Peeps Genesis – Makings of a Marshmallow Invasion

           If any of you were following me around Halloween, you learned that I have a bit of a sweet tooth.  It’s really hard for me to refuse candy, especially when it comes to Candy Corn (if you weren’t following me then, click here and read all about it). 

          Well, I decided to make a two-parter out of that post, because it’s not just Candy Corn that I love.  It’s holiday candies in general.  Something about seeing it packed on the store shelves makes me giddy.  Maybe it’s all those fun shapes and pretty colors.  Because I have somewhat of a short attention span at the supermarket.  Who doesn’t, right?    

          Easter seems to be an exceptionally festive time at the grocery store.  After a hard winter (and I think we all had one this year), all those pastel pink, yellow, and green wrappers are a sight for sore eyes.  So are all the chocolate bunnies, rainbow jelly beans, and brightly-speckled Robin’s Eggs.      

         You know what isn’t a sight for sore eyes, though?  Peeps.  Those mangy Marshmallow creatures that swallow up every candy aisle at Easter.  Even through my deep love of all things holiday, Peeps have managed a place on my hate list. 

            It wasn’t so when I was a kid.  My youngest brother and I used to tear through them by the box.  We also got kicks out of expanding them to dangerous sizes in the microwave (oddly, they never blew up.  More on that later).  I think that’s why I don’t like them now.  I’m very suspicious of things that I can’t control. 

           And if there’s one thing we’ve lost control over, it’s Peeps.  They’ve become nothing short of a full-scale invasion at Easter time.  Peeps by the thousands parachute into every single grocery store.  They bombard every Easter party, and they pile up in Easter baskets.  They also come in a plethora of bizarre flavors that leave me scratching my head at the mere thought of consuming them (see a list of these strange encounters below). 

            Just like Candy Corn, Peeps seem to be a love it or hate it kind of thing.  Since I explored team love over Halloween, I thought Easter could explore team… well, suspicious, at the very least.  I decided to learn where the hell all these Peeps came from.  Maybe if we identify the source, we can eradicate the problem. 

            So, just in time for spring, here is the run down on how we got stuck with the annual army of marshmallow creatures.   

           Peeps cracked out of their egg shells thanks to a Russian-Born candy maker named Sam Born. He didn’t invent them, but he sure had a hand in their spread across the globe. 

           Born immigrated to the United States in 1910, and he got straight to work in the candy business.  He came from a family line of chocolatiers, and according to many sources, he was very good at it.  By 1916, he was known as an innovator in candy-making.  His claim to fame was a machine that inserted sticks into lollipops, so the sticky mess of doing it by hand was eliminated.  Candy makers across the country were so thankful that Sam Born was given the key to San Francisco.  He also found ways to simplify the process of sprinkle-making and solidifying the chocolate coating on Eskimo pies.

            By 1923, Born had a store in Brooklyn called “Just Born,” which wasn’t just a clever use of his name.  It was also a nod to the fact that all of his sweets were made fresh that morning.  Although the name reeks of a candies that are shaped like animals, Peeps were not a part of Born’s inventory back then.  Instead, his specialty was ingratiating French delicacies into the American pallet. 

            However, the crash of 1929 brought some hard times, even to candy-maker extraordinaire, Mr. Born.  By then, he had expanded his empire through the acquisition of other companies.  To save on funds, he relocated his many operations to an empty print factory in Pennsylvania.  It is a delicious irony that said factory was in Bethlehem, which heralds to another “just born” type of holiday.  All puns aside though, Born did very well in Pennsylvania.  In fact, he did so well that in 1953, he was able to acquire yet another candy factory called Rodda Candy Company. 

           What did Rodda make, you may ask?  Well, a lot of things.  Their main inventory was religious-shaped candies during the holidays.  They also had some primo jelly bean technology for the time, which is what drew Born’s attention in the first place.  Yet, when he went on a tour of his new acquisition, Born and his cohorts found something interesting in a back room.  Dozens of women were hard at work making delightful little marshmallow candy-chicks. 

           The records aren’t clear when the first Peep came out of Rodda Candy Company.  Some speculate it was sometime in the 1920s, but there is no evidence of them in the company’s vintage catalogue from 1925.  Some Rodda family members say that the first marshmallow chicks were made on special order for a very loyal customer, and it was sometime in the 1940s. 

          Whatever the origin, the marshmallow chicks (not yet called Peeps –it’s unclear when that title officially stuck) were a regular part of the Rodda routine by the time Sam Born entered the picture.  It was an exhausting routine too, and it took up to eighty people.  The chicks were hand-piped through a pastry bag, one at a time, with sticky marshmallow.  The signature of the chicks was their swirling little marshmallow wings that swept up behind their backs, and shaping those by hand was a chore.  Afterward, makers had to wait for almost thirty hours while the marshmallow candies cooled.  Then, color was added and eyes were painted on.  Making them was such an ordeal that the chicks were only released for a limited time during Easter.  

            From the start, Sam Born recognized that he had stumbled on something interesting.  He quickly lost his focus on jelly beans and instead put his efforts into the marshmallow treats.  He wanted to make them year-round, but what to do about that painstaking production process?

            Well, when anything gets to be too monotonous, out come the machines.  By 1954, Sam Born’s brother, Bob, had taken a hand in Just Born candy company.  Like his brother, he had a fondness for machines that could make the tedious job of candy-making a little easier.  So, it was only a matter of time before one was invented for the Peeps.  With his own hands, Bob invented and built “the Depositor,” a machine that could crank out six rows of five Peeps at once.  Once it was perfected, “the Depositor” cut down Peep production time just a tad.  Making a tray of them went from a thirty-hour process to a simple six minutes.

            Just Born was now able to meet the marshmallow needs of the country, and they could do it all year round.  Soon, Just Born became the largest marshmallow confectioner in the world. 

           Additional changes were made in the 1960s to speed up production even more.  The most notable was that the poor little Peeps lost their wings.  Their vintage swirl wings were traded in for NO wings at all.  Because Peeps don’t need to fly.  They just need to get through those machines as fast as possible and right into some unwitting person’s Easter basket.  They also got some new colors added, such as pink and white.  Just Born decided they also needed some partners in crime, so bunnies were tossed into the marshmallow candy jungle. 

            Slowly but surely, marshmallow Peeps began their takeover of Earth… I mean, Easter (no, I mean Earth).  More and more appeared on the shelves.  Millions at a time came off the factory lines.  Other holidays got their own shapes too, like pumpkins for Halloween and hearts for Valentine’s Day.  By the 1990s, Peeps were so iconic that more new colors, namely blue and lavender, were introduced.  Just Born also tossed in some new flavors – vanilla and chocolate.  Actual Peep cults started to pop up.  People began making Easter garlands and dessert artworks out of the signature spring candies.   

            It was all good and fine for the Peep lovers, but in quiet corners of the scientific world, concern was on the rise.  They, and those of us in “camp hate,” didn’t see a delightful little candy.  They saw an enemy that swept the globe with no end in sight.  Peeps had become an invasive force, and if something wasn’t done, we would all drown in their marshmallow madness.  In 1999, a pair of scientists at Emory University banded together to do something about it.  They wanted to destroy the Peeps. 

           Let me tell you, they tried everything.  They dipped colorful marshmallow chicks and bunnies into boiling water.  They put them in microwaves and blew them up to incredible sizes, but damn it, they never burst.  They coated them with liquid nitrogen, and they tossed them in vats of boiling acid. 

           After weeks of torture, er… experiments, their conclusions were released, and they were horrifying.  The Peeps were indestructible.  This marshmallow invasion would have no end, because no matter what these scientists tried, the Peeps just would not die.  You might think I’m making this up, and in that case, I invite you to click here for the very Peepy truth.

          So, where does that leave us now?  What can we do with all these Peeps?  Well, most people have decided that if they can’t beat them, join them.  2004 saw the first contest for Peep dioramas.  Artists the world over used Peeps as their arty cannon fodder, and it’s been a sensation ever since.  In 2009, retail stores that only sold Peeps entered the market.  Just Born put fuel to the fire and released peep-inspired lip balm and other accessory lines such as bracelets, umbrellas, and the new favorite, plush toys.  Some Peep-fanatics have even designed clothes made entirely of Peeps. 

         Well, I suppose that’s one way to handle it.  As for me, I haven’t been able to get on board.  Peeps all taste the same to me, and it’s a texture and flavor that reminds me of chalk.  So instead of eating, I’ve hunkered down and let the Peep fanatics have their fun.  I’ve also made a great sport in taking stock of the bizarre flavors I see every year.  They just keep getting weirder, so I don’t think I’ll get bored anytime soon.

        For those of you who do like the little marshmallow creatures that could, I wish you a very peep-filled and pleasant Easter and Spring!  To the rest of us, well, there’s always chocolate bunnies.  And jelly beans!  Don’t forget the jelly beans.   

SOURCES

USA Today – “6 Things You Didn’t Know About Marshmallow Peeps”

Good Housekeeping – “The Peeps Chick is Turning 60!”

Food & Wine – “the History of Peeps”

Wikipedia

Preposterous Peep flavors!  I’ve only tried a few, but maybe you are braver than me.  Let us know what Peep adventures you’ve had in the comments below.

 

Orange/Lemon Sherbert Peeps

Bubblegum Peeps

Blue Raspberry Delight Peeps

Sour Watermelon Peeps

Sour Cherry Peeps

Pancakes and Syrup Peeps

Rootbeer Float Peeps

Cotton Candy Peeps

Birthday/Party Cake Peeps

Candy Cane Peeps (at Christmas Time)

Vanilla Crème Peeps

Mystery Peeps (Sounds dangerous)  

Chocolate-Filled Peeps

Chocolate-Coated Peeps

Fruit Punch Peeps

102 Comments on “Peeps Genesis – Makings of a Marshmallow Invasion

  1. I never heard of these Peeps and will have to try one one of these days! Thanks for an interesting and funny post.

    • Don’t worry, I’m sure Peeps will find you soon enough! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed it, and I hope you like them if you give them a try 🙂

    • Thanks, Dave! May we all be safe from the peep invasion this spring haha! 🙂

  2. Didn’t have a clue that there were so many different flavors of Peeps. Didn’t care for them as a kid and I don’t think I’ll try them now. Jelly beans for me, please. 😊

  3. For an admitted “hater” you give a great history. While I love them I once used the seasonal nature of the marshmallow treats to limit my intake. Alas, you are right. The world is awash with addictive Peeps. My sweet tooth is overwhelmed!

    • Glad you enjoyed it! It’s so funny I did really like them as a kid. I think I just can’t tolerate sweets as well I used to, and Peeps are taking the brunt of my frustrations with that lol 🙂

  4. I have a hard time imagining why anyone would want Peeps when there are Cadbury Creme Eggs out at the same time!

      • YESSSSS. Let’s talk about that too! 🙁 I’m a bit of a purist and like the creme ones the best, but those caramel ones are pretty good too.

  5. Ah, the memories: in seminary one Lent some of us gathered to do Peep Religious Dioramas: Our Peep of Guadeloupe, Peep Descent into Hell, etc. 😁

  6. My mom and my grandpa looked forward to *stale* Peeps every Easter. For years I bought them the minute they became available, slit the plastic wrapper, and stored them on top of the fridge until Easter so they’d get good and hard. I never understood.

    • Wow that’s dedication on your part. I can’t even imagine stale peeps. I wonder if they were going for the Lucky Charms marshmallow kind of flavor! 🙂

    • Yay! So glad you learned something new 🙂 I had to admit it was a pretty fun story to dive into, even if I don’t care much to eat them!

  7. Hilarious! I did like them as a kid (just about any candy would do). Now I can’t abide the idea of them at all. Jelly beans. Yea!! I seem to have an inordinate fondness for fruity candy like Starburst and Mike and Ike’s.

  8. As a kid I loved all things marshmallow, but when I try to visualize the number of artificial ingredients and colors used to make up this multi-hued creatures now, I shudder. I pass them in the store without the slightest temptation.

    • That’s a good point, I didn’t even think about all the artificial junk that probably goes in there 🙂 I agree, I haven’t been much tempted by any peeps, especially some of the flavors they’re coming out with!

  9. Soooo interesting. I enjoyed this history. I used to put a few peeps in the kids baskets years ago, but transitioned to only a few good chocolates with books, etc. Great post!🐰🌸

    • BOOKS!!!! I would have LOVED books in my Easter basket! 🙂 Well done!

    • Ooooh that is lucky 🙂 Don’t speak too loudly though, they might hear you and come crawling over the pond!

      • They look so photogenic though, so I wouldn’t mind them, I have not got a sweet tooth so would be safe with a herd of them.

      • You know, I did have fun taking these pictures. Although they left a dreadful amount of sugar on our dining table! 🙂

      • Would you believe I didn’t even one of them??? I must be crazy or something. But then again, I REALLY don’t like them hahaha. Now, when I did all the pics for the Candy Corn post, I definitely indulged. A lot. 🙂

  10. Sounds like some people at Emory had a lot of fun.

    I gotta be honest when I saw the title of this I expected you to be a big fan of these little deformed marshmallow birds. Glad to see I was wrong.

    Also kind of sad to hear they didn’t use to look like melting/spineless creatures but instead had pretty wings. Maybe I would like them more if they still looked like that. No, on second thought I think being prettier wouldn’t really help.

    • LOL 🙂 You know the vintage ones are pretty cute. I found a lot of pictures on the Google machine! But I agree, I’m not sure looking prettier could help much in this case 🙂

  11. Thank you for the history lesson on Peeps! My grandchildren are equally divided, I think, on liking them. I can take them or leave them and my husband doesn’t like them.

    • You are most welcome, I’m glad you enjoyed it! A house divided, huh? Well, as long as both camps manage a Happy Easter, it’s all good! 🙂

  12. Wow! Wonderful post. Sadly, I do not know about these peeps. Maybe they have a different name in our country. I’ll ask google.

    • Careful. If you go looking for them, they just might come looking for you! 🙂

  13. Very informative article. Glad I took a peep at it! I am a peep lover! I have been since childhood. This year I tried the birthday cake flavor..meh…I still like the plain yellow peeps the best. Thanks for sharing! If they come up with a one eyed one horned peep we’ll eat er! BWAHAHA!

  14. What a fun post! I only heard of peeps through my international friends. I don’t think they’re much of a thing here in NL. And I agree, those sugar coated marshmallows all taste the same.
    We always get chocolate eggs around (read: way before, lol) Easter. And merengue. Yum! But I only treat myself to heavy doses of merengue around Christmas, haha.
    But yes, holiday candy (and the commerce around it) is fascinating!

  15. “I think that’s why I don’t like them now. I’m very suspicious of things that I can’t control.” Ha ha! But levity aside: This post is proof that you can make ANYTHING interesting, M.B. Gosh, how I admire both your natural curiosity and your research skills! Plus, you’re such an engaging writer that I always read your posts until the bitter end (in which the world is taken over by dioramas of indestructible Peeps — now, why didn’t the apostle Paul mention THAT in his prophecies about the Apocalypse?). Well … what can I say, except for thank you.

    • LOL We must always have a sense of humor – even about things that bring us down! I am always so glad to hear how much you enjoy the writing, your compliments always make my day! So THANK YOU. And I’m sure when those four horsemen make their way here, at least one of them will be riding a giant peep.

      • Ha! I’m cracking up at the visual of one of the horsemen of the Apocalypse riding in on a Peep. Excellent choice, since you’ve already proven they’re indestructible. [Grinning from ear to ear over here.]

      • But it has to be one of the cute vintage peeps with wings. 🙂

      • Oh my yes! Though … I wonder if those were as indestructible as their chemistry-experiment modern cousins? Hmmm.

      • Good point – I hope it’s the plague horse riding the peep. If it has a weakness, we can take him down!

      • Exactly! (Great minds think alike. … If great minds think about a Peep-based Apocalypse, that is! Ha ha.)

    • I can assure you, you aren’t missing much! 🙂 Although they are fun to blow up to big sizes in the microwave.

    • Be afraid. Be VERY very afraid! And shield yourself with chocolate bunnies.

  16. This is fascinating history, and I mean it. I don’t think I’ve ever tried Peeps, because they don’t appeal to me – not chocolaty enough – but learning this background was truly interesting.

    Also: Your essay inspired me to look up Peeps In Microwave videos, including this amusing gem:

    • The laughs this video brought me are truly priceless. Thanks for sharing it!! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed the peepy post!

  17. I have just been introduced to your blog and loved this. It occurs to me that I am completely Peep-agnostic. They make my life neither better nor worse. In fact I always felt a little bad about not not liking them more. I feel better now.

    • Peep agnostic is a very good way to be – especially around Easter when they are everywhere! 🙂 I am so happy you like the blog! 🙂

  18. I attended an April Fools Day luncheon this year where the hostess made a centerpiece of a big King Kong in the midst of dozens of colorful bunny peeps, ripping them them limb from limb…..a little grisly but funny!

    • LOL! That’s amazing. People do get very creative with Peeps, we can give them that!

    • Peep s’mores! You might be onto something there…! 🙂 So glad you gave it a read and enjoyed it

  19. This post is awesome and hilarious. This line made me laugh:
    And if there’s one thing we’ve lost control over, it’s Peeps.” And, oh my word! I had no idea there were so many different flavors of peeps. Great job, Friend.

    • So glad you enjoyed it and it gave you a laugh! 🙂 And totally agree, the Peep flavors just keep getting weirder!

  20. Jelly beans!!!!!!!!

    Peeps???? Never heard of them – I don’t think we get them over here in the UK, so there’s always the option of escaping over here next year. What we do have is 1000’s of chocolate eggs – and wine! Because as everyone knows, after delivering millions of eggs, the Easter bunny likes nothing to better that to kick back and enjoy a glass or three.

    • I would take wine over peeps. Send me all the wine!! And the jelly beans too! 🙂

  21. Many pretty colors and flavors to enjoy. I should try it! Thanks for the story . 🙂

    • Glad you enjoyed it! 🙂 If you try them, I wouldn’t recommend starting with the Pancakes and Syrup. That just sounds gross! 🙂

    • Well, s’mores are a whole different ball game! And so is Nutella, for that matter 🙂

    • Agreed!!!! And not just at Easter. Give me all the chocolate all the time.

  22. When my youngest son was maybe four, he was looking at a bird poop splash on the car window and asked what bird pee looked like. I explained that birds get rid of waste in just the one form and he said, “Oh, it’s peep.” It happened to be around Easter time. And we’ve called it that ever since. Obviously, I am on team peep-hater. But they are pretty cute.

  23. I will eat almost any holiday candy apart from Peeps!! Loved your research into the unkillable Peeps. Lindt bunnies all the way for me. 🐇🐇🐇

    • They’re just so chalky! Hahaha. And it’s crazy how many bizarre flavors there are now. Glad you enjoyed the post!

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