Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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PEZ are small candies that were invented in Vienna, Austria, in 1927, when Eduard Haas III created a breath mint made of pressed sugar and peppermint oil, which he advertised as “the mint of the noble society.” Haas coined the name PEZ by combining the first, third, and eleventh letters of the German word for peppermint, Pfefferminze. PEZ candies were initially marketed as a product for adults, so it is not surprising that the first dispensers, which came on the market in 1949, strongly resembled cigarette lighters. In the 1950s the company continued to use scantily clad pinup girls to promote its products, but once PEZ broke into the American market in 1953, the company recognized the potential in targeting children. The PEZ girls were given a more respectable look, and the dispensers (which still resembled cigarette lighters to some extent) got character heads that pivoted back to dispense the candy. The first models sporting Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck heads appeared in 1962. Today, new dispensers hit the market every two months. PEZ is currently sold in some 80 countries around the world, with three- to eight-year-olds being the main consumer target group.