Researchers at the Rockefeller Institute of Government have discovered that no state has designated a state candy. In 2019, a Florida legislator proposed coconut patties as their official state candy, but that legislation died in committee this year. New York already has a number of official state emblems or symbols. These include several official food items: apples are the state fruit (1976); milk is the state beverage (1981); and more recently, yogurt was designated the state snack (2014).
We therefore recommend that New York continue its commitment to leadership in food emblem related legislation and become the first state to designate an official state candy. Rockefeller Institute researchers have completed an exhaustive review process and identified five candies that should be considered by the New York State Assembly, Senate, and governor.
Why Aren’t There Any State Candies?
Candy challenges the historical designation of state emblems and symbols as many candies are company specific products. In New York, products made by particular companies have not traditionally been designated as an official state symbol, most likely because it could constitute an official endorsement.
- Tootsie Rolls. Tootsie rolls were invented at the dawn of the 20th century by Leo Hirschfeld and the manufacturing technique used to create the unique texture was patented on November 3, 1908. The candy was manufactured and sold by Brooklyn-based Stern & Saalberg and was a hit by 1909. The company eventually changed names and developed an expanded product line. The production of Tootsie Rolls moved to Chicago in 1966 and the treat is now also claimed by its adopted home.
- Life Savers. Despite being invented in Ohio, Life Savers were commercialized by Edward Noble from Gouverneur, New York who bought the formula for Pep-O-Mint Life Savers. The North Country entrepreneur added his own innovations including a metal wrapper meant to keep the candy from going stale. He and his brother established manufacturing facilities in Port Chester, New York. The company’s headquarters remained in the town from 1920 until 1984. The candy is now owned by Wrigley’s, however, and is manufactured in Canada—but Gouverneur is still home to a giant statue of Pep-O-Mint Life Savers.
- Rock Candy. Canajoharie in Montgomery County is home to the US’s largest rock candy manufacturing facility. It takes about 10,000 pounds of cane sugar to produce 2,000 pounds of rock candy. In the 1930s, a rock candy manufacturer discovered that a byproduct of rock candy production can be used as an ingredient in gravy seasoning. This is still true today. Richardson Brands’ Mohawk Valley plant produces 12 million pounds of candy and gravy seasoning annually.
- Pop Rocks. This “gasified candy” was invented in Tarrytown, New York by General Foods chemist William Mitchell (who also invented Tang and Cool Whip). The company was working to develop a powder that would dissolve in water to create a soda when Mitchell discovered Pop Rocks in 1956. The invention was then patented in 1961, but did not make it onto shelves until it was eventually marketed as a candy in 1975. Because it was the subject of urban legends and despite a widespread counter-disinformation campaign, the candy was pulled off the market for a time in the mid-1980’s. Rockefeller experts can confirm that joint consumption of diet cola and pop rocks does not generate adverse health effects.
- Buffalo Sponge Candy. On September 21st, people across Western New York take a day to celebrate the region’s unique confectionary contribution: sponge candy. Sold at many candy shops in the Buffalo region, the often chocolate coated toffee-like creation was introduced to the region around 1910. Sponge candy is a temperamental traveler which may be why it is not as well known outside of the Buffalo area, though it is enjoyed in other places around the world.
While the Rockefeller Institute is committed to objectivity, we feel that this topic is too important not to take a stand. We officially endorse the candy that shares our namesake, Nelson “Pop Rock”efeller, to be the official candy of New York State.
*We affirm that we are not in the pocket of big candy. We invite all other New York-based confectioners who wish their products to be considered in our future analyses to submit samples for our thorough evaluation.