Easter is here, and you know what that means! That’s right! Peeps – those sugar-coated little fluff balls of marshmallow are hatching once again after, Just Born, the company that makes them, took a break from Halloween and Christmas last year because of the COVID 19 virus.  Okay, we know that they don’t actually “hatch” like their real life counterparts; however, the thought of that did get us wondering about where peeps come from and how they’re made, so here you are:

A Peek at Peep’s Origins

Peeps were actually first created by hand at the Rodda Candy Company in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Led by owner Roscoe E. Rodda, the candy company was in constant competition with other candy makers in the area (and especially one who would go into the chocolate business a few miles up the road from Lancaster in a town called Hershey).

To try to stand out in the market, Rodda Candy Company needed look no further than Lancaster County’s religious sects known as the Amish and the Mennonites (or more colloquially as the Pennsylvania Dutch). Though the Amish tend to shun modern day technology like automobiles, electricity and telephones, there’s one thing they certainly don’t shun and that’s candy. So, around Easter, the candy company made various religious-themed Easter candy such as bunnies, jelly eggs, Holy Crosses and the little marshmallow chicks we now call “Peeps”.

Detail from Rodda’s Marshmallow Bunnies box

Though nobody knows with any certainty the exact year Peeps were first made (or when they got that name), the family speculates that they were first made as special-order, mostly decorative items sometime in the late 1930s. What is certain, however, is that it took a very long time and up to 80 people to make to make the original Peeps in time for the Easter holiday.

First, candy makers would spoon small dollops of fresh marshmallow goo – a mixture of the flower of the marshmallow plant, whipped eggs whites, and lots and lots of sugar into a fluted steel tip. This fluted steel tip would then squirt the marshmallow goo out in the shape of chicks, which were then left to air dry. In the end, the whole process to make just one tray of Peeps took about 27 hours!

The Peep Goes On

Around the same time that the Rodda Candy Company was making candy in Lancaster, another man by the name of Sam Born relocated his New York City candy company, Just Born, to an empty printing factory in the town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, some 77 miles northeast of Lancaster.  Interestingly enough, Sam Born came up with the name for the company when he used to put freshly made candy in the front window of his candy shop with a sign that said “Just Born”, a play on both his last name and the freshness of the candy. 

Sam Born
Photo: Just Born Quality Confections

After, Roscoe’s death in 1941, the family struggled to keep the Rodda Candy Company alive for 12 more years and was looking to sell the business in 1953. It just so happened that Sam Born was looking to buy at the same time and was so intrigued by the marshmallow Peeps, he bought the company. One of the first things the company did was find a way to improve the time it took to make Peeps; interestingly, it was Sam’s son, Bob Born, who helped mechanize the making of Peeps with his development of the “Depositor” – a machine that could squeeze out 30 peeps at a time. Over the years, many improvements have been made to the Peep-making process which now takes only 6 minutes. 

And, yes, Just Born now located in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, does make other marshmallow treats for Easter and other holidays like, Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day, but it’s the Peep that started it all.

How Do You Eat a Peep?

As if you’ve never questioned it, yes, there is, in fact, an annual competitive “Peeps Eating” contest held each year in front of the Peeps & Company store at Baltimore, Maryland’s National Harbor. At the last National Harbor World Peeps Eating Championship in 2017, winner Matt Stonie set a world record when the California native at 255 Peeps in five minutes.

2017 Peeps eating contest winner Matt Stonie holds up his trophy after eating a world record 255 peeps. Photo: YouTube capture

The led us to question, “How does one eat a Peep, anyway?” Yes, we know there are hundreds of recipes out there that involve the use of these yummy marshmallow chicks; however, we what we want to know is how you eat your Peeps? Head first? Tail first? Whatever end happens to be pointing at your mouth first? Do you eat them fresh out of the box or do you prefer them on stick over a campfire? Let us know your preferred method of Peep eating.

Peeps as Pop Art

Many newspapers around the country hold competitions asking contestants to create a diorama of an important cultural scene of America history using Peeps. The winners can receive anything from two free inflatable lifejackets, to having their diorama’s story featured in the newspaper itself.

One of 2020s finalist from Minnesota’s Pioneer Press contest was a compilation by Hannah Theis, Bev Gausman, and Mandy Guth called “PEEPSOLATION”, a montage which included scenes of Peep bunnies going through various activities of self-isolation drudgery such as eating, sleeping, taking a bath, and of course, social distancing.

Check your local newspaper for 2021 winners. Since today is Easter, however, you’ll have to wait until 2022 to enter that “Peeple’s Champ” diorama of the Rock you’ve always dreamed about making. It’s okay. Until then, we smell what you’re cooking.

2017 Honorable mention: “Peeps DNA (or PNA)” by Rod Bland
Photo: The Mercury News via twincities.com

Well, peeps, that about all there is on the all things in the world of marshmallow chicks. If you’re looking for something to add to your Easter basket this year along with Peeps, go ahead and make a stop at a Stuckey’s location near you grab some of our fine pecan candies for you and the folks back home. After all, who wouldn’t love a couple of our Stuckey’s pecan log rolls or a tub of pecan divinity or pecan pralines to munch on this Easter?

Not sure what else to get them? Then check out our gift bundles which have a little something in them for everybody including t-shirts, caps, our melt-in-your-mouth pecan candy and other Stuckey’s memorabilia that everybody loves!

And don’t worry if there’s no Stuckey’s location near you. You can always order from our webpage and have it sent directly to your home if the Easter Bunny passed you by this year.  Visit stuckeys.com for more info!

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