Chicken feed for Halloween? Can you guess which famous Halloween candy started out this way? No, it’s not Necco wafers, even if they taste like bad antacids. And it’s not circus peanuts, though they still can be used as packing material in a pinch. Or gum.
If you guessed candy corn, the world’s least favorite Halloween candy, you’d be right!
Many people don’t realize this, as corn is such a staple in American cooking, but corn wasn’t a very popular food for human consumption before World War I. Instead, corn was mostly used to feed animals on a farm, as it was cheap and easy to grow.
But when a wheat shortage hit during the war, people could no longer be as picky about what they ate. And so, corn was introduced more heavily into the everyday person’s diet.
Especially those who lived or worked on a farm – and in the 1880s, it was about half of America’s population that did so. Cornmeal and cornflour became common in baking goods, and recipes were tweaked or adjusted to use the excess corn to keep farm families fed and moving.
Farm kids knew corn as the food they fed the chickens before school. It had a distinctive color and shape, after all, and there weren’t too many other things that could be confused for it.
In 1898, the Goelitz Candy Co purchased the recipe for candy corn from an inventor by the name of George Renniger. They perfected the tri-colored, triangle-shaped candy and called it “chicken feed”.
Their main market was to kids working and living on farms, who were used to the shape and color already.
Eventually, Goelitz Candy Co turned into the Jelly Belly Co, which makes approximately a million (real amount: over 100) different flavors of Jelly Beans, including “Sport Beans” which contain carbs, electrolytes, and vitamins. “Extreme Sport Beans” also contain caffeine.
We’re still trying to figure out how this candy made it out of the Great Depression and into today’s market because we’re never met anyone that enjoys these little triangles of sugar and sadness.
Clearly, someone is eating them, though – Jelly Belly Co produces upward of 35 million pounds of the stuff every year, and it’s mostly purchased and consumed around Halloween.
Despite their sales, these candies regularly top the “least favorite” list of Halloween candies. Wax bottles and black licorice are usual contenders for the title.