Have you ever wondered which came first, the marshmallow or the Peep? Well, we've got the answer. Follow along on our tour of the Just Born, Inc., candy plant in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and you'll know a lot more about those cute little chick and bunny peeps that show up in your Easter basket every year.
To start, a mixture of marshmallow, sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, and a few other special ingredients are whipped into a marshmallowy goo that will become the shaped candy Peeps.
All sugar starts out white. Since yellow Peeps were being made the day we visited, yellow food coloring was added through that little arm outside the barrel. The barrel rotates like a cement mixer to color all the sugar.
Sugar is loaded into a spreader (the gray piece in the background) by hand. The spreader distributes the sugar all across the conveyor belt that the candy will ride during production.
No photos are allowed of the machinery that actually pumps the marshmallow into the right shape. That's top secret. We can tell you that it's basically the same technology that was developed in the 1950s by the Just Born company.
Freshly made Peeps travel along a conveyor belt (backwards!) into a wind tunnel. This is where air will whip the sugar around so that it sticks evenly to the warm, moist marshmallows.
The sugar-coated candy Peeps slide off a solid conveyor belt on to a grated one that lets extra sugar fall through to be reused.
This machine gives the Peeps their peepers, which are actually tiny dots of an edible wax. The machine can pump out 3,800 eyes per minute.
The final stage of the conveyor takes the Peeps through a very cold area so they can firm up enough to easily fall off the conveyor belt and into boxes. As you can see, chicks stick together five at a time. When it comes to bunnies, it's four per box.
The final stop for the boxes of candy is a wrapping station. Boxes are sealed with plastic wrap, either individually, two at a time, or three at a time.
-- Just Born, Inc, produces 1.2 billion marshmallow goodies each year for all occasions -- that's a heap of Peeps. Chicks and bunnies are the most popular shapes and are made year-round at the plant.
-- In 1953, Peeps were made by hand with a pastry tube. Making one Peep took about 27 hours. Today, Peeps can be made in just six minutes.
Editor's Tip: Create cute place cards or party favors by placing a skewered Peep inside a festive planter filled with tasty jelly beans. Use ribbon to tie on a bow to complete the look.
-- Just Born is named for Sam Born, who grew up in Russia and came to America in 1910. He started his business with a small candy shop in New York City. The company's headquarters has been in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, since 1932.
-- Peep chicks come in five colors, listed here in order of popularity: yellow, pink, lavender, blue, and white.
-- Attach candy bunnies to the sides of a serving tray for an easy Easter touch.
-- Place Peep chicks on top of cupcakes as simple, tasty decorations.
Now that you've learned how Easter Peeps are made, send a loved one a happy Easter E-card.