Sunday, September 18, 2011

Peep Mania

           There is a thrill when a Peep explodes in the microwave that makes it impossible for a child to press the STOP button. Eyes bulging and goo spilling, that little duckling was doomed as soon as it was unwrapped.  Peep’s main ingredient, marshmallow, is what causes the duckling to expand with heat. The Just Born Candy Company produces over 4.2 million Peeps per day, with many of them meeting their demise via the microwave rather than the stomach (Peeves). The Just Born Candy Company was not the inventor of marshmallow chicks, but since the 1950s they have made them one of the most well known symbols of Easter; even while the purpose of Peeps has evolved from just filling children’s Easter baskets. The candy has been elevated to American cult status with Peeps becoming a medium for artwork and being used as a mad scientist’s experiment. All of Peeps functions have infected some Americans with Peep Mania. This Peep epidemic and its status as an American icon makes the Peeps’ history worth exploring.

            The first marshmallow chick was hatched in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the late nineteenth century at the Rodda Candy Company. Each chick is a mixture of marshmallow, corn syrup, gelatin, and carnauba wax for the eyes. Literally a mass of sugar coated with sugar, a marshmallow chick is surprisingly only 32 calories and contains 0 grams of fat (Nutrition Facts). Every chick was made by hand at the Rodda Company and took 27 hours to produce, including the time to let the marshmallow set. The factory workers consisted of mostly women using a piping bag to individually form the marshmallow chicks. This tedious process ended in 1954 with the Just Born Candy Company’s acquisition of Rodda (Smith).

               Bob Born, the owner of Just Born Candy Company, named the marshmallow chicks after the noise a newborn chick makes. Born created a mechanized system of mass-producing Peeps with the company knocking out 4.2 million per day.  The company now produces a medley of different animals in different colors for every holiday.  Just Born Candy Company still sells the most Peeps during the Easter time, around 700 million (Gonyea).

     How Peeps became correlated with Easter so quickly seems too vague to be concrete. I must have missed the biblical verse where Jesus was resurrected alongside chicks while eating marshmallows. The only connection that I could find between the two began with the symbol of the egg, which means fertility and rebirth. Since Easter is the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, the egg became a symbol of the holiday. A chick is a byproduct of an egg and therefore the reason children’s Easter baskets are filled with Peeps (Holidays on the Net). The linkage seems pretty farfetched. In my opinion, Just Born’s marketing tactics must be more to credit with the affiliation.

            Peeps’ as merely candy is the least of their possible potential. America’s love for the glitter-covered chicks have made them into pieces a medium for 8 feet-tall altars and 3-D dioramas. Most people’s infatuation with Peeps, like artist David Ottogalli, comes from nostalgic childhood memories of the candy. His website,, features a photo gallery of all his Peep artwork.

            Scientists have also found a function for America’s favorite marshmallow by using it as a specimen for experiments. There are websites entirely dedicated to the destruction of Peeps by using heat, low pressure, and even liquid nitrogen. As an American who is not infatuated with these balls of sugar, I prefer to buy my Peeps for scientific reasons.
            In less than 60 years, the Peep has become one of the most well known candies in America. Evolving away from their purely Easter past, they are now becoming a candy for every occasion. They are mediums for artwork, specimens for science experiments, and the fuel behind five year olds’ sugar highs. Peep Mania has infected some Americans, and the spread seems inevitable.

-Margaret Cox

A Warning to Peep Killers...

Gonyea, Don. "NPR : Eating of the Peeps." NPR : National Public Radio : News &             Analysis, World, US, Music & Arts : NPR. 16 Apr. 2003. Web. 19 Sept. 2011.   

Just Born Marshmallow Peeps Nutrition Facts and Calories -" Nutrition             Facts - Restaurants - Web. 19 Sept. 2011.             <            easter-candy-chicks-21180.htm>.

Peevers, Richard. “The Real History of Marshmallow Peeps!” The Bewildered Brit.              March 2010.            marshmallow-            peeps.html

Smith, Rick. "Peeps: A Candy and a Technological Wonder." USA Today. 16 Apr. 2003.             Web. 19 Sept. 2011. <            peeps_x.htm>.

"Peeps: The History of Everybody's Favorite Candy." Holidays on the Net - Holiday             Celebrations, Holiday Travel, Holiday Traditions, Recipes, Crafts, EGreeting             Cards. Web. 19 Sept. 2011. <>.

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