Today, PEZ candy conjures up images of whimsical plastic dispensers full of small, brick-shaped little candies. First invented in Austria in the early 20th century, PEZ candy has quite a storied history — one that visitors can learn for themselves with a visit to the PEZ Visitors Center in Orange, Connecticut, which first opened on this day in 2011.
The history of PEZ began in 1927, when an enterprising Austrian named Edward Haas created a new line of small peppermint candies. (The name “PEZ” comes from a playful abbreviation of “pfefferminz,” the German word for “peppermints.”) In the 1940s, Haas started marketing PEZ as an aid to help adults stop smoking, and invented a small, slim dispenser for his mints that resembled a cigarette lighter. By the time PEZ debuted in the United States in the 1950s, Haas’ company had expanded even further, offering candies in a variety of flavors and adding likenesses of popular TV characters and film stars to dispensers to appeal to children.
American demand for both the candy and the iconic, highly collectable dispensers was so high that PEZ opened a distribution center in New York City. In 1973, PEZ broke ground on a new headquarters and manufacturing center in Orange, Connecticut, where it soon began producing PEZ candy in the United States for the first time. After celebrating its 80th anniversary in 2007, the company decided to built an expansive visitor center on its Orange campus, and on December 1, 2011, the new complex first opened its doors to the public. Today, the visitor center remains one of the area’s largest attractions, with 4,000 square feet devoted to what the company calls “the largest, most comprehensive collection of PEZ memorabilia on public display in the world.” Glass windows allow visitors a chance to observe PEZ candies being manufactured in real time, and — of course — an expansive retail area gives enthusiasts ample opportunity to expand their collection of PEZ dispensers. Another chapter in what has become a very sweet success story began today in Connecticut history.
“Orange: Connecticut’s Candy Dispenser,” connecticuthistory.org
“About Us: History,” PEZ company website