The Origin of Pez
As a little kid did you ever collect dozens and dozens of PEZ dispensers? Those little plastic tubes with the head of a cartoon character that opened and closed to reveal a neat pile of the flavorful candy. Although the fun packaging makes it seem like PEZ has always been a treat for children, the truth is that PEZ was once marketed to adults as a method to quit smoking.
In 1927, PEZ was invented by Eduard Haas III as a breath mint in Vienna, Austria. The name PEZ actually comes from the German word ‘pfefferminz’ meaning peppermint. In 1948, the familiar dispenser shape was created to look like a cigarette lighter. The idea was that if smokers could have something that reminded them of their old habit, then they would not feel like they were quitting cold turkey.
In order to increase sales in the 1950s, fruity flavors were introduced and character dispensers were created to help spark the interest of children. It worked too. Today, more than three billion PEZ candies are consumed every year in the United States alone.
For the past seventy years now, PEZ has gone from an anti-smoking aid to a candy with a cult-like following. Don’t let the innocent features of the cartoon dispenser’s fool you though; many collectable dispensers can sell for thousands of dollars. The earliest models go for around $2,000 while the most expensive one ever sold went for $32,000. So the next time you’re bored and in the mood for something sweet, remember that PEZ is both a candy and a historical invention to help people stop smoking. Yum.