20 Childhood Candies That You’ll Defend to Your Death
With what we know about the dangers of sugar, fat and salt intake these days, it’s hard to openly share and celebrate a pure love of candy. When it comes to classic childhood candies, though, there are no rules, and you can absolutely indulge for the sake of nostalgia.
Whether it’s the sour Rainbow Nerds you took to the movie theater or the candy corn that defined your Halloweens as a kid, people certainly have an opinion about what candies are the best (or worst). Lucky for you, we have the stories behind these life-defining candies, so you can take a trek down memory road and defend your favorite in the process.
Pop Rocks were patented by General Foods research chemists in 1961 in the United States, but the candy wasn’t publicly available until 1975. Despite its cult status, it was actually discontinued in 1983 due to lack of demand. Luckily, Kraft Foods licensed the brand to Zeta Espacial, which continues to make the fizz-in-your-mouth candy.
While not true, kids often believed that combining Pop Rocks with soda would cause your stomach to explode.
Also considered rock candy, Rainbow Nerds were originally owned by Nestle but were sold to the Ferrara Candy Company. Typically coming in a box with two flavor varieties, they were introduced in 1983 and, by 1985, had been awarded "Candy of the Year" by the National Candy Wholesalers Association.
Throughout the following decades, there have been new and limited edition flavors. In the U.K., you can even pick up a three-box chambered pack of Nerds with the unique strawberry-cola flavor.
Popular in the United States and Canada, Candy Corn is particularly abundant at Halloween — and people either love it or hate it. The yellow, orange and white-tipped candy resembles corn kernels, even though each piece is roughly three times the size of an actual corn kernel.
It was originally produced in the 1880s by Wunderlee Candy Company and later by Goelitz Confectionary Company. Another popular version is Indian Corn, with a chocolate base and pointed white tip that usually hits the market at Thanksgiving. Variations in color tend to come out around Christmas (Reindeer Corn), Easter (Bunny Corn) and Valentine's Day (Cupid Corn).
Invented by Robert Welch in 1925, Sugar Daddy candy was first called Papa Sucker — ha! Caramel flavored, wrapped in its distinctive yellow packaging, the candy first became known as Sugar Daddy in 1932, and later the Sugar Mama and Sugar Baby flavors were introduced.
Unfortunately, Sugar Mamas (chocolate-covered Sugar Daddies) ceased production in the 1980s, but Tootsie Roll Industries is still producing Sugar Daddies and Sugar Babies.
These small buttons of candy attached to a strip of paper were originally produced by the Cumberland Valley Company in 1977. Necco later bought this company and became the exclusive manufacturer of Candy Buttons in 1980. Each strip offers cherry, lime and lemon.
After Necco announced bankruptcy in 2018, Candy Buttons were purchased by Doscher's Candy Company and became the first of Necco's brands to return to the market.
Wack-O-Wax Wax Lips
Giant waxy lips that kids loved to attach to their faces for fun, Wack-O-Wax candy was the creation of the American Candy Company in the early 20th century. They remained popular for decades, with the waxy novelty lips turning into chewing gum made of flavored and colored food-grade paraffin.
The lips are still in production by Tootsie Roll Industries, which has brought out variations, including a mustache, vampire fangs and buck teeth.
SweeTarts were created by Jeff Sousa in 1962. Sweet and sour candies based on the existing Pixy Stix and Lik-M-Aid candies, they originally came in cherry, grape, lemon, lime and orange flavors.
The company that first produced SweeTarts was ultimately bought by Nestle then rolled into its Willy Wonka Candy Company, so the popular candy is now branded as Wonka SweeTarts.
Jolly Ranchers are sweet and sour candies that comes in a variety of forms: gummies, hard candy, fruit chews, jelly beans, soda and gums. They were first introduced in November 1949 by the Jolly Rancher Company in Colorado. In addition to candy, the company also made ice cream and chocolate.
Originally, the Jolly Rancher flavors included watermelon, apple and Fire Stix, and later, cherry, orange, lemon, grape, peach and sour apple were added. The brand is currently owned by The Hershey Company, with watermelon, lemon, cherry, blue raspberry, grape and green apple flavors on the market.
This classic candy has the consistency of caramel or taffy, but it isn’t exactly like either — and for sticky little fingers, it fortunately doesn't melt. With a chocolatey flavor, it was a hit when released in 1907 by manufacturer, Tootsie Roll Industries, in Illinois. Leo Hirshfield started his candy business in New York City in 1896, and Tootsie Rolls were his first creation.
Now, it is estimated that 64 million Tootsie Rolls are made daily.
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
Another product The Hershey Company, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are a classic combination of chocolate and peanut butter. The H.B Reese Candy Company was established in 1928 in Pennsylvania. Reese used Hershey chocolate in his candy creations, having come from a background working on a Hershey dairy farm.
For more than 90 years, the candy — milk, white or dark chocolate cups filled with peanut butter cream — has been a child (and adult) favorite. Filling variations have included crunchy cookie cup, double chocolate, honey roasted, marshmallow, peanut butter and banana creme, hazelnut cream and fudge.
Manufactured by Nestle and housed within its Willy Wonka Candy Company brand, LaffyTaffy was created in the 1970s as Beich's Caramels, despite its fruity flavoring. The chewy taffy candies are individually wrapped, offering artificial fruit flavors, including banana, strawberry, green apple, grape, blueberry and chocolate mousse.
The wrappings have jokes written on the inside, hence the name "Laffy" Taffy. Limited-edition flavors have included caramel apple, coconut, strawberries and cream, chocolate, pumpkin donut, pineapple, guava, orange sorbet and lemon raspberry.
Fruit-flavored lollipops that resemble enormous crystals on plastic ring bases, Ring Pops are a wearable candy produced by Topps. Invented by Frank Richards in 1975, the product engineer intended on creating a candy that would prevent his daughter's habit of sucking her thumb. Whether this was better is still up for debate — but the sweet treat is surely delicious!
Topps launched a variation in 2013 called Ring Pop Gummies, an edible gummy version of the original candy.
Atomic Fireballs were introduced by Illinois-headquartered Ferrara Pan Candy Company, the same makers of Lemonheads (supremely sour candy). Fireballs were launched in 1954 as a rocket of cinnamon-flavored hot candy.
Flavored with capsaicin, the candy essentially tricks the brain into thinking it has something extremely hot in the mouth.
Created by David John Parfitt, the Curly Wurly resulted from his experiments with excess toffee from another product he'd been researching.
Now a Cadbury classic, the Curly Wurly is a chocolate bar sold around the world. It first launched in 1970 in the U.K. with its classic three interwoven strands of chocolate-covered caramel.
With flavors from caramel brownie to strawberry, apple and chocolate, these candies are chewy sticks made of caramel and filled with cream. Caramel Cow Tales were introduced by Goetze's Candy out of Baltimore in 1984.
The same company made Caramel Creams (otherwise known as Bulls-Eyes). Particularly big fans of the candy can buy merchandise like mugs and shirts on the company’s website.
Hubba Bubba Bubble Tape
Hubba Bubba Bubble Tape gum, the original brainchild of Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, was introduced in 1988. Six feet of bubble gum, the tape rolls were immensely popular in the 1990s with more than 1 million containers of the gum being manufactured per week.
The gum still comes in the iconic, round plastic package designed like a tape dispenser. Flavors include sour green apple, sour watermelon, sour blue raspberry, cotton candy, strapping strawberry, gushing grape, candy cane, tangy tropical and cola party.
First produced in 1847, Necco Wafers are no longer in production. The candy was made by the New England Confectionery Company (Necco) in Massachusetts, and it came in rolls of eight different flavors: lemon, lime, orange, clove, cinnamon, wintergreen, licorice and chocolate.
There’s good news on the horizon, though. In 2018, Spangler Candy Company announced it intended to return Necco Wafers to retail in late 2019. Say, what?!
First invented in Austria in 1927, PEZ is the cult-like candy that comes in a dispenser with a signature head design. Releasing the 12 fruit-flavored candy pieces from the dispenser is half the fun.
The name originates from Pfefferminz, the German word for “peppermint,” which was the original flavor of the candy. The first dispensers were modeled after Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse, but since 1950, more than 1,500 different kinds of PEZ dispensers have been created. The company’s headquarters are still in Austria, though PEZ mints are produced in Connecticut.
BB Bats were first introduced by the Fair Play Caramel Company in 1924, hailing from Johnson City, N.Y. The brand was sold to Gilliam Candy in 1990, and it went through a series of ownerships until Runk Candy of Cincinnati began making the candy again in 2012.
The taffy lollipops are available in four flavors — banana, vanilla, strawberry and chocolate — and they come in colorful wrappers.
Caramel-coated popcorn and peanuts. The ideal sweet snack, right? Cracker Jack was registered in 1896 with a slogan, "The More You Eat, The More You Want."
The brand has been marketed and owned by Frito-Lay since 1997, and food historians have speculated that it may be the first junk food. Whether it meets your definition of “candy,” it certainly holds a sweet spot in every baseball lover’s heart.