Only a little less “Disney” than the Hersey factory visit in Hersey, PA, the self-guided Pez factory tour in Orange, CT is a wildly popular tourist stop. Remembering fun Pez dispensers and the somewhat blah candy of my youth, I made my way there, too.
It’s really a case study of American marketing brilliance. The candy, named based on the German word for peppermint, was actually invented in Vienna in 1927 by Eduard Haas III as an adult breath mint and alternative to smoking. Really.
The dispenser first showed up in 1949 at the Vienna Trade Fair and was a straightforward device, with no marketing ploys. The candy didn’t make its way to the US until 1952, when it started operations in New York City. Then the ideas started generating.
One of the first American dispensers was this space gun in 1956, shown with the hgihest selling dispenser of all–Santa. I happen to really like the alien. In fact, aliens seem to be one of the popular dispenser themes, along with Disney figures, animated movie characters, animals, sports heroes, Elvis, and the Presidents of the United States.
Yes, POTUS. A teacher I talked with said she plans to use them in her classroom. Really.
And also, check these out–I think that’s a policeman and a nurse.
In 1991, the first Pez Collector Convention was held. Given the crazy things people collect, Pez dispensers are actually pretty darn appealing.
Moreso than the candy itself, when you find out how little food value it contains. A truckload of sugar gets dumped into a silo that holds 70,000 pounds, and this factory goes through 100,000 pounds of sugar per week. I’m weak in the knees from the sugar rush just thinking about it. Add a little corn syrup and flavor and you’re ready to mold some candy.
One computerized machine, displacing what was done by hand historically, can generate 500,000 candy tablets per hour, to the tune of 12,000,000 for the factory per day. It’s been well over 40 years since I had a Pez candy. They are pretty disgusting. But I guess the world doesn’t think so. Or maybe, like me, they just like the dispensers.
The vintage Pez vending machines are pretty awesome. I’d love one for my retro kitchen.