Candy and Culture: The Modern History of Your Favorite Sweets

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Throughout the decades, candy has been a staple in American pop culture and has been an essential part of American life. Brands are instantly recognizable by even the youngest of generations, even though some have been around for half a century before them. We are going to take you on a ride through each decade’s favorite candies and how they fit with the pop culture of the time. So sit back, relax, and experience the roller coaster of nostalgia, memories, and even wonder as we take you back in time to your childhood and beyond to see how popular candy has changed through the decades.

The 1950s-

The 50s was an exciting time in American history. The average family was now able to afford more than they ever could and people began to express themselves in brand new ways from clothes to music to cars. It wasn’t uncommon to pass a diner with a jukebox and it definitely wasn’t uncommon to see teens in poodle skirts, and leather jackets dancing over the diner’s tiled floors! The  playful life of this decade was seen in the candies people ate and loved.

The most popular candies of this century included Atomic Fireballs and Bazooka Bubble Gum.

Atomic Fireballs
Pop culture in the 1950s glorified atomic bombs. World War II brought attention to the extreme weapon, and it was eventually introduced in popular culture in the Atomic Craze. In 1954, these fiery hot cinnamon candies were introduced by the Ferrara Candy Company. Kids and teens played games over how long one could hold one of these suckers in their mouth. Now, 15 million of these candies are consumed each year, proving to be a continual favorite in America for decades.

Bazooka Bubble Gum-

In the 1950s, one brand of bubble gum, Bazooka, was extremely popular. Though created shortly after WWII, the popularity of the product expanded when the wrappers featured comics on them. The comics often described the adventures of “Bazooka Joe” and were meant to be humorous, probably to get kids and teens to buy a pack of the gum. You could also win prizes by saving up wrappers and mailing them to the company. The comics ranged from everyday funnies to future predictions, as sci-fi was also beginning to blow up in the 1950s. Today, Bazooka Bubble Gum wrappers do not include the comics because younger generations found them less amusing, but those who grew up with the brand might care to disagree!

The 1960s-

Groovy! The 1960s was a time for hippies, peace signs, and colorful, flowery print clothes. Music was revolutionized by The Beatles and other classics like Stevie Wonder. Old ways of thinking moved out of the way while new ways moved in. Candies that are still popular today rose out of this era, changing the candy game in more ways than one.

Some of the most popular candies of the 60s included Astro Pops and Starburst.


Astro Pops-

The Space Race was one of the biggest influences of American pop culture in the 1960s, especially among kids.  Former rocket scientists carefully created these pops with advanced methods that contribute to their unique shape. These pops resembled the rockets used in the Space Race. During the decade, kids bought and ate millions of these  Space Race-inspired treats. After a short break, these pops are back again in full swing to enjoy once again!

Starburst-

As the 1960s progressed and color TV and photographs became more common, candy began to grow more colorful as well. Less of the same old, one flavored candy was making it with the youth. New, colorful and bright candies began to take shape, including Starburst. Originally named Opal Fruits, these candies were introduced in America from the UK in 1967. In America, the name changed from Opal Fruit to Starburst after it quickly became a hit. Later, Opal Fruits became Starburst in the UK.

The 1970s- 

Nothing says the 1970s like bell bottom jeans, side burns, and Farrah Fawcet hair! Disco and funk music exploded. Sci-Fi made a bang when ‘Star Wars’ hit the theaters, influencing pop culture from that decade on. While some believe that the 70s was a continuation of the 60s, it was a whole new era with new fashion, music, and, of course, candy!

Some of the popular candies of the 70s included Pop Rocks and Bottle Caps.

Pop Rocks

Pop Rocks were introduced in 1975 and were an instant hit with kids because of the pop and fizzle in their mouths that no other candy could really replicate. However, parents speculated that these candies were dangerous and questioned their creators. Myths soon began to spread about the candy, from children to adults claiming that they could make somebody’s stomach explode if they ate the candy and drank soda after. These myths still live on to this day, even though the candy is certified safe! After a short time off the market due to these myths, Pop Rocks has returned and is a still a favorite of many kids and even adults too!

Bottle Caps

After a few decades of candy and soda pop influencing pop culture, a candy company called the Willy Wonka Candy Company created Bottle Caps to combine the two pop culture staples. Shortly after they hit the market in 1972, these tart, soda pop-like candies become extremely popular. The original candies were much bigger and came in a paper pouch, and featured a lemon-lime flavor that has been replaced with cherry. Nonetheless, these classic, delectable candies are still hitting it big time in the candy industry!

The 1980s-

Neon clothing and gigantic hair dominated the scene in this decade. Electronic music hit every club around the nation. Early digital video games from Nintendo and Atari spread like wildfire across the kid and teen community, and almost every one of them seemed to own a rubix cube. MTV influenced almost every aspect of pop culture, from music to fashion to makeup. This totally rad decade helped boost the popularity of some candies that many still love and consume all over America.

Some popular candies of 80s included Reese’s Pieces and Sour Patch Kids.

Reese’s Pieces-

If it was E.T.’s favorite , it sure would be yours! E.T.’s endorsement of the candies sent sales shooting out into outer space as millions of kids were just dying to indulge on the same candy as their beloved E.T. The classic film hit theaters in 1982; in the film, Elliot tries to catch a sighting of E.T. using Reese’s Pieces to attract him, and it works! Soon enough, E.T. himself began appearing in advertisements, enjoying the tiny peanut butter candies just as much as any kid would.

Sour Patch Kids

Although they first started as Mars Men (A.K.A martians) during the space fad of 70s, these first sour then sweet jelly candies shot to fame in the 1980s. Their name changed to Sour Patch Kids after the Cabbage Patch Kids phase of the 80s swung in full force. The candies have never changed their name after the 80s and many still love and consume this extremely popular treat.

The 1990s-

Hip-hop and grunge music and fashion shot out of this decade. It wasn’t uncommon to see ripped jeans or sideways hats, or even mullets!  90s iconic comedies were the talk of the day and still are. Technology became much more sophisticated than ever thought possible. Music and people evolved as the decades grew closer to today. As the 90s progressed, many of today’s most beloved candies shot to a whole new popularity.

The favorites of the 90s included Hubba Bubble Bubble Tape and Warheads

Hubba Bubba Bubble Tape

Hubba Bubba Bubble Tape was created in 1988, yet reached its peak popularity in the 90s. It was not only something you could eat, it was also something you could play with, and THAT was a big deal. Additionally, the gum was SIX FEET LONG and EASILY removable! This product was a favorite of 90s kids everywhere in America. The slogan: “Six feet of bubble gum for you, not them” was popular among children because it was something cool and fun that their parents wouldn’t have control over- or at least they thought! To this day the product is remarkably popular in the candy industry and still can be easily found.

Warheads

The sour candy craze of the 90s bred all new sorts of new sour candies and flavors of existing candies, with one of the most memorable being Warheads. Just like the Atomic Fireballs, these dangerously sour candies were the center of competition for many 90s kids and still are in today’s youth. These infamous candies are still sold in the masses and may not lose their appeal to children any time soon!

 

The 2000s-

Bedazzled Nokia phones and the Backstreet Boys were all the rage. Track suits and spiky hair were everywhere. Kids obsessed over Disney and Nickelodeon. Today’s biggest stars only started to tap the surface of their fame. This decade wasn’t the biggest producer of popular candies, but it definitely helped these candies reach the level of fame that they have today.

Some popular candies of the 2000s included Nerds Rope and Airheads

Nerds Ropes-

Though introduced in the mid 90s, Nerds Rope candy quickly became a favorite of every American early 2000s kid. They are the most popular Halloween candy of the 2000s decade! The candy is both tasty and fun to play with, a trend from the late 90s that carried into the 2000s.

Airheads-

Airheads came from the 80s and 90s, but their fame continued through the 2000s. These chewy, fruit candies are still extremely popular among children. Over the years, the brand has introduced and discontinued new flavors, but the original flavors still prove to be an American favorite even with the test of time.

The 2010s-

Well, here we are! Years beyond the atomic craze, the space race, bell-bottomed jeans, E.T., and sour fads. We are now in a smart phone and technology-dominated decade. It’s a fast-moving era, and trends come and go, just like candy in a candy store.

It’s hard to define exactly what the popular candies of this decade are because we are in it now! Tastes for candy have become versatile around the country, but most kids still enjoy sour, hot, sugary, gooey, and sticky candy as they always have. We will just have to wait until the current decade “wraps” up to discover the most popular candies that reigned throughout it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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