Do you remember penny candy? One of the favourite childhood memories of many adults is shopping for such sweets from the neighbourhood stores.
Children and adults enjoyed the trips to these shops, as the shelves were stacked with an abundance of treats. Today, pick n mix sweets are the closest variant to penny candy. Consumers can have them delivered to their homes instead of visiting brick-and-mortar shops.
Get familiar with the origin of penny sweets and their popularity.
Penny candy is a popular term used to describe any type of sweets sold as individual pieces instead of being sold in larger packs with other treats. It has an extensive history, given its debut was around 1896 with the invention of Tootsie Rolls and the introduction of this treat in the Woolworth’s Five and Dime. The name penny was given to this candy due to the original pricing of these sweets, which was about a penny per piece. Find out more about the introduction, ingredients, and flavours of Tootsie Roll.
Since its appearance, penny candy has become common in shops across Europe and the USA. Despite its original price, this sort of candy has become costlier over time because of inflation. Even though sales have suffered a blow during the 1960s and the 1990s, these treats have managed to resurge every time, and some of them are still sold in supermarkets.
Nowadays, the largest number of shops use this term to refer to historic candies, whose formats haven’t been modernized but remained traditional. Many stores specialize in selling such treats, usually dividing them in decades, either by the decade when they were invented or when they become popular. For instance, Tutti Frutti was a hit in the 1950s, whereas lemon mints were absolutely famous in the 1970s.
In the past, penny candy was all about the experience, not just about the sweet taste in the mouth after having a bite. Children used to race to the stores with their friends, siblings, or parents to gaze at the wide assortment of sweets stacked to the high ceilings. The buying experience included taking brown paper and filling it to the top.
As time went by, penny candy was sold in larger packages, not as individual pieces. Modern sweet shops, like candycollections.co.uk, allow consumers to build their own pouch. The shift had commenced in the 1960s when most manufacturers decided to produce sweets in bigger packages, whose price was higher than a penny. Even though some of the smaller stores tried to keep to the tradition of selling sweet piecemeal, most shops chose to sell packaged candy instead.
The selection of penny candy through the decades was tremendous, with new products introduced regularly. The favourites of most children and adults included Tootsie Rolls, Smarties, Mexican Hats, Zotz, Bazooka Gums, Licorice Shoelaces, Wax Lips, Black Licorice, Dum Dums, Tootsie Pops, etc. Other variants introduced later were bottle caps, bubble gum, jawbreakers, etc.
As mentioned above, Tootsie Rolls date way back to 1896 as the first individually wrapped sweets. They hit the market over a decade later, in 1908. This chocolate-flavoured chew was invented by an Austrian candy maker named Leo Hirschfield who named this product after his daughter Clara who he called Tootsie.
The original taste of Tootsie Rolls remains to be chocolate, but other flavours are available to consumers as well. For example, you can try Tootsie Frooties, which taste like green apple, cherry, grape, strawberry, and raspberry. There’s no difference in texture or packaging.
Conversely, Smarties are a special type of sweets looking like tablets. They come in various pastel colours within the wrapped roll, such as pink, yellow, green, purple, orange, etc. A single roll contains fifteen sweets, which are dairy-free, gluten-free, and fat-free.
Mexican Hats are another classic that tastes heavenly. These gummies are shaped like sombreros and are firmer than normal gummies. You can purchase them in rootbeer, spearmint, and anise flavours. Mexican Hats are the perfect choice for consumers who don’t mind spicy flavours.
Then and now
It’s normal for bulk confectionery to have experienced multiple changes over the past decades. Penny candy was sold everywhere, in supermarkets, small pharmacies, ice-cream stores, candy shops, etc. The Woolworth Company was largely responsible for its popularity, as it brought it to every main street, not just in the USA but the UK as well.
Although packaged candy was popular for a few decades, starting from the 1960s, the traditional model of selling by weight was reintroduced in the 1990s in many supermarkets. Most stores began offering different sweets of equal price in order for customers to mix them in a single bag.
These retro treats can be found today if you feel nostalgic for their spectacular taste.