Home Entertainment company Did you know that sweet corn has Cincinnati roots? Here is his origin story

Did you know that sweet corn has Cincinnati roots? Here is his origin story


Halloween time has arrived and, as in previous years, our nation seems violently divided on one important issue: candy corn.

Ohio’s favorite candy is a popular topic of debate in this country. But, no matter how much some people hate it, many still eat the polarizing candy. According to USA TODAY, approximately 35 million pounds of candy corn are sold each year.

But where does the country’s most controversial candy come from? You can thank – or blame – Cincinnati for that.

Although George Renninger of the Wunderle candy company invented candy corn in Philadelphia, a company in Cincinnati made it famous.

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Small tricolor beans were first made commercially here over 120 years ago. And the original recipe, perfected by the Goelitz Confectionery Co., is still made today by the same family that first brought it to the nation’s attention.

Let’s take a look at the origin story of the Candy Corn villains.

Sweet corn started out as ‘chicken feed’

Goelitz Confectionery Co. was established in Belleville, Illinois in 1869. In 1889 Adolph Goetliz moved to Cincinnati to become part of the candy supply and transportation networks. In the Queen City, he and his two brothers started making sweets, including candy corn.

Back then, sweet corn was called “chicken feed” or “buttercream.”

It was made with: sugar, water, corn syrup, fondant (which is also water, sugar and corn syrup), marshmallow (also made of sugar, water and gelatin) and a little wax.

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It wasn’t always a Halloween staple

At first, candy corn was not for Halloween, which was not widely celebrated in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It was actually a popular Christmas treat.

At the Goetlitz factory, sweet corn was made in the summer to stock up for the big autumn candy season. It was cooked in huge cauldrons and then poured into portable buckets holding 45 pounds.

Cincinnati food historian and blogger Dann Woellert’s book, “Cincinnati Candy, a Sweet History,” includes a 1922 advertisement for Nuss’ Butter Cream Corn that read, “A remarkable salesman and repeater, sold in buckets, boxes and in typical, eye-catching novelty packaging for Christmas and New Years.”

The Candy Corn Scandal of the 1950s

According to Pennsylvania State University, sweet corn didn’t become associated with Halloween until the 1950s, when there was a dramatic increase in advertising in October. At the time, it only cost 25 cents a pound.

However, tricolor beans faced a scandal earlier in the decade that could have dampened the sweet treat’s growing popularity.

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Mashed reports that in 1950, children across the country suddenly fell ill after Halloween, developing significant gastrointestinal distress that caused them to break out in welts and rashes. The FDA got involved and discovered that it was one of the basic ingredients of the candy that caused the disease: orange dye no. 1.

The dye, approved in 1906, was used in the manufacture of several foods and gave sweet corn its orange stripes. But it turned out to be poisonous and later banned. However, the suspicion surrounding sweet corn remains to this day.

The acquisition of Jelly Belly Candy Co.

Sweet corn was first made commercially in Cincinnati over 120 years ago.  The original recipe, perfected by Goelitz Confectionery Co., is still made today by the same family that first brought it to the nation's attention, just now as the Jelly Belly Candy Co.

Adolph’s brother Herman operated a branch of the family business in Chicago, and Adolph moved there, merging the two branches.

In 1922 Herman took copies of the family recipes and moved to Oakland, California.

The two Goelitz companies operated separately until 2001 when they came together as the Jelly Belly Candy Co. and became famous for manufacturing unique candy flavors in addition to candy corn.

In 2018, the company introduced a new package featuring original art of a rooster and the logo that read “something worth singing about.” The corn is a bit smaller and tastes slightly different than market leader Brach’s.

National Sweet Corn Day

National Sweet Corn Day is celebrated annually on the eve of Halloween. This year, National Sweet Corn Day is on Sunday, October 30.

Candy Corn is Ohio’s Most Wanted Halloween Candy

Oral care website Byte reports that candy corn is Ohio's most popular Halloween candy in 2022.

Candy corn is Ohio’s favorite Halloween treat this year, according to a recent study by oral care platform Byte. It also reigns supreme in Idaho, Kentucky, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin.

But despite these new findings, many people are still not on the candy corn bandwagon. Byte reports that more than one in three Americans (34%) hate sweet corn, and just over one in five (22%) love it. The remaining 44% are indifferent.