What is your favorite hard candy?
Mine is Jolly Rancher blue raspberry and let me tell you why.
When I was in fourth grade my teacher gave out Jolly Ranchers to all the students who spelled their first word of the spelling bee correctly.
My word was delightful...
Upon answering it, my teacher proceeded to sling a Jolly Rancher across the room and into my palm.
Bear in mind I had grown up in a virtually sugar-free household at that time so getting any candy was exciting, but there was something about the electric blue that captivated my attention and teased my taste buds.
I unwrapped the hard candy and started to give it a taste to which I was absolutely baffled by the blue raspberry flavor that I had never experienced before.
While it only lasted a few minutes, the flavor hooked me and planted a hard candy memory that I can never forget. Even these days, I find myself snatching up a few blue raspberry Jolly Ranchers if I see them in the store just to tap back into some childhood nostalgia.
So to honor that nostalgia, we thought why not uncover the secret history of hard candy to see where exactly this classic confection comes from and how it has evolved over the years.
Let’s dive into the history of hard candy!
The early years of hard candy…
Before there was formal hard candy there was honey. Honey was insanely popular back in Egyptian times as they would harvest honey bees and even invented the smoking out technique that you see used today. That honey would then be hardened into an almost lozenge-type candy that they would then suck on.
The term “candy” actually comes from the Indian Sanskrit “khanda” which means a piece of sugar. Over time, this word was interpreted by Arabic culture as “qandi” which eventually became “candy” in modern English.
Fast forward to the 1700-1800s and the English started to dabble in hard candy including the infamous peppermint treat Altoids, created by Smith Kendon. Paired with the Peppermint Pez created by Austrian inventor and businessman Eduard Haas, these two hard candies were wildly popular in England.
While hard candy was popular in the United States during this time, production of the stuff was limited as workers could only mold so many pieces, package them, and send them out to stores. What took hard candy from an anomaly to normal was the industrialization of the confectionery industry. Once machines were brought into the infrastructure, the production of hard candy catapulted upward.
Modern day hard candy…
Once the 1900s hit, hard candy had become a cultural norm for most Americans.
During WWI, army rations added different kinds of hard candy like Charms as a way to boost troop morale while also giving them the quick energy spikes they needed in the heat of battle.
In WWII, these candy rations continued along with the addition of chocolate bars like Hershey’s D- Ration Bar which was specifically made for soldiers in the field. This item was designed to not melt in the heat and to taste a little bit better than a boiled potato to encourage soldiers to take their time eating it.
I personally would’ve stuck to the hard candy instead, but what can you do?
While the wars were a critical component to the growth and popularity of hard candy in the United States, there were other things that helped foster love for these hard confections. Two of them were FB Washburn Candy and Brach’s Confections.
FB Washburn Candy
FB Washburn is one of America’s oldest family-owned candy businesses dating all the way back to 1856 in Brockton, MA. What originally started as a bakery, quickly switched over to candy when the owner had taken the flavors of a coconut macaroon and converted it into a candy bar called Waleeco Coconut.
As popularity rose for their candy bars, it opened up opportunities for new candy making including hard candy. This is where Washburn really started to find their stride, making old-fashioned hard candies such as Sour Balls, Peppermint Starlights, and Lollipops that would become household words.
Today, Washburns is still one of the most popular hard candy companies in the world flexing their iconic Washburns Original Candy Mix which consists of all their best hard candies in their catalog. Did I forget to mention they also make a widely popular Christmas Candy Mix that sells like wildfire?
Founded in 1904, Brach’s Confections was Emil Brach’s storefront candy shop located in Chicago, IL. He and his two sons began the entire operation with one single kettle that they used to make candy they would sell for 20 cents apiece.
As demand for their sweet treats grew, Brach started looking at full production facilities where they could continue to produce hard candy as well as chocolate.
By 1923, Brach’s had 4 fully-operated confectionery plants, each making different types of candy. Here, they would manage the production of their 3 iconic hard candies—Star Brites Peppermints, Cinnamon Imperials, and Lemon Drops.
Today, Brachs can be found on virtually every shelf inside grocery stores, gas stations, and of course, candy shops!
What hard candy are you going to eat?
Hard candy has a very deep history—one filled with plenty of experimenting to find the perfect recipe for the perfect candy. While we like to think that making our own hard candy would be rather easy, it’s obvious that these candy companies are doing things that us everyday candy consumers simply cannot do in our homes.
With that said, that doesn’t mean we can’t snack on all of our favorite hard candies from childhood.
If this story got your sweet tooth craving some hard candy, head over to our hard candy aisle and check out all the sweet treats we have waiting for you!