PEEPS: AN AMERICAN INVENTION
Did you know that Easter peeps are the most polarizing Easter Candy? It’s a fact we’re talking about because Ira Born, inventor and cheerful promotor of Peeps, passed away on January 31, 2023, according to the Lehigh Valley News.
Born in Ukraine, this Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania resident for many decades turned aside a career in medicine in the late 1940s to work in his family’s candy factory, Just Born. Just a few years later, Mr. Born and an engineer focused on developing machinery to automate the making of shaped marshmallows. You guessed it: Peeps shaped and colored like newly-hatched yellow chicks started rolling out of the Just Born candy works and they soared in popularity in the novelty-driven marketplace of the 1950s. Along with shaped marshmallow bunnies, Peeps were a fixture of Easter baskets throughout the decade. By the 60s, yellow, pink and white chicks and bunnies were joined by shapes designed for Halloween, Christmas and other holidays. A lavender color option was added in 1995, and blue in 1998.
PEEPS ARE POPULAR!
Over the years, a Maryland Peeps Eating contest has gained popularity, with a record set in 2017 by a man who ate 255 Peeps in five minutes. Diorama competitions have been staged around the country, setting Peeps in miniature landscapes, Medieval castles made of candy, and even in perilous situations like railroad crossings with a train approaching. Wisconsin’s Racine Art Museum sponsors an Annual International Peeps Art Exhibition every April. They expect over 160 pieces of Peep art to be included this year. No word on whether the creations are eaten at the close of the show!
There’s no reason to believe that generous and good-natured Peeps inventor Ira Born would take anything other than pleasure in the fuss over Peeps. Crowds of fun-loving folks support all the Peeps-driven events discussed above. So why are peeps so polarizing?
PEEPS ARE POLARIZING?
FinanceBuzz asked 1,000 U.S. adults some essential questions about Peeps, and the results are interesting.
Americans disagree on Peeps marshmallow candies: 25% love them and 16% hate them. The haters are winning out though: Peeps lag in Easter basket popularity behind Reese’s peanut butter eggs, Cadbury Creme Eggs, and simple chocolate bunnies.
The gooey texture you encounter when biting into a peep could be to blame. So could a relatively bland flavor profile: it’s all sugar in there! But much of the shade thrown at Peeps comes from their ingredient list: aside from sugar, you’d be hard pressed to pronounce any of the other components, all of which come from the chemistry lab rather than the farm.
If you love peeps, however, the chemistry works for you. If you don’t… pop one in the microwave to see what happens. One in three Americans already has.
STORY BY CAROLE VALLE / PHOTOGRAPHY BY KEITH RECKER
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