Because there are many types of candy, no one person can be singled out as the inventor. Scholars studying the history of candy are also in disagreement as to when and where it originated.
The Earliest Candies
The word candy came from the Persian word qandi. However the candy is much older than the Persians. Remember that candy refers to any confection combined with sugar, honey or other sweets. Using this definition, the earliest candies can be traced back to ancient Egypt.
Archeologists have uncovered 2,000 year old papyri depicting candies. These illustrations show the sweets made from honey and other ingredients. These were usually heated and cooked in ovens. The Romans and Chinese ate barley sugar candies. Experts on the history of candy state that the Romans, Greeks and Chinese indulged in it along with sesame seeds.
During the Middle Ages, sugar candies became quite popular. The candy was categorized as a drug though and sold as such. Candies were also exclusively for the rich as the price of sugar was very high.
Aside from sugar, candy was also made by combining sugar and honey with nuts. Fruit candies were made by combining fruits with sugar and sweets. In 1519, cacao was invented in Mexico. Cacao was uncovered by the Spaniards in the country and brought it back to Europe.
1700 to 1800s
The history of candy and its development really took off in the 1700s. The cost of sugar went down and machinery was becoming commonplace. These twin developments made it easier to mass manufacture the confection. Such was the popularity of candies that there were hundreds of factories in the US by the 1850s.
In 1854, Whitman’s chocolate came out and in 1880, the candy corn was produced. Soon after the candy corn would become a staple at Halloween. In 1893 Will Wrigley Jr. unveiled both the Juicy Fruit and Spearmint Chewing Gum. Three years later the Tootsie Roll came out courtesy of Leo Hirschfield.
A milestone in the history of candy took place in 1900 when Milton S. Hershey invented Hershey’s Milk Chocolate. Six years later the first Hershey’s Milk Kisses appeared. In 1912, Life Savors came out and in 1913 the Goo Goo Clusters were produced. They were the first to combine caramel, marshmallows and peanuts.
In 1920, Baby Ruth came out. Contrary to popular belief, it was not named after the baseball player; it was named for President Grover’s daughter. A couple of years later in 1923, Milky Way Candy bars were introduced. Three years later Milk Duds came out. In 1928 Reeses Peanut Butter Chips was invented.
In 1930, the M&M group produced Snickers bar. In 1932 the Three Musketeers came out. The 1940s saw the appearance of Junior Mints, Smarties and the El Bubble Bubble Gum. The 1950s and 60s saw the emergence of Starburst chews, Lemon Heads and Sweet Tarts.
The history of candy is an exciting one and shows how competition helped developed these all time favorites. Today many of these favorites still remain, testament to their great taste.