This spring, Americans will enjoy about 700 million marshmallows, making them the most popular non-chocolate Easter candies.
Made in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, these viscous, sticky, sugar-coated faces have been making their way into Easter baskets for more than half a century.
Peeps can attribute their fame to a man named Samuel Bourne. Russian immigrant Bourne opened a small candy store in New York in 1923. As his business grew, Bourne moved to Bethlehem and called it “Just Born,” advertising the freshness of his product.
The company has become a key player in the confectionery business and has made several key acquisitions, one of which was Rodda Candy Co. in Lancaster.
Although their unique way of making jelly was the reason that Born acquired Rodda in 1953, it was the marshmallow chicks that aroused his greatest interest.
At the time, chickens were made by hand at the factory, squeezing marshmallows through pastry tubes.
It took 27 hours to make one little chick!
Born’s son, Bob, mechanized the marshmallow process and turned Just Born into the world’s largest producer of innovative marshmallow sweets.
Today, every six minutes, the chick Pips is born!
When Peeps are produced, armies of puffy, sweet-smelling candies travel day and night along assembly lines at a 500,000-square-foot plant in Bethlehem, which employs about 500 staff.
Over the years Peeps have been created in new shapes and colors for different holidays and also come in different flavors. There are even peeps in chocolate.
“We’re trying to understand our consumers and what they want so we can introduce new items to expand their choices when buying their favorite brands of candy,” said Just Born spokeswoman Eli Derdorf.
In 2009, the first Peeps & Co. store opened. in the inner harbor of Baltimore, where you can find candy and goods. Products can also be purchased at their recently launched online store, www.peepsandcompany.com.
The company also has a family-run Peeps World website where users can play games, create art and find recipes on www.marshmallowpeeps.com
Deardorf said the great taste and familiarity continue to keep Peeps so popular.
“They evoke nostalgic feelings in fans,” she said. “Memories of their children’s Easter baskets and a desire to pass on the Peeps tradition to their own children also contribute to their fame,” she said.
Peeps have become so famous that they have cult fans in many parts of the world where fans are involved in everything from Peeps-based “science experiments” to film releases such as “The Lord of the Pipes”.
There is also a lot of controversy about how to eat peeps, stale, in the microwave or frozen.
It doesn’t really matter what your favorites are – yellow chicks or pink bunnies (or even blue or green), most fans agree that these fluffy little candies have something that symbolizes all the good things in childhood.