The history of candy is a subject near and dear to our hearts here at Kerr’s. This week, we’re talking the history of candy – and not your average, old, boring history lesson – this one is as sweet as, well, candy!
About 10,000 years ago, somewhere in Asia, sugarcane was first farmed, and later, in India, these sweet stalks were turned into 'khanda,' or candy. The late 13th century English word ‘candy’ actually comes from Arabic ‘qandi,’ meaning ‘made of sugar.’
Even with the discovery of sugarcane, up until sugar was more readily available, most sweet treats were honey-based. Ancient Greeks and Romans would coat fruit and flowers in honey to produce a proto-candy, a process we call ‘candied’ today. This continued for several centuries.
Before the late 1800’s, because of the high cost of sugar, candy was often reserved solely for the rich. In fact, before it became the staple of Halloween loot bags everywhere, candy was more generally used for medicinal purposes, such as sore throats and indigestion. When mediaeval lords and ladies would serve massive feasts with multiple courses, a bowl of candy would be served at the end of the meal to help digest the heavy meal.
Hard candies, especially sweets like mints and lemon drops, became popular in the 19th century with the advent of industrialization.
During the Industrial Revolution, candy became cheaper and easier to produce in bulk, making it available to more than just the rich. This is when candy started to become associated as a treat for children through penny candies. This was often the first thing ‘good’ children spent their own money on, and they weren’t limited in their options either! With the invention of the candy press, it became even easier to mass-produce a wide variety of shapes and sizes of candy for general consumption.
As candy-related innovations expanded throughout the twentieth century, so too did the health standards. Up until 1900, most candy was served unwrapped in open jars from street carts. Since concerns surrounding contamination were not well-known, grabbing candy straight from these jars was the norm, which could arguably have contributed to the spreading of various illnesses. However, once scientists were able to make those important connections regarding safe food handling, the most logical invention was a wrapper. With improved technology and better awareness of the importance of hygiene, candy continued to reign supreme.
Visit www.kerrs.com/history to learn more about the history of Kerr’s Candy, founded in 1895 by brothers Edward and Albert Kerr