The very earliest Peeps did have wings, though, but this addition to the form made the newly machine-automated process more challenging than Just Born wanted it to be. In 1955, the company eliminated wings from the Peeps chick design, giving consumers the adorable yellow and pink birds known across the world today.
New Peeps colors and flavors debuted in the ‘90s and ‘00s
The original Peeps are the yellow, wingless chicks most strongly associated with the brand. Before 1995, pink and white birds had joined the mix, and during 1995, blue and lavender birds were introduced. Peeps even went a step further at the turn of the century, expanding from its beloved marshmallow flavor into vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. Despite these expansions, though, traditional marshmallow Peeps often top ranked lists of Easter candies — but for the holiday, bunny-shaped Peeps overtake the standard birds.
Peeps stores opened their doors in just the past decade
By 2009, Peeps had become popular enough to open their own stores. In Oxon Hill, Maryland, the very first Peeps store opened, and it came equipped with a Volkswagen Beetle with a giant metal Peeps chick on its roof. The brand later opened a store in Just Born’s native Bethlehem and Minnesota’s famed Mall of America. In addition to selling all the Peeps flavor, color, and seasonal varieties a consumer could want, these stores also sell Peeps merch and Just Born’s other candy brands.
What are your favorite Peeps candies? What other candies do you enjoy on Easter? Let us know in the comments!