10 Indispensable Facts about PEZ

PEZ hit the height of its American popularity in the '80s and '90s, but this dispensable candy is much older than that. These small, sugar candies have a longer history than you might know.

1. PEZ WERE ORIGINALLY ANTI-SMOKING MINTS.

Austrian inventor and businessman Eduard Haas III came up with the idea for PEZ in 1927. Haas came from a wealthy family of doctors and retailers, and as an anti-smoking advocate, he decided the small mints could help those trying to kick cigarettes. The 30-year-old Haas hired a chemist to perfect a cold-press process that would quickly and cheaply compress peppermint oil and sugar into peppermints. As for the now recognizable name, the mints were named for the German spelling of peppermint—"pfefferminz"—nabbing three letters to make PEZ.

2. THE FIRST PEZ WERE ROUND.

It took some time for Haas to figure out the best way to produce and package his PEZ mints. The first versions were called PEZ Drops, and were round candies wrapped in rolls. But, Haas soon determined that packaging the round candies was a pain, so he and his chemist partner sought out a new shape: the rectangular PEZ. The new shape was easy for machines to wrap, and helped keep PEZ production inexpensive. By the 1930s, PEZ appeared in metal tins that could easily be tucked into coat pockets or purses. Actual dispensers for Haas’ cessation mint wouldn’t be seen until after World War II.

3. VINTAGE PEZ ADS WERE RACY.

Because PEZ was originally intended to help adult smokers kick the habit, its advertisements targeted an older demographic. And to do that, they featured bosomy pinup girls hawking mints. At the same time, PEZ were marketed as an edible for the elite, called "the mint of the noble society," and as an anti-smoking tool ("Smoking prohibited—PEZing allowed!"). By the time PEZ made their way to the United States in the 1950s, the pinup ads were dropped for more child-friendly marketing.

4. AN EASY-TO-USE DISPENSER WAS A BIG COMPANY GOAL.

By the 1940s, Haas came up with a new idea for PEZ sales: a mint dispenser. The confectioner turned to inventor Oscar Uxa, and by 1948, the first PEZ dispenser was created. Uxa’s design, called a Box Regular, was shaped like a lighter as part of Haas’ anti-smoking theme, and utilized springs to push mints out. Its flip-top could be opened with one hand, which was important to Haas; the original patent stated that the one-hand opening was “important not only for persons having only one hand but also persons who often have only one hand free (for example motor-vehicle drivers), or whose occupation causes their hands to become smeared with dirt.”

5. PEZ DIDN'T APPEAR IN THE U.S. UNTIL THE 1950S.

In 1953, PEZ took a chance in American markets, though it initially didn’t find much interest. The peppermint flavor didn’t stand out, pushing Haas Food Manufacturing to rethink its mint. PEZ tablets were retooled with fruit flavors and new packaging to appeal to an entirely different audience: children.

6. DISPENSERS FOR KIDS BECAME A BIG HIT.

As part of PEZ marketing in the U.S., Haas realized that making the candy dispensers into toys could boost sales. The first child-oriented dispensers came in three shapes: a full-bodied Santa Claus, a full-bodied robot and a space gun (which shot candy out of the muzzle). In 1962, PEZ entered a new level of dispenser marketing by pairing with Walt Disney Studios. Even with fierce competition from Mickey Mouse, PEZ’s Santa dispenser (released in 1955) remains a top-selling dispenser. Because of the toy and candy combination, PEZ is considered the first interactive candy, and has more than 1500 different dispensers.

7. MAKING PEZ IS A HIGH-PRESSURE JOB.

That’s because the raw ingredients in PEZ candy undergo 3000 pounds of pressure to become the tiny tablets. Every package of PEZ has only 12 candies, which explains why they seems to disappear so quickly. PEZ dispensers are made in China, Slovenia and Austria, then shipped to the world’s only PEZ candy factory in Orange, Conn. There, candy and toy dispensers are paired up and packaged.

8. EVER WANTED TO TASTE PLANT-FLAVORED PEZ?

At one point in time, it was possible, because PEZ offered chlorophyll-flavored candies. Other specialty PEZ flavors have included licorice, coffee, cola and pineapple. And peppermint PEZ has also made a comeback. Since PEZ is sold in 60 countries, flavors can vary; popular peach isn’t available in the U.S.

9. REAL PEOPLE HAVE BECOME PEZ DISPENSERS.

PEZ often features fictional characters and animals on its dispensers, which has led to the belief that real people can’t appear on the collectible dispensers. Not true! Contrary to popular belief, several real-life people have graced the tops of PEZ poppers. In 1976, Betsy Ross, Paul Revere and Daniel Boone were on Bicentennial Commemorative PEZ dispensers; several U.S. presidents have been featured, as well as the members of KISS. Still, the selection of real people PEZ dispensers isn’t large because the company is selective; recent requests for Kim Kardashian and personalized dispensers just aren’t happening.

10. PEZ COLLECTION MANIA DIDN'T START UNTIL THE 1990s.

While PEZ were popular among Baby Boomer children and '80s kids, it wasn’t until the 1990s that dispenser collecting became big business. PEZheads (the self-proclaimed title for PEZ collectors) created a collecting frenzy where prices for vintage dispensers skyrocketed. During the PEZ rush in 1994, dealer John Devlin said that PEZ prior to the '90s were traded like baseball cards instead of being sold. “People used to say, ‘I’ll give you two dispensers for your one.’” Vintage PEZ dispenser prices skyrocketed, and some collectors even created counterfeits to cash in on the trend. Who knew a small mint meant for smokers could become a national craze?

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Elsie Hui, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Sam's Club Brings $.99 Polish Hot Dogs to All Stores After They're Cut From Costco's Food Courts
Elsie Hui, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Elsie Hui, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

In early July, Costco angered many customers with the announcement that its beloved Polish hot dog was being removed from the food court menu. If you're someone who believes cheap meat tastes best when eaten in a bulk retail warehouse, Sam's Club has good news: The competing big box chain has responded to Costco's news by promising to roll out Polish hot dogs in all its stores later this month, Business Insider reports.

The Polish hot dog has long been a staple at Costco. Like Costco's classic hot dog, the Polish dog was part of the food court's famously affordable $1.50 hot dog and a soda package. The company says the item is being cut in favor of healthier offerings, like açai bowls, organic burgers, and plant-based protein salads.

The standard hot dog and the special deal will continue to be available in stores, but customers who prefer the meatier Polish dog aren't satisfied. Fans immediately took their gripes to the internet—there's even a petition on Change.org to "Bring Back the Polish Dog!" with more than 6500 signatures.

Now Sam's Clubs are looking to draw in some of those spurned customers. Its version of the Polish dog will be sold for just $.99 at all stores starting Monday, July 23. Until now, the chain's Polish hot dogs had only been available in about 200 Sam's Club cafés.

It's hard to imagine the Costco food court will lose too many of its loyal followers from the menu change. Polish hot dogs may be getting axed, but the popular rotisserie chicken and robot-prepared pizza will remain.

[h/t Business Insider]

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Two of the Last Blockbuster Stores Are Closing
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iStock

The fact that Blockbuster still has three stores in the U.S. may come as a surprise, but the video rental chain's days are numbered. The brand's two branches in Alaska will be closing up shop next week, leaving only one last holdout in Bend, Oregon, according to Engadget.

"If you'd asked me 14 years ago, there's no way I'd thought we'd be the last one," Sandi Harding, General Manager of the Oregon store, tells Engadget. "It just seems a little crazy.”

Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy in 2010 but continued to license its logo to franchisees. In 2013, there were 13 remaining Blockbuster stores, and by 2016 there were nine. Many of these branches were located in Alaska, where internet is costly and many areas lack a broadband connection, making streaming difficult.

This alone wasn't enough to keep Blockbuster's Fairbanks and DeBarr Road locations in business, though. The stores will close July 16, but they'll reopen the following day for an inventory sale that will last until the end of August.

John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight, became an unlikely champion of the DeBarr Road outlet last April when he bought the jockstrap worn by Russell Crowe in Cinderella Man for $7000 and donated it to the store in hopes of generating interest and foot traffic. It worked for a little while, but the effect was temporary and business dropped off once again. Indeed, the age of Netflix marks the end of an era.

[h/t Engadget]

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