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How DOTS Became a Successful Candy Spin-off

DOTS, the bite-sized, fruit-flavored gellies, are supposedly America’s favorite gumdrops. But, the well-known candy mirrored another popular, turn-of-the century sweet.

DOTS launched onto the candy scene in 1945 as Mason’s Dots, but they weren’t the first candy of their kind. East Coast confectioners Ernest Von Au and Joseph Mason formulated Black Crows, DOTS’ predecessor, nearly 55 years before. The dark-colored gumdrops with a black licorice flavor (what’s now called a "comforting, mature taste") became popular in 1890.

Prior to the 1900s, licorice was used medicinally and was thought to beneficial in nearly any way you could consume it. Because of this, licorice-flavored candies exploded in popularity, which possibly explains Von Au and Mason’s success with Black Crows, despite modern feelings about licorice.

For more than five decades, Black Crows were produced as a standard gumdrop flavor until their fruit-flavored siblings were introduced after World War II. The Mason, Au and Magenheimer Confectionery Manufacturing Company produced both DOTS and Black Crows until it was bought out by Tootsie Roll Industries in 1972. Candy production was moved from New York to Chicago, and the original Mason, Au and Magenheimer factory was recently transformed into New York City lofts.  Now, a combined 23 million gumdrops of both flavors are produced each day.

DOTS are still made in their original flavors—strawberry, cherry, orange, lime and lemon—but some ventures into holiday themed DOTS have cropped up over the years, like for Christmas and Valentine's Day. There are even Halloween Candy Corn DOTS, though not everyone was on board with that classic-candy mash-up.

A universal experience for DOTS lovers is how hard the candies can get with age, and it all has to do with how the fruity drops are made and packaged. DOTS are starch jelly candies, meaning they’re created from sugar syrup that’s been pumped into cornstarch molds. Because the starch jelly process is used over gelatin to help the candy retain its shape, DOTS are considered a vegan candy (they're also labeled as kosher). After curing overnight in a 160-degree room, the gelled candy is popped out of the mold and sent toward boxing after being sifted from the starch.

But, it’s those simple, yellow cardboard packages that cut down on the candy’s shelf life. After DOTS are packaged, they begin to slowly lose their water content, which leads to hardening. Candy scientists believe a different type of packaging that better seals in the candies—like foil wrappers—could help them last longer than the cardboard boxes (and perhaps remove DOTS from the list of worst Halloween candies).

DOTS have become a class movie theater snack and Halloween treat, but there could be something more to them—like this mysterious, Virgin Mary-shaped DOT. In 2013, a Maine couple supposedly found an orange DOT shaped like the religious figure and sold the holy DOT on Ebay for a whopping $305. Perhaps divine intervention has kept DOTS at the top of the gumdrop charts for the last 70 years.

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Pop Culture
How Jimmy Buffett Turned 'Margaritaville' Into a Way of Life
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Few songs have proven as lucrative as “Margaritaville,” a modest 1977 hit by singer and songwriter Jimmy Buffett that became an anthem for an entire life philosophy. The track was the springboard for Buffett’s business empire—restaurants, apparel, kitchen appliances, and more—marketing the taking-it-easy message of its tropical print lyrics.

After just a few years of expanding that notion into other ventures, the “Parrot Heads” of Buffett’s fandom began to account for $40 million in annual revenue—and that was before the vacation resorts began popping up.

Jimmy Buffett performs for a crowd
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“Margaritaville,” which turned 40 this year, was never intended to inspire this kind of devotion. It was written after Buffett, as an aspiring musician toiling in Nashville, found himself in Key West, Florida, following a cancelled booking in Miami and marveling at the sea of tourists clogging the beaches.

Like the other songs on his album, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, it didn’t receive a lot of radio play. Instead, Buffett began to develop his following by opening up for The Eagles. Even at 30, Buffett was something less than hip—a flip-flopped performer with a genial stage presence that seemed to invite an easygoing vibe among crowds. “Margaritaville,” an anthem to that kind of breezy attitude, peaked at number eight on the Billboard charts in 1977. While that’s impressive for any single, its legacy would quickly evolve beyond the music industry's method for gauging success.

What Buffett realized as he continued to perform and tour throughout the early 1980s is that “Margaritaville” had the ability to sedate audiences. Like a hypnotist, the singer could immediately conjure a specific time and place that listeners wanted to revisit. The lyrics painted a scene of serenity that became a kind of existential vacation for Buffett's fans:

Nibblin' on sponge cake,
Watchin' the sun bake;
All of those tourists covered with oil.
Strummin' my six string on my front porch swing.
Smell those shrimp —
They're beginnin' to boil.

By 1985, Buffett was ready to capitalize on that goodwill. In Key West, he opened a Margaritaville store, which sold hats, shirts, and other ephemera to residents and tourists looking to broadcast their allegiance to his sand-in-toes fantasy. (A portion of the proceeds went to Save the Manatees, a nonprofit organization devoted to animal conservation.) The store also sold the Coconut Telegraph, a kind of propaganda newsletter about all things Buffett and his chill perspective.

When Buffett realized patrons were coming in expecting a bar or food—the song was named after a mixed drink, after all—he opened a cafe adjacent to the store in late 1987. The configuration was ideal, and through the 1990s, Buffett and business partner John Cohlan began erecting Margaritaville locations in Florida, New Orleans, and eventually Las Vegas and New York. All told, more than 21 million people visit a Buffett-inspired hospitality destination every year.

A parrot at Margaritaville welcomes guests
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Margaritaville-branded tequila followed. So, too, did a line of retail foods like hummus, a book of short stories, massive resorts, a Sirius radio channel, and drink blenders. Buffett even wrote a 242-page script for a Margaritaville movie that he had hoped to film in the 1980s. It’s one of the very few Margaritaville projects that has yet to have come to fruition, but it might be hard for Buffett to complain much. In 2015, his entire empire took in $1.5 billion in sales.

As of late, Buffett has signed off on an Orlando resort due to open in 2018, offering “casual luxury” near the boundaries of Walt Disney World. (One in Hollywood, Florida, is already a hit, boasting a 93 percent occupancy rate.) Even for guests that aren’t particularly familiar with his music, “Jimmy Buffett” has become synonymous with comfort and relaxation just as surely as Walt Disney has with family entertainment. The association bodes well for a business that will eventually have to move beyond Buffett’s concert-going loyalists.

Not that he's looking to leave them behind. The 70-year-old Buffett is planning on a series of Margaritaville-themed retirement communities, with the first due to open in Daytona Beach in 2018. More than 10,000 Parrot Heads have already registered, eager to watch the sun set while idling in a frame of mind that Buffett has slowly but surely turned into a reality.

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Design
The Secret to the World's Most Comfortable Bed Might Be Yak Hair
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Tengi

Savoir Beds laughs at your unspooling mail-order mattresses and their promises of ultimate comfort. The UK-based company has teamed with London's Savoy Hotel to offer what they’ve declared is one of the most luxurious nights of sleep you’ll ever experience. 

What do they have that everyone else lacks? About eight pounds of Mongolian yak hair.

The elegantly-named Savoir No. 1 Khangai Limited Edition is part of the hotel’s elite Royal Suite accommodations. For $1845 a night, guests can sink into the mattress with a topper stuffed full of yak hair from Khangai, Mongolia. Hand-combed and with heat-dispensing properties, it takes 40 yaks to make one topper. In a press release, collaborator and yarn specialist Tengri claims it “transcends all levels of comfort currently available.”

Visitors opting for such deluxe amenities also have access to a hair stylist, butler, chef, and a Rolls-Royce with a driver.

Savoir Beds has entered into a fair-share partnership with the farmers, who receive an equitable wage in exchange for the fibers, which are said to be softer than cashmere. If you’d prefer to luxuriate like that every night, the purchase price for the bed is $93,000. Purchased separately, the topper is $17,400. Act soon, as only 50 of the beds will be made available each year. 

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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