It's generally reported (including the National Confectioners Association) that it was Wunderlee employee George Renninger who invented candy corn. However, I've read other entries that cite others or that it is unknown. Even if we don't know exactly who the first person was, we certainly know it came from Philadelphia's Wunderlee Candy Company.
Wunderlee was a small company and there isn't much about what happened to them, but we do know that it wasn't Wunderlee who took candy corn to the mass markets. It took a German immigrant, Gustav Goelitz of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1898 to start the Goelitz Candy Company and mass produce candy corn.
It's my belief that there were three major factors why candy corn took off in popularity:
- Candy corn was sweet
- Candy corn was scarce - mass-produced candy was in short supply at the time and was only produced 8 months in a year
- Candy corn looked appealing - farmers liked that the candy looked like a kernel of corn (the yellow end is the 'top') and the general public considered it revolutionary because of it's tri-colored design
Although there are several brands that make today's candy corn, the leader is Brach's.
In 1904, German immigrant Emil J. Brach opened Brach's Palace of Sweets in Chicago. In 1948 Brach's decided to begin selling candy corn during Halloween. Soon Brach's became the top candy seller in America. Since then the company has been bought and sold several times including being acquired by Farley's & Sathers Candy Company in 2007.
Today it is estimated that more than 35 million pounds of candy corn is produced annually (that's about 9 billion pieces of candy corn!)
Of the 9 billion pieces, I do my fair share annually to be sure!