How Popular Sweets Got Their Names

A timeless childhood tradition takes place in an old fashioned candy store. Not every child has the pleasure of learning about the relics of the past from older family members, who divulge their favorite sweets and memories from when they were children. Whether stories are handed down through the generations or experienced first-hand at the neighborhood sweet shop, we have all tasted the most popular candies that withstand the test of time.

But with brightly colored packaging and marketing ploys that become as integral as childhood nursery rhymes, the names behind famous brands often go ignored and we never question how they got their names. Here are the sweetest stories behind all of our favorite candies. Click next to learn about a childhood classic that will leave you gob-smacked.

Gobstoppers

Although the American Jawbreaker is a very truthful name, there is more history to the first created Gobstopper from the UK. The name may make more sense to our British friends, and explains a lot about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, since the beloved author, Roald Dahl, was from the UK. Gob is a slang term from Ireland that has been on record as early as 1540 and has stuck ever since. What better way to get someone to shut up? Give them a Gobstopper, of course!

The candy was popularized among school children during the first and second world wars, but was first available in candy shops in 1928. Roald Dahl enticed readers with his Everlasting Gobstopper in his book, which first appeared commercially in 1976, selling Americans on the name at last. Our favorite gobstopper is still sold today by Nestle and is available with a variety of flavors in every layer.Click next to reveal a classic toy candy.

PEZ

Pez was created in Austria by Eduard Haas III in 1927. While this became a catchy name in English as well as other languages, it actually in an imperfect abbreviation for the German word for peppermint: Pfefferminz. Another interesting fact is that Pez wasn’t originally intended for children, as suggested by the colorful Pez dispensers featuring cartoon characters. It actually was a modern solution to help smokers cope with their tobacco addiction. There were even ads of pinup girls encouraging men to take their Pez dispensers out on the town instead of lighting up.

Since 1955, Pez has been marketed to children with Mickey Mouse among the first characters to be released. New flavors followed the young market such as orange, grape, lemon and cherry. This meant Pez’s anti-smoking campaign came to an end, and the mint flavored was retired, but has since made a comeback in recent decades.Click next to learn about the most magical treat of all.

Cotton Candy

Cotton Candy is nothing short of a magical treat adored by children at the annual fair or carnival. The delicate clouds of spun sugar are practically synonymous with fun and games. This vintage favorite goes back to 1897 when dentist William Morrison partnered up with confectioner John C. Wharton to invent the machine that spins cotton candy. They first introduced it as Fairy Floss at the famous World Fair in 1904, where they successfully sold over 68,000 boxes.

As ironic as it may be for a dentist to invent, let alone deliberately sell the most sugary treat to children, it quickly caught on throughout the world. Apart from the fantastic pastel colors, the most whimsical thing about cotton candy is all the names it inspires in different cultures. Many languages take on variants of cotton candy or candy floss, but the French translation for “papa’s beard” is quite imaginative. It is similar to the Chinese dragon’s beard, which spins sugar in a more technical process to achieve long, delicate threads. Click next to break yourself off a piece of chocolate.

Kit Kat

The layered wafer chocolate bar has remained a candy store staple due to its relevance in pop culture. The Kit Kat club was a 19th century club in London with strong political and literary ties. The club got its name from the mutton pies that were served by owner Christopher Catt and became known as Kit Cats. In 1911, the name Kit Kat was trademarked as a brand of boxed chocolates. Although the original chocolates were discontinued, a new idea for a chocolate bar was in the works.

The idea for the four fingered bar we know today actually came from a worker at the candy factory, who thought it would be a convenient way for workers to have a snack while on break. In 1937, a marketing campaign was built around workers taking a break with a Kit Kat bar in the catchy jingle we still sing. Click next to reveal the truth about M&M’s.

M&M’s versus Smarties

Smarties made a debut in the European market in 1882, but went through several names before Smarties was settled in 1937. They were previously known as chocolate beans, but had to shorten the name because trading standards felt the name was misleading, since they are more of a disk shape. It is no mistake that there isn’t a market for Smarties in the US – even though they were sold long before M&M’s.

During World War 2, British soldiers regularly snacked on Smarties, and the son of the Mars Company caught onto the new candy and created a new process to patent an American version. The name M&M’s was created by using the initials of cofounders Mars and Murrie, who was the son of the Hershey Chocolate president. The catchphrase “melt in your mouth, not in your hand” was part of the whole reason the candy was popularized during the war. The outer candy shell protected the chocolate from melting during shipment. Click next to reveal the most popular candy bar.

Snickers

The world renowned chocolate bar that is still celebrated as a deliciously filling treat was first introduced by Frank C. Mars, founder of the Mars Confectionary Company in 1930. The classic nougat, caramel, peanut combination enrobed in milk chocolate got its name from an unlikely source. The Mars family had a horse named Snickers and thought it would be the perfect fit for the up and coming treat.

The name must have been too peculiar for the UK market, who recognized the candy only as Marathon until 1990 when Snickers took over for good. Long forgotten marketing ploys over the years have been coming out with new varieties including hazelnuts, almonds and peanut butter bars. The original Snickers still holds its place as the most popular candy bar ever produced with annual sales of $2 billion and over 15 million bars produced daily. Click next to reveal a close candy runner up.

Twix

The favorite caramel drizzled chocolate covered cookie was first sold in the UK in 1967. Back then, it was known as a Raider bar. When it was first introduced to the US in 1979, it swapped its name for Twix. Not only is it a catchy name, but it proved to be more timeless than trending marketing ploys. Twix PB first hit the market in 1983 to cater to peanut butter obsessed Americans, which has a long standing history of making comebacks after it was previously discontinued.

What dedicated Twix lovers may not know is that the name is actually a portmanteau created from “twin biscuits” since there are two bars in the package. Some people out there fail to make the connection, so the company clarified that biscuits is shortened to “bix”. After the name was internationally changed to Twix in 1991, the Brits certainly were pleased that Americans acknowledged biscuit as a cookie. Click next for a fruity mystery.

Mike and Ike

The chewy, colorful, citrus Mike and Ike candies were introduced in 1940 by Russian immigrant Sam Born, who founded the JustBorn candy company. While the name has catchy, rhythmic repetition such as other popular candies like M&M’s and Kit Kat, there is no clear origin for the Mike and Ike namesake. JustBorn maintains that Mike and Ike are fictitious names to create a brand, like Betty Crocker or Uncle Ben’s.

The most colorful proposed theory behind the real Mike and Ike are the Matina Brothers. The brothers were Hungarian twin midgets who worked as circus performers. They were cast as munchkins in the film The Wizard of Oz and the script had them in roles as Mike and Ike. The company has never officially commented on this historical account, but there is no mistaking the Matina Brothers’ relevance back in the day. Click next to learn about another fruity favorite.

Skittles

Skittles were commercially sold in the UK in 1974 as a fruity alternative to Smarties. They were introduced to the American market in 1982 where the “taste the rainbow” slogan was born. While the name has always been embraced for its fetching and fun ring, there is actually more to the story. The candy has made the name timeless, but Skittles actually has old roots in the English language.

Skittles is an old European version of bowling with 10 thin pins. The lawn game was later adapted to tabletops for indoor use at pubs.  “Beer and Skittles” became a common phrase to describe fun and joy, as fondly remembered from pub nights. Apart from the bright colors and tropical, fruity flavors, Skittles got the name so customers would associate it with fun, which is how we still remember it today. Click next to reveal an equally delightful treat.

Turkish Delight

We have enjoyed delectable squares of Turkish Delight at many tea parties and festivities, and end up in a sugar coma after a few bites; so we never really stop and think about where the name came from. Although the name isn’t entirely misleading, there is strong evidence that the sweets have their roots in antiquated Persia, and are known in the Arab world as “lokum”, meaning “throat comfort”.

The founder of the Haci Bekir company was Turkish and moved to Istanbul in 1777, which is where he developed the Turkish Delights as we know them today. Interestingly enough, the Greek name caught on but stole the credit, where the sweets are marketed as “Greek Delight” in Greece. Prior to the modern era, Turkish Delight was flavored with honey and molasses and later developed the popular flavors with rosewater, lemon and bitter orange. Click next to learn about a classic British candy.

Whoppers versus Maltesers

Another classic candy that can no doubt rock the boat is the battle between the English Maltesers and American Whoppers. The scrumptious chocolate covered malt balls were indeed invented by Mars Inc. and first appeared on the UK market in 1937. They were first sold under the name Energy Balls, but soon opted for the signature Maltesers, which is actually a portmanteau of the words malt and teaser. Since these malt balls are so addictive the name stuck for good.

This became apparent to the Overland Candy Company, and soon developed an American version in 1939, but also went through a name change. For the first decade, the slightly bigger malt balls were sold as Giants, but opted for the trendy name Whoppers in 1949. While everyone has a favorite, one distinction between the two is Maltesers are advertised with milk chocolate and Whoppers are merely chocolate flavored. Click next to discover the tragedy behind another famous sweet.

Toostie Rolls

The beloved deep chocolate soft candies were the first penny candy to be individually wrapped. While the candies themselves have had much success since 1908, the same can’t be said for inventor Leo Hirschfield. As an immigrant son of an Austrian candy maker, Hirschfield opened up his own candy shop in New York and several years later, patented the process used to make the chewy tootsie rolls. He came up with the name because he affectionately called his daughter, Clara, tootsie. Management of the company had changed hands and Hirschfield was pushed out in 1920.

Hirschfield attempted to start another candy company, which went bankrupt and drove him to an untimely suicide in 1922, leaving behind a note which read “I’m sorry but I couldn’t help it.” On a lighter note, we might already be familiar with the term of endearment tootsie to call young women, but it actually started as a baby talk word for foot. Click next to reveal another chewy sweet.

Jujubes

Jujubes were first manufactured by the Heide Candy Company in 1920 and are best known for their glass hard exterior and stiff, chewy interior that may very well break your teeth if you attempt to bite them. Original flavors included lilac, violet, rose, spearmint and lemon. The floral aromas were phased out and replaced by artificial flavorings due to the lack of availability of ingredients to produce natural aromas.

 

Although the candy was originally made with ju-ju gum derived from a fruit tree in eastern Asia, Heide now uses corn syrup and cures the candies longer to produce the hardest chewy candy possible. Just as jujube fruit is used for medicinal properties in Asia to treat ailments, the original American candy had a few health benefits as well. The candy contained real jujube juice and became popular in theaters because it was used like cough drops. Click next to learn about a traditional misnomer.

Saltwater Taffy

Saltwater taffy got its name not from the ingredients used, but because it was commonly sold in Atlanic City near the famous boardwalk. This misnomer spawned another story of how a local candy maker substituted fresh water in the recipe with sea water. The name itself was popularized as a marketing point by many candy companies. In 1923 John Edmiston attempted to trademark the name and demand royalties from any company using the name Saltwater Taffy. Edmiston lost in a 1925 lawsuit and the name has since been rendered back to common use.

This didn’t stop large cities along the eastern seaboard from using saltwater taffy as a tourism gimmick and Salt Lake City, Utah took advantage of the taffy business as well. Today, customers can enjoy anywhere from 30 to 70 different flavors of taffy, including must-try variations of huckleberry, key lime and grape. Click next to learn more about classic sweets on sticks.

Lollipops

The first lollipop goes back much further than we might originally believe. In ancient times, people would use twigs and twirl honey around the top to suck on. Fast forward to the English Civil War when they upgraded to pencils to stick hard candy to the tops for children. After the war, sugar became more plentiful and the idea for a marketable lollipop took off.

The name was coined by the first street vendors carting around the new sweets. The two words separately meant “tongue slap”, a very fitting and fetching name, considering how we use our tongues to lick the candy.

However, the first lollipops were much softer than the glossy hard varieties sold today. In 1905, the owner of the McAviney Candy Company boiled hard candies and frequently stirred it with sticks. He took home the leftover sticks for his children and realized this new marketing idea. Click next to reveal another fudgy story. 

Oh Henry! Bar

What more could you want in a candy bar, other than all your favorites like peanuts, caramel and fudge coated in milk chocolate? This rich, fudgy treat is what made sales rise for the Oh Henry! bar when it hit the shelves in 1920. Oh Henry! bar has its home in Williamson Company’s candy shop in Chicago. The shop was always full of customers, but no regular quite stood out like a young boy named Henry

He befriended the girls working behind the candy counter, who became quite taken to him and would often sweet talk Henry into doing favors for them. Owner George Williamson heard his employees often gush “Oh Henry will you do this, Oh Henry, will you do that?” When it came time to name the latest candy bar, he went with the ladies’ favorite line in the shop and applied for a trademark the following year. Click next to reveal a secret trio candy bar.

3 Musketeers

The ultra-light, whipped nougat cream chocolate bar has been a favorite since it was first sold in 1932. While today we know the candy bar best for its tantalizing commercials that depict a flowing sheet of chocolate enrobing the fluffy centers on the assembly line, there is actually more to the history. The original 3 Musketeers was sold in a package of three bars that went for the Neapolitan trio of strawberry, vanilla and chocolate

During World War 2, there was a call for rationing goods, so sugar prices soared. This led the vanilla and strawberry flavors to be phased out and the bars to be individually packaged. If we see how Neapolitan fares today, it could very well be that the chocolate bars were the most popular anyway, and it was only a matter of time until the strawberry and vanilla were discontinued. Click next to reveal a candy bar out of this world.

Milky Way

Any astronomy buffs know that we live in the Milky Way galaxy, which is no doubt the inspiration behind the name for the popular malt chocolate nougat layered caramel bar. But there is a lot more to this candy bar that makes it out of this world. The original muse for the name was taken from a popular malted milkshake at the time that was called Milky Way. Frank C. Mars, founder of the Mars Confectionary Company, thought it was fitting for his first candy bar in 1923 and started manufacturing them in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Mars and the Milky Way brought him to his next business venture, when he purchased a farm in Tennessee in 1931, which he also dubbed Milky Way Farm. The farm became the largest employer during The Great Depression and he was known to be generous to workers, regularly handing out candy bars and awarding small loans. Click next to reveal a very minty story.

Junior Mints

For any of us young folk, we would think that the name behind Junior Mints is self-explanatory. These coin sized mints are a simple, perfect fit for the name. Most of us wouldn’t think twice of another explanation as we enjoy the vigorous mint flavor melted into pure chocolate, and just go in for another handful because it’s delicious.

Grandparents may be able to recall from way back when, that just as this candy made its debut, the Broadway play Junior Miss became highly popular. Because it was relevant to pop culture, James O. Welch used word play to make the now classic candy a showstopper.  The public caught on to the catchy pun and it quickly became a favorite, especially for a refreshing treat at the cinema. Click next to reveal a popular candy name with an unexpected backstory.

Baby Ruth

When asked about this candy, fans love to throw their two cents in for the real story behind the name of this fun size candy bar. Whatever you may already presume about it, here are a couple facts you haven’t come by before. Baby Ruth is the second name of this candy bar. The original peanuts, caramel, chocolate covered nougat was called Kandy Kake. This delightfully sweet combination was first created by the Curtiss Candy Company in 1920, but when he made a few alterations after buying a similar recipe from the Williamson Candy Company, he changed the name to Baby Ruth.

A first guess is always that it’s named after Babe Ruth, who was a legendary baseball player at the time, and Curtiss had his business conveniently around the corner from Wrigley Field in Chicago. However, in candy history, it was named after the recipe creators’ granddaughter. Click next to learn about the next name dud.

Milk Duds

Everyone loves the classic, chewy chocolate covered caramels, but have you ever guessed how they got their name? The manufacturers took a simple approach to the delightful candy, since it has a milk chocolate coating and it was virtually impossible to form the candies into perfectly smooth, round shapes. When production began in 1926, the machinery malfunctioned and the end result was irregularly shaped candies with unique imperfections.

On the assembly line, they performed a taste test and concluded that the confectionaries were still delicious, and they worked the unexpected result into its branding strategy. The name Milk Duds and appearance of the sweets was accepted, with no one looking twice at a handful of misshapen duds. It went on to be a highly popular candy that people favorably snack on at the movies. The Hershey Company has taken over production for the last 20 years and not once tried to perfect the shape of the crowd-pleasing Milk Duds.