History of Candy
Candy is any confection made with sugar, flavorings, colorings and other ingredients. It has a long history that encompassed human evolution. Just thinking about the history of candy brings about inquiries about the beginnings of man, their food source and consumption because candy consumption started with the dawn of the first man.
The word ‘candy’ is a Middle English word that was first coined in the late 13th century. It originated from the Old French word çucre candi, which was then derived from the Persian word qand and qandi that was probably from the Sanskrit term khanda or the Davidian (Tamil) term kantu or kattu. In modern times, candy can mean a lot of things. In North America, it includes chocolate, candy bars, tart candies, marshmallow, licorice, gumdrops, caramels, toffees, sour candies, salty candies, hard candies, gummi bears, lollipop and many more. In the United Kingdom, South Africa and other commonwealth countries, it is called confectionery or sweets. In New Zealand and Australia, the term “lollies” is used for the sweet treats.
Sugar is interrelated with candy, but the latter predates the invention of sugar since early men made candy out of honey and honeycombs. In fact, honey was used to coat fruits and flowers to make candy in ancient China, Greece, Egypt, Rome and the Middle East. This process or tradition is still done today. However, candied fruits, nuts and flowers can be seen more as garnish rather than a sweet treat nowadays.
In ancient times, candies flavored with other spices like aniseed, juniper berries, almonds, ginger, cloves, and pine kernels dipped in sugar are served during banquets. They were called “chamber spice” and were regarded as rich people’s food.
Candy was also used as medicine – a cure for digestive problems because of its cooling effect especially when made with mint. It was documented that during the Middle Ages, digestive problems became a rampant concern. It was a well-known fact that the food people eat at that time was not fresh or balanced. It was then used as a cure-all for common tummy aches. It was also during that time that the production of sugar was just beginning and was so expensive that only the wealthy can afford it.
It was in 1200 BC when the first cocoa bean was grown by the ancient Olmec natives and was later on passed down to the Mayas, Aztecs and the world and created the sinful treat called chocolate. The Mayas used cocoa beans as currency in trade and when the Spanish Explorers first tasted cocoa as a drink in the 16th century, they loved it. It was in 1502 that the first documented tasting of cocoa drink was recorded, but cocoa drinks was already present in Maya civilization in 250 BC when artifacts were found in Maya tombs proving the presence of chocolate back then. The first trace of cocoa in Europe was spotted in 1544 and in 1556, the English started selling cocoa. It was during the 17th century that the first hot cocoa maker was invented. From then on, cocoa became widespread in Europe.
The US is one of the top consumers of candy and chocolate in the world. Its history with candy started in the early 18th century when the French and the British started colonizing different parts of North America. Since just a few colonists know how to make sugar and create sweet treats to wealthy people, candy was considered very expensive and not accessible to many. It was rare and scarce and truly a luxury. The simplest forms of candies created by confectioners during those times were rock candies. They were made from crystallized sugar and some are flavored with different spices.
The candy business significantly changed during the Industrial Revolution that started in the 1830s. Sugar production increased because of technology and innovation in harvesting and refining processes. This opened up more opportunities for people to partake in different kinds of candy, targeting not only the rich, but also the middle class and the children. Confectioner stores became favorite places for children to go. The demand rose and called for cheaper types of candies. It was then that penny candies were created. Some were made from medical lozenges, hard candies with bitter medicine mixed in it. Penny candies were the first kind of candy that children can buy with their own money. Because of this, store owners began to rely on children to keep them in business.
In 1847, the candy press was first made. It is a toy machine that was able to create candies in different multiple shapes and sizes all at once. This made it easier for confectioners to produce more candies and candy bars, including chocolate. Four years later, in 1851, confectioners started using a revolving steam pan that helped in boiling sugar. This meant that the confectioner need not stir the pan of boiling sugar consistently so it won’t burn. Because of these inventions, it only took two people to run a thriving candy shop.
There were a great many firsts in the history of candy during the 19th century. In 1828, the first Dutch cocoa was made and it was in 1844 that J.S. Fry and his sons made the first hard eating cocoa. It was the same year that the first batch of chocolate candy bars was made. Then, in 1848, the first branded chewing gum was produced by John Curtis, which was made from the tree sap called The State of Maine Spruce Gum. In 1854, Whitman’s Chocolate launched their first package box and 14 years later, in 1868, Richard Cadbury made the first Valentine’s Day chocolate box that started the whole tradition. 1893 saw William Wrigley, Jr. introduce Juicy Fruit Chewing Gum and Wrigley’s Spearmint Chewing Gum to the world.
In 1894, Milton S. Hershey, the founder of The Hershey Company, created the first American Milk Chocolate candy bar that we still know today. Since then, Hershey has dominated the market and became the largest and oldest chocolate manufacturer in North America. The company had come up with different variations of the chocolate bar like adding almonds and using the dark variety apart from the milk variety. They also came up with other iconic products such as the Hershey Kiss, Symphony, Almond Joy, 100 Calorie Bar, Mounds, Kit Kat, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Mr. Goodbar, Milk Duds, M&M’s and Whatchamacallit. Apart from chocolates, they also made gums, wafers, cookies and breath mints.
The Tootsie Roll, a chewy confection created by Leo Hirshfield and named after his daughter, was introduced in 1896. It was the first penny candy that was individually wrapped and eventually became an iconic brand that have thrived through the years and is still available in the market.
There are many other candy bars of numerous colors, sizes and flavors that were introduced in the market and had satisfied many children throughout the years. Innovations in candy-making had also helped in the evolution of what are simply sweet delights. As long as there are desserts to make, and nature provides sweet raw materials, and children and adults with a sweet tooth exists, mankind will continue to create more and more treats to satisfy sweet cravings that are here to stay.