In talking with candy-store folks, we found that several brands kept coming up over and over. Here’s a look at some of them and their histories.
Cherry Mash: Made by Chase Candy Co., a Missouri-based company that dates back to 1876 (when it was founded as a fruit-and-produce business), Cherry Mash got its start in 1918, when Chase founder George Washington Chase concocted a candy consisting of a quarter-pound of chopped roasted peanuts blended with chocolate coating over a cherry fondant center. Back then, it was known as the Cherry Chaser, but it evolved into the Cherry Mash. According to the Chase website, it’s the third-oldest candy bar in the United States. More history: www.cherrymash.com
Goo Goo Clusters: Even older than Cherry Mash, the Goo Goo Cluster was created in 1912 in Nashville — and according to Standard Candy Co.’s website, it was the first candy to combine more than one sweet element. The original is made with milk chocolate, caramel, peanuts and marshmallow nougat. Standard Candy later added the supreme Goo Goo (pecans instead peanuts) and the peanut butter version (no marshmallow nougat necessary). More history: www.googoo.com
Astro Pops: Hard to find as recently as a year ago, these conical suckers — created in 1963 by two rocket scientists who left the space program to make the candy, which is modeled after a three-stage rocket — have been making a comeback during 2013. They were originally made by Spangler Candy, which ceased production in 2004. Leaf Brands acquired the rights to the candy in 2010, but all the original specialized equipment had been sold for scrap, so Leaf Brands had to re-create the manufacturing process. It took two years of research and development, but the Astro Pops are available again — although Leaf Brands sometimes has trouble keeping up with demand. More history: www.astropopcandy.com
Chick-O-Sticks: Lufkin-based Atkinson Candy Co. got its start in the 1930s after B.E. Atkinson was laid off from his job at an area foundry. B.E. and his wife, Mabel, began selling candies, and after a few years, B.E. decided to start manufacturing his own stock from home recipes. The company, which makes Chick-O-Sticks (crunchy peanut butter and toasted coconut candy) and other items, remains in the Atkinson family today. More history: atkinsoncandy.com
Pop Rocks: Invented in 1956 but not introduced to the mass market till 1975, Pop Rocks — a pebbly candy that crackles and pops when it comes into contact with anything wet — sold 500 million packages in its first 18 months on the market. It led to urban legends (rumor had it that “Mikey” of Life cereal commercial fame died from mixing Pop Rocks with soda pop; uh, that didn’t happen). Although Pop Rocks went under the radar for a while, they’ve seen a resurgence in recent years — Dallas’ Sundown at Granada even currently offers Pop Rock Creme Brulee French Toast during its weekend brunch. For more history, visit www.pop-rocks.com. And for myth-debunking, visit www.snopes.com/horrors/freakish/ poprocks.asp.
Squirrel Nut Zippers: Now here’s an old candy. According to the current distributor, Necco, the Squirrel brand dates back to 1890 when it started as the Austin T. Merrill Co. in Massachusetts. That evolved into the Squirrel Nut Co., which developed a customer base that craved its salted and roasted peanuts, peanut-butter kisses and saltwater taffy. Squirrel Nut Zippers, a chewy peanut caramel (with an emphasis on chewy) were named after an illegal drink served during Prohibition. Retro-swing band Squirrel Nut Zippers, which still exists but enjoyed its peak popularity in the ’90s, would give out the candy at its performances. In 1999, Squirrel Nut Co. was purchased by Southern Style Nuts and moved to Denison. In 2004, Necco acquired the license for the candy, and moved it back home to Massachusetts. More history: www.necco.com/Candy/Squirrel-Nut- Zippers.aspx