Quick – when you were a kid, what was your favorite Austrian candy? Few kids – or adults for that matter – know the true origins of one of their most beloved sweets. Here’s a hint: you probably found this candy under Davy Crockett’s head. Or Wonder Woman’s. Or Chewbacca’s.
That’s right, Candy Addicts, I’m speaking of everyone’s favorite little blocks of sugary goodness, PEZ! Are you all as shocked as I was to discover that PEZ comes from the land of coffee and Schwarzenegger? Well, believe it: PEZ is Austrian. In fact, the name PEZ is an abbreviation of the German word for peppermint: PfeffErminZ. Say that five times fast!
Why peppermint? Well, it seems that was the very first flavor of PEZ. At first, that classic pop-up dispenser was simply a long, skinny rectangle, designed to be similar to a cigarette lighter. Minty PEZ was marketed to help smokers quit. Over time, the flavors changed to the classic “mixed fruit” (that’s lemon, strawberry, grape, and orange). In the 50′s, some genius decided to put characters’ heads on the PEZ dispensers (Mickey and Santa were among the first), and the rest, as they say, is history.
To me, the popularity of PEZ comes entirely from the novelty of flipping back a character’s head to dispense that little candy. Face it – could PEZ possibly have made its way so deeply into the hearts of American kids if it just came in a boring old box? I think not.
One thing’s for certain: if you ever want to start a conversation with anyone, any age, just ask them about their first PEZ dispenser. You’ll get a nostalgic smile and an interesting story, I guarantee. You can even stump them with a trivia question about the origin of that catchy little name: PEZ!
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