What is candy corn and how is it made?

What exactly is candy corn? See more pictures of Halloween candy.

Every Halloween, bags of triangle-shaped, yellow, orange and white candies fill trick-or-treat bags all over the country. And there are many bags to fill: According to the National Confectioners Association, candy companies will produce nearly 35 million pounds of the corny candy this year. That's about 9 billion individual kernels of corn.

Candy corn is a sweet replicate of dried corn kernels. It's considered a "mellow cream," a name for a type of candy made from corn syrup and sugar that has a marshmallow-like flavor. Although candy corn tastes rich, it's actually fat-free.

Halloween Candy Image Gallery

Most people know the traditional candy corn with three stripes -- yellow at the bottom, orange at the center and white at the top -- but it also comes in a variety of other colors and flavors depending on the holiday:

  • Brown, orange, and white Indian corn (the brown section is chocolate-flavored) for Thanksgiving
  • Green, white and red Reindeer corn for Christmas
  • Pink, red and white Cupid corn for Valentine's Day
  • Pastel-colored Bunny corn for Easter

The traditional variety is most popular in the fall, especially around Halloween. In fact, Oct. 30 is National Candy Corn Day.

Candy corn has been around for more than a century. George Renninger of the Wunderlee Candy Company invented it in the 1880s. It was originally very popular among farmers and its look was revolutionary for the candy industry. The Goelitz Candy Company started making candy corn in 1900 and still makes it today, although the name has changed to the Jelly Belly Candy Company.

Although the recipe for candy corn hasn't changed much since the late 1800s, the way it's made has changed quite a bit. In the early days, workers mixed the main ingredients -- sugar, water and corn syrup -- in large kettles. Then they added fondant (a sweet, creamy icing made from sugar, corn syrup and water) and marshmallow for smoothness. Finally, they poured the entire mixture by hand into molds, one color at a time. Because the work was so tedious, candy corn was only available from March to November.

Today, machines do most of the work. Manufacturers use the "corn starch molding process" to create the signature design. A machine fills a tray of little kernel-shaped holes with cornstarch, which holds the candy corn in shape. Each hole fills partway with sweet white syrup colored with artificial food coloring. Next comes the orange syrup, and finally, the yellow syrup. Then the mold cools and the mixture sits for about 24 hours until it hardens. A machine empties the trays, and the kernels fall into chutes. Any excess cornstarch shakes loose in a big sifter. Then the candy corn gets a glaze to make it shine, and workers package it for shipment to stores.

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