Monday, October 31, 2016

A Candy Treat

While most people would not be surprised at the Jewish back-story of Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, they might not realize just how deeply involved Jews were in the early American confectionary trade. Jews also created such perennial favorites as Tootsie Rolls and Mike and Ikes.

Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews were created by a Romanian Jewish immigrant who changed his name from Dovid Seltzer to David Goldenberg when he arrived in America in 1880. Having settled in eastern Pennsylvania, the Goldenbergs began selling a range of sweet creations from their porch (eventually moving to a store). One of Goldenberg’s specialties, a chocolate covered bar of peanuts and molasses, was deemed sufficiently wholesome and protein-rich enough to earn a government contract for troop rations during World War I (and later during World War II). Noting the popularity of the Peanut Chew among the soldiers, the Goldenberg Candy Company began producing them for a broader general distribution after the war. As the factory was located in Philadelphia, the Goldenberg’s chocolates became particularly renowned in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, especially after the 1930 marketing innovation of packing eight bite-sized bars of peanut chews  in one wrapper.

After World War II, David Goldenberg retired and his children, Sylvia and Harry, discontinued all other Goldenberg candies except the Peanut Chews. Carl, Harry’s son, added Chew-ets, a smaller sized version, to the line. In the fourth generation, however, Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews lost their “Goldenberg” brand name when Carl’s son and successor, David, sold the company to Just Born Candy.

Just Born Candy Company was founded by Sam Born, a traditional Jew who originated from Berdichiv, Ukraine. Born learned the candy business in France. Shortly after immigrating to America in 1910, he began making chocolate. A tremendous innovator, Born created a machine for putting sticks in lollipops and chocolate sprinkles (“jimmies”). With his two brothers-in-law, Irv and Jack Shaffer, he built a candy empire in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Just Born Candy created such popular candies as Mike and Ikes and Hot Tamales and acquired numerous other candies to produce and distribute.

Not long after Just Born acquired Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, they redesigned the wrapper, changing its beloved look and removing the Goldenberg name. Sales plummeted. Protests poured in. Just Born smartly heard the cry of the people and returned to the original packaging.

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