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The Most Popular Candy the Year You Were Born

Our love affair with candy is a tale as old as time, but our tastes have clearly changed over the years...

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Flat lay composition with delicious colorful candies on color backgroundNew Africa/Shutterstock

Candy, candy, candy

Do you remember your favorite childhood candy? Or the candy that your grandparents always had sitting out in their kitchen? Re-live those memories by satisfying your sweet tooth. Read on for the most popular candy the year you were born.

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1921: Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews

Price: $28.99

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Although Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews were invented in 1917—as a high-protein energy ration for World War I troops—they weren’t available for retail sale until 1921, at which point they exploded onto the American scene with their patriotic origins story and their nutty, nougatty flavor that, come to think of it, has a lot in common with today’s big favorite, the Snickers bar (except Goldenberg’s was made with bittersweet chocolate, not milk chocolate). Don’t miss these 14 mind-blowing facts you probably never knew about Halloween candy.

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1924: Bit-O-Honey


Price: $20.08

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Bit-O-Honey, a chewy candy with a honey-nut flavor that’s a primal hark-back to the candy-stylings of ancient times, was introduced in 1924. Now owned by Nestlé, it’s still popular to this day. This tradition is why we hand out candy on Halloween. 

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1925: BB Bats Taffy Suckers


Price: $14.98 (100-count box)

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The Fair Play Caramel Company started producing these rectangular taffy-on-a-stick candies in 1924 in chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and banana, but it’s the banana flavor that captured the attention of youngsters in 1925, which may explain why Banana BB Bats were still appearing in Halloween loot-bags for generations to come. Psst… here’s one brick and mortar store where you can find all your favorite old-timey candy.

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1925: Sugar Daddy


Price: $12.76 (48-count box)

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When it first came out in 1925, the Sugar Daddy, a rectangular caramel sucker on a stick, was called the “Papa Sucker.” Invented by Robert Welch, the name was intended to refer to this candy being the “papa” of all “pops.” The name was changed in 1932 to suggest a “wealth of sweetness.” Find out healthy alternatives to your favorite Halloween treats.

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1926: Milky Way


Price: $24.62 (36-count box)

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The Milky Way bar was invented in 1923 to be a “Chocolate Malted Milk In a Candy Bar.” It took three years of research but caught on quickly, and by 1926 was the most popular filled-chocolate bar.

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1928: Baby Ruth


Price: $25.99 (24-count box)

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Baby Ruth, the iconic American candy bar made of peanuts, caramel, and chocolate flavored nougat, covered in chocolate was most likely named for Babe Ruth, the baseball star, who in 1921 when this candy bar was invented, was already stealing headlines as well as bases. However, likely to get around compensating Ruth, the makers claimed it was named after President Grover Cleveland’s late daughter. By 1928, it was the most popular five-cent candy in the United States.

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1931: Tootsie Roll Pops


Price: $16.06

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Leo Hirschfeld invented Tootsie Rolls in 1896 and named them for his daughter, Clara (her nickname was “Tootsie”). They were sold as penny candy and didn’t get a huge amount of attention until 1931 when Tootsie Pops were introduced. To this day, it’s believed that no one has ever been able to figure out “how many licks” it takes to reach the center! Here’s how your kid can win a lollipop from Trader Joes… plus 10 other Trader Joes secrets.

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1932: 3 Musketeers


Price: $25.12 (36-count box)

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In 1932, the 3 Musketeers bar was a three-flavor candy bar, consisting of one vanilla-, one chocolate-, and one strawberry-nougat-filled piece. Its clever marketing as “the candy so big you can share it with two friends” made it an instant hit, but during World War II, with sugar rationing ratcheting production prices higher, the Mars company decided to go with all chocolate to help keep costs down.

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1937: Kit Kat


Price: $13.99 (18-count box)

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“The four finger chocolate covered wafer was first released in London in 1935 under the name Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp,” according to 24/7 Wall Street, but it didn’t take off in popularity until two years later, when it was renamed “Kit Kat” and the word “break” (as in “break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar”) became part of its marketing. Find out how to make your own delicious candy.

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1938: Nestlé Crunch


Price: $32.99 (36-count box)

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Nestlé Crunch was invented in Fulton, New York, in 1938, and originally sold for five cents as “Nestlé’s Crunch” milk chocolate bar with crisped rice, according to the Nestlé company. What made it so unique was its crisped-rice filling. Previously, candy bar fillings had always been “rich” (nuts, caramel, cream, nougat, etc.). These are the healthiest nuts you can eat.

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1939: Hershey’s Miniatures


Price: $17.14

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It was pretty exciting when Hershey’s started selling its Hershey’s Miniatures in 1939—an assortment of the most popular chocolate bars at the time, including the version of Krackel that existed then: it was made with almonds and peanuts, rather than crisped rice (presumably, Hershey’s got the idea for using the much more economical crisped rice from its competitor, Nestlé ). Also, the Special Dark was called “Semi-Sweet” at the time.

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1942: Whitman’s Chocolate Samplers


Price: $38.99

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Whitman’s boxed chocolates had already been around for nearly a century, but they came into prominence during World War II when they became part of a campaign to boost American troop morale. Women at the Whitman’s Candy Company slipped notes to soldiers in boxes of Whitman’s Chocolate Samplers set to ship to the troops. It’s said the notes resulted in several marriages! Here’s the most popular Valentine’s Day candy in America.

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1945: Tootsie Rolls


Price: $10.16

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Tootsie Rolls had been invented in 1896, but they became a patriotic favorite in 1945 after word got out that they were being sent to soldiers fighting in World War II as a “quick energy” ration.

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1947: Bazooka Bubble Gum


Price: $9.99

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Topps introduced its Bazooka Bubble Gum shortly after WWII, with patriotic red, white, and blue. It didn’t yet include the iconic Bazooka Joe comic, which would be introduced in 1953. Nevertheless, it was, and continued as, an American favorite until 1993. Check out these surprising benefits you can get from chewing gum.

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1948: M&Ms


Price: $25.99 (36-count box)

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Mars introduced M&Ms in 1941 to try to capture some of summer’s decreased sales (they “melt in your mouth, not in your hands”) and as rations for World War II soldiers, but it wasn’t until 1948, when the packaging became the iconic brown bag it still is today, that the candy took off in popularity. It’s still one of the most popular candies around.

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1949: Movie theater favorites


Price: $17.99 (6-count box)

Shop Now, Junior Mints

Price: $11.76 (12-count box)

Shop Now, Whoppers

When James Welch saw the Broadway play, Junior Miss, he was so struck by the name that when he created a miniature chocolate-covered mint patty in 1949, he gave the play a shout out by naming his mints “Junior Mints.” That same year, Leaf Confectionery changed the name of its malted milk balls from “Giants” to “Whoppers.” Both became movie-theater staples. Here’s why you should order some popcorn to go with that candy the next time you’re at a movie theater.

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1952: PEZ


Price: $9.04

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Eduard Haas III invented PEZ in 1927, in Vienna, Austria (the name was a shortened version of the German word for peppermint (pfeffermintz). In 1948, the PEZ dispenser was invented, but it was strictly utilitarian. In 1952, PEZ made its way to the United States, started selling fruit-flavored versions, and sold them in adorable character-themed dispensers (Santa! Robot! Space Gun!), and an icon was born. Today you can visit the PEZ factory and these other candy factories, too. 

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1953: Peeps


Price: $24.90 (50-count box)

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Although Peeps had been born decades earlier, it wasn’t until 1953 that the Just Born company purchased the brand from Rodda Candy Co., which had been making Peeps by hand. Once Just Born took over, they machinated the process and turned those pastel-colored marshmallow birdies into a national phenomenon and an Easter tradition. Uh-oh…did Peeps actually make this list of the Easter candy no one really likes?

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1954: Atomic Fireballs


Price: $14.99

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Ferrara introduced these cinnamon hard candies in 1954, which was the height of the Cold War and America’s fear of nukes. “Atomic Fireballs” actually featured a mushroom cloud on its packaging, and it’s no surprise they were an immediate hit in schoolyards, where kids swapped them after they did their “bomb drill” exercises!

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1955: Good &Plenty


Price: $13.00 (12-count box)

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Good & Plenty candy (candy-coated licorice bits) was introduced in 1893, but it wasn’t until the mid-1950s that they took off in popularity thanks to the marketing genius of whoever came up with “Choo Choo Charlie,” the train engineer character who fueled his train with Good & Plenty candies. Find out our other favorite food-related characters.

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1959: Pixy Stix


Price: $3.11

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In the 1930s, “Fruzola” was a sweet-and-sour Kool-Aid-like drink mix that was marketed with a spoon so kids could eat it straight from the envelope. It wasn’t until 1952 when the geniuses at Sunline Inc. decided to turn those envelopes into “straws” that Pixy Stix we know them were born. By 1959, they were not only a kiddie favorite but a scourge among parents who didn’t like their kids eating pure sugar.

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1963: SweeTarts


Price: $26.64 (36-count box)

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The “SweeTarts Company” had been around since the 1920s, when it sold dried prunes under the trademark name we now associate with sweet-and-sour candy tablets. But Sunline, the company that created Pixy Stix, had a better idea for what to do with the SweeTart name: use it as the brand name for Pixy Stix-flavored tablets. This didn’t go over so well with the original SweeTart Company, which sued Sunline for trademark infringement. Amazingly enough, and as you’d probably guess, Sunline won, and SweeTarts candy became a perennial favorite.

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1965: Dum-Dums


Price: $7.95

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Dum-Dums, the ball-shaped lollipop, were invented way back in 1924, but they didn’t take off until the original company was acquired by Spangler Candy and moved operations to Bryan, Ohio, where the pops are still made today. By the mid-1960s, Dum-Dums had become essentially ubiquitous—in every “bank, barber shop, and doctor’s office in America,” according to candy expert, Beth Kimmerle, as quoted by Insider.

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1966: Razzles


Price: $4.49

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In 1966, Fleer introduced Razzles, the candy that turned into gum. The slogan (“First it’s a candy, then it’s a gum. Little round Razzles are so much fun!”) was super-effective, and before long, Razzles were “trending” before “trending” was even a thing. Here’s what really happens when you swallow your gum.

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1967: $100,000 Bar


Price: $31.28 (36-count box)

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First invented by Nestlé in 1964 and marketed with the slogan, “Tastes so good it’s almost illegal,” $100,000 Bar wrapped a caramel core with Nestlé Crunch. By 1967, it was considered “top of the pack” by Nestlé. By the mid-1980s, its name was shortened to “100 Grand.” It’s still a top seller today. Good news! Candy is better for you than you thought.

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1967: Starburst


Price: $10.52

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Back in 1960, Starburst was introduced as Opal Fruits in the United Kingdom. It wasn’t until 1967 that Opal Fruits came to America and started being called “Starburst Fruit Chews” that they took off as the phenomenon they still are. Find out if Starburst is on our list of the least healthy Halloween candies on the market.

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1968: Swedish Fish


Price: $14.28 (12-count box)

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Swedish fish, those bright red, gummy fish-shaped candies, do, in fact, hail from Sweden. In 1958, Malaco, a Swedish candymaker expanded into the United States with this candy that was shaped like one of Sweden’s most proud products (fish!). Of course, they don’t taste like fish, although no one can say exactly what they taste like (strawberry? cherry? strawcherry?), which may have something to do with their becoming a cult favorite starting in late 1968.

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1969: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups


Price: $13.72 (6-count box)

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In 1928, Harry Burnett Reese, who’d been working as a dairy farmer for the Hershey company until he was laid off in 1919, began selling chocolate and peanut butter confections he called “peanut butter cups.” Their popularity kept growing throughout the decades, and after Reese’s death in 1956, his sons sold the company to Hershey’s, which took Reese’s creation to another level entirely. In 1969, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups became The Hershey Company’s top seller and remains one of the world’s top-selling candies to this day. Find out 12 other foods that were invented by accident.

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1970: Mounds and Almond Joy


Price: $32.99 (24-count box)

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“Sometimes you feel like a nut,” went the television commercial, “Sometimes you don’t. Almond Joy’s got nuts. Mounds don’t.” And with that, the shredded-coconut, chocolate-covered candy bars that had been around since the 1920s, were launched into the stratosphere of candy popularity. Mars’s version, Bounty, never caught on in the same way.

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1971: Fruit Stripe Gum


Price: $19.83

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Beech-Nut launched its striped gum in 1969, featuring painted-on fruit-flavored stripes. It was a big departure for Beech-Nut, whose gums had never been fruity before, and America ate it up (or rather, chewed it up). The Fruit Stripe gum wrappers are now the only gum wrappers with which you can still build a gum-wrapper chain.

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1972: Wonka Bars


Price: $37.99

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Although the Roald Dahl novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory came out in 1964, it wasn’t until 1971 that the Quaker Oats Company financed the film version and started manufacturing these tie-in candy bars as a promotional stunt. It was the first time a fictional candy came to life, but as we’ll see, not the last.  Here’s what breakfast would be like in your house if your  Dad were Willy Wonka.

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1975: Bubble Yum


Price: $14.18 (18-count box)

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The mid-1970s was an exciting time for bubble gum lovers because 1975 is when the LifeSavers company came out with the very first soft bubble gum. Bubble Yum was an instant sensation, and despite the persistent false rumors that it was soft because it contained spider eggs (seriously, how does that even make sense?), it’s remained a top seller.

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1976: Pop Rocks


Price: $13.99 (18-count box)

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After close to 20 years of research and development by General Foods, Pop Rocks were introduced to the market in 1975 (at 15 cents per pack), becoming, like Bubble Yum, an instant sensation, and also like Bubble Yum, the center of some very strange—and totally false—rumors (for example, if you ate them with soda, your stomach would explode). Things got so crazy on the rumor front that General Foods took Pop Rocks off the market in 1983. Two years later, Kraft bought the brand and trotted it back out. They’re everywhere today, including in your cereal bowl!

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1979: Twix Bars


Price: $18.00 (36-count box)

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If you think about what the Twix Bar is (a butter cookie topped with caramel and coated with milk chocolate), it stands to reason it was developed in the United Kingdom (home of McVities chocolate-dipped cookies, or “biscuits,”). That was in 1967. It took another 12 years for Twix to make it to the United States, at which time it totally took off in popularity—so much so that it spawned Peanut Butter Twix in 1983.

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1980: Skittles


Price: $24.97 (30-count box)

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Another candy that got its start in the United Kingdom, Skittles were introduced to Brits in 1974. It was only after they were imported into the United States in 1979 that they became popular—so much so that in 1982, Skittles came to be made in the United States. Today, Skittles is owned by Wrigley. Did you know that Skittles is the most popular Christmas candy in Florida? Find out the most popular Christmas candy in your state.

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1981: Jelly Belly


Price: $19.58

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Jelly beans are nothing new, but Jelly Belly jelly beans were, and remain, something else entirely. Whereas regular jelly beans come in a variety of flavors, Jelly Belly was up to 40 flavors by 1982 and came with instructions on how to mix the flavors (in your mouth!) to create even more taste sensations. But they truly hit their stride when Ronald Reagan became president, and the world discovered that the POTUS was obsessed with Jelly Belly jelly beans! Don’t miss our ranking of the best ever Jelly Belly flavors.

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1982: Reese’s Pieces


Price: $9.78

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Introduced in 1978, Reese’s Pieces looked enough like M&Ms that when the producers of the 1982 film, E.T., couldn’t get Mars to agree to let them use M&Ms in the film, they went, instead, with the relatively new candy made by Hershey’s, although inside that candy shell was Reese’s delectably sweet and creamy peanut butter. As moviegoers fell in love with that adorable extraterrestrial, they also fell in love with Reese’s Pieces. Within two weeks of the movie’s premiere, sales were through the roof (some say as much as 85 percent).

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1985: Sour Patch Kids


Price: $14.26 (24-count box)

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In the midst of a decade in which attention spans were dwindling, it stands to reason that Sour Patch Kids took off in popularity in 1985, despite that they’d been produced since the late 1970s: you’d pop one in your mouth, and wince at the intensely sour flavor, but just as you were getting used to it, it would transform into something sweet. No chance of getting bored!

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1986: Airheads


Price: $7.98 (60-count box)

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This tangy, chewy candy was born on August 7, 1985, the brainchild of Steve Bruner, who worked for the Dutch-Italian confectioner, Perfetti Van Melle in Erlanger, Kentucky. That they became so popular within their first year may have something to do with their tanginess (coming on the heels of the introduction of Sour Patch Kids) as well as the name, Airheads, which Bruner chose with the specific intention of attracting the attention of kids between the ages of 9 and 15.

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1988: Nerds


Price: $13.47 (12-count box)

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Nerds were first created and then launched in 1983, but they truly became a thing when Nestlé bought the brand in 1988. That’s the year Nerds were voted “Candy of the Year.” Another example of “short-attention-span-candy,” Nerds are usually sold in a box with two flavors, each with its own separate opening. Get bored of one? Simply turn the box over and enjoy the other!

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1992: Butterfinger BBs


Price: $28.99 (12-count box)

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The Butterfinger candy bar (a brittle peanut butter-flavored core surrounded by milk chocolate) had been around since 1923, but in 1992, it became the darling of children everywhere with the introduction of a teeny tiny version: Butterfinger BBs. Unfortunately, unlike M&Ms, they did melt in your hands. When they were discontinued in 2006, there was such an uproar that Butterfinger re-introduced a slightly larger version in 2009: Butterfinger Bites (which are nowhere near as messy as Butterfinger BBs).

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1993: Warheads


Price: $4.07

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When it came to short-attention-span-management, Warheads candy took the opposite approach of Sour Patch Kids: Warheads started out as mildly sour, but after a moment or two, they turned super-duper sour. Like “your head’s going to explode” sour, according to this nostalgic fan. By the time you were done, the flavor had gone back to sweet-ish. But Warheads, which came to the United States in 1993 (having been invented in Taiwan in 1975), ushered in what would become, in the early aughts, a new age of extreme candy experiences.

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1995: Nestlé Magic Balls


Price: $29.01 (10-count box)

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A Nestlé Magic Ball was a hollow milk chocolate ball, inside of which you’d find a small plastic character (a Disney or Pokémon character, for example). Although Nestlé insisted the candy/toy container was safe, many parents believed it represented a choking hazard, and by 1997, the Magic Ball was gone from candy shelves. In 2000, Nestlé re-released it as the “Wonder Ball,” with candy inside the chocolate shell, rather than teeny tiny toys. Beware: these seemingly adorable baby gifts are actually seriously unsafe.

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1998: Baby Bottle Pops


Price: $18.99 (12-count box)

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With a slogan like, “You can lick it, shake it, and drink it,” is it any wonder the Baby Bottle Pop became a huge trend when it was introduced in 1998? Essentially, a lollipop in the shape of a baby bottle, what makes it “fun” for kids is that you dip the tip of the baby bottle-shaped candy into powdered sugar that’s located at the base of the baby-bottle-shaped container.

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2000 and beyond: Everything in the extreme


Price: $11.12 (Pack of 6)

Shop Now, Harry Potter Bertie Botts

Price: $15.91 (Pack of 4)

Shop Now, Lindt Excellence Bar

With “extreme” being the key to many a candy’s popularity at the turn of the millennium, it’s no surprise these extreme versions of already-existing candy started trending.

  • Jelly Belly Candy Company introduced its Harry Potter Bertie Botts Every Flavor Beans in 2000, and kids ate ’em up…despite revolting flavors that included vomit, booger, and rotten egg.
  • Chocolate became darker and darker, like this Lindt Excellence Bar, which boasts 90 percent cocoa.
  • More recently, “gummies” took on a new and adult meaning, as several states legalized marijuana, and gummy candy became one of its most popular delivery systems.

Let’s take a moment now to remember how much we love these 8 vintage candies that should definitely make a comeback.

*Prices accurate at time of publishing.

Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest, The Huffington Post, and a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. Lauren is also an author of crime fiction; her first full-length manuscript, The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.