The History of Confections

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

This article is about the type of confection generally. For other uses, see Confection (disambiguation) and Candies (disambiguation).

See Candy Bouquets.

"Sweets" redirects here. For other uses, see Sweets (disambiguation).

Alternative names

Sweets, lollies


Sugar confectionery

Main ingredients

Sugar or honey

Cookbook: Confection   Media: Confection

A booth selling confection

Liquorice is a confection flavored with the extract of the roots of the liquorice plant. It is very popular in Finland.

White disk-shaped candies

Baasha are one of the many traditional candies found in South Asia. Flavored varieties include nuts and mint

Confection, also called sweets or lollies, is a confection that features sugar as a principal ingredient. The category, called sugar confectionery, encompasses any sweet confection, including chocolate, chewing gum, and sugar confection. Vegetables, fruit, or nuts which have been glazed and coated with sugar are said to be candied.

Physically, confection is characterized by the use of a significant amount of sugar, or, in the case of sugar-free candies, by the presence of sugar substitutes. Unlike a cake or loaf of bread that would be shared among many people, candies are usually made in smaller pieces. However, the definition of confection also depends upon how people treat the food. Unlike sweet pastries served for a dessert course at the end of a meal, candies are normally eaten casually, often with the fingers, as a snack between meals. Each culture has its own ideas of what constitutes confection rather than dessert. The same food may be a confection in one culture and a dessert in another.[1]

Contents  [hide]

1 Definition and classification

2 History 2.1 Industrial Revolution

3 Production

4 Packaging 4.1 Purposes of packaging

4.2 History

4.3 Marketing and design

5 Shelf life

6 Nutrition 6.1 Meal replacements

6.2 Vegetarianism

7 Health effects 7.1 Cavities

7.2 Glycemic index

7.3 Health benefits

7.4 Contamination

7.5 Choking deaths

8 Sales

9 Cultural significance

10 See also

11 References

12 External links

Definition and classification

Confection is a sweet food product.

Sugar candies include hard candies, soft candies, caramels, marshmallows, taffy, and other candies whose principal ingredient is sugar. Commercially, sugar candies are often divided into groups according to the amount of sugar they contain and their chemical structure. [2]

Comparison of sugar candies

Kompeitō is a traditional Japanese sugar confection. When finished, it is almost 100% sugar.

Fruit-shaped hard confection is a common type of sugar confection, containing sugar, color, flavor, and a tiny bit of water.

Chikki are homemade nut brittles popular in India. Between the nuts or seeds is hard sugar confection.

In Germany, Haribo gummy bears were the first gummi confection ever made. They are soft and chewy.

Pantteri is a soft, chewy Finnish sugar confection. The colored ones are fruity, while black are salmiakki (salty liquorice-flavored).

Chocolate is sometimes treated as a separate branch of confectionery. [3] In this model, chocolate candies like chocolate confection bars and chocolate truffles are included. Hot chocolate or other cocoa-based drinks are excluded, as is confection made from white chocolate. However, when chocolate is treated as a separate branch, it also includes confections whose classification is otherwise difficult, being neither exactly candies nor exactly baked goods, like chocolate-dipped foods, tarts with chocolate shells, and chocolate-coated cookies.

Comparison of chocolate types

Unsweetened baking chocolate contains no sugar.

Bittersweet or dark chocolate contains some sugar.

Milk chocolate contains milk and lower levels of cocoa solids.

Because white chocolate contains no cocoa solids, it is classified as sugar confectionery instead of chocolate.

Compound chocolate is used in place of pure chocolate to reduce costs.

These flowers were made from modeling chocolate.

Candies can be classified into noncrystalline and crystalline types. Noncrystalline candies are homogeneous and may be chewy or hard; they include hard candies, caramels, toffees, and nougats. Crystalline candies incorporate small crystals in their structure, are creamy that melt in the mouth or are easily chewed; they include fondant and fudge. [4]


A Japanese vendor selling sweets in "The Great Buddha Sweet Shop" from the Miyako meisho zue (1787)

Between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, the Persians, followed by the Greeks, discovered the people in India and their "reeds that produce honey without bees". They adopted and then spread sugar and sugarcane agriculture.[5] Sugarcane is indigenous to tropical South and Southeast Asia, while the word sugar is derived from the Sanskrit word Sharkara.[6] Pieces of sugar were produced by boiling sugarcane juice in ancient India and consumed as Khanda, dubbed as the original confection. [7]

Before sugar was readily available, confection was based on honey.[8] Honey was used in Ancient China, Middle East, Egypt, Greece and the Roman Empire to coat fruits and flowers to preserve them or to create forms of confection.[9] Confection is still served in this form today, though now it is more typically seen as a type of garnish.

Before the Industrial Revolution, confection was often considered a form of medicine, either used to calm the digestive system or cool a sore throat. In the Middle Ages confection appeared on the tables of only the most wealthy at first. At that time, it began as a combination of spices and sugar that was used as an aid to digestive problems. Digestive problems were very common during this time due to the constant consumption of food that was neither fresh nor well balanced. Banquet hosts would typically serve these types of 'candies' at banquets for their guests. One of these candies, sometimes called chamber spice, was made with cloves, ginger, aniseed, juniper berries, almonds and pine kernels dipped in melted sugar.[9]


The Middle English word confection began to be used in the late 13th century.[10][11]

The first confection came to America in the early 18th century from Britain andFrance. Only a few of the early colonists were proficient in sugar work and were able to provide the sugary treats for the very wealthy. Rock confection, made from crystallized sugar, was the simplest form of confection, but even this basic form of sugar was considered a luxury and was only attainable by the rich.[12]

Industrial Revolution


The confection business underwent a drastic change in the 1830s when technological advances and the availability of sugar opened up the market. The new market was not only for the enjoyment of the rich but also for the pleasure of the working class as well. There was also an increasing market for children. Confectioners were no longer the venue for the wealthy and high class but for children as well. While some fine confectioners remained, the confection store became a staple of the child of the American working class. Penny candies epitomized this transformation of confection. Penny confection became the first material good that children spent their own money on. For this reason, confection store-owners relied almost entirely on the business of children to keep them running. Even penny candies were directly descended from medicated lozenges that held bitter medicine in a hard sugar coating.[13]

In 1847, the invention of the confection press (also known as a toy machine) made it possible to produce multiple shapes and sizes of confection at once. In 1851, confectioners began to use a revolving steam pan

to assist in boiling sugar. This transformation meant that the confection maker was no longer required to continuously stir the boiling sugar. The heat from the surface of the pan was also much more evenly distributed and made it less likely the sugar would burn. These innovations made it possible for only one or two people to successfully run a confection business.[12]


Main article: Confection making

Confection is made by dissolving sugar in water or milk to form a syrup, which is boiled until it reaches the desired concentration or starts to caramelize. Confection comes in a wide variety of textures, from soft and chewy to hard and brittle. The texture of confection depends on the ingredients and the temperatures that the confection is processed at.


The final texture of sugar confection depends primarily on the sugar concentration. As the syrup is heated, it boils, water evaporates, the sugar concentration increases and the boiling point rises. A given temperature corresponds to a particular sugar concentration. These are called sugar stages. In general, higher temperatures and greater sugar concentrations result in hard, brittle candies, and lower temperatures result in softer candies.[14] Once the syrup reaches 171 °C (340 °F) or higher, the sucrose molecules break down into many simpler sugars, creating an amber-colored substance known as caramel. This should not be confused with caramel confection, although it is the confection's main flavoring.

Most candies are made commercially. The industry relies significantly on trade secret protection, because confection recipes cannot be copyrighted or patented effectively, but are very difficult to duplicate exactly. Seemingly minor differences in the machinery, temperature, or timing of the confection-making process can cause noticeable differences in the final product.[15]


Salt water taffy is usually wrapped in pieces of wax paper.

Confection wrapper or sweets wrapper is a common term for this packaging.[16]

Purposes of packaging

Packaging preserves aroma and flavor and eases shipping and dispensation. Wax paper seals against air, moisture, dust, and germs, while cellophane is valued by packagers for its transparency and resistance to grease, odors and moisture. In addition, it is often resealable. Polyethylene is another form of film sealed with heat, and this material is often used to make bags in bulk packaging. Saran wraps are also common. Aluminum foils wrap chocolate bars and prevent a transfer of water vapor while being lightweight, non-toxic and odor proof. Vegetable parchment lines boxes of high-quality confections like gourmet chocolates. Cardboard cartons are less common, though they offer many options concerning thickness and movement of water and oil.

Packaging may be used as a type of gift wrapping.

Packages are often sealed with a starch-based adhesive derived from tapioca, potato, wheat, sago, or sweet potato. Occasionally, glues are made from the bones and skin of cattle and hogs for a stronger and more flexible product, but this is not as common because of the expense.[17]



Prior to the 1900s, confection was commonly sold unwrapped from carts in the street, where it was exposed to dirt and insects. By 1914, there were some machines to wrap gum and stick candies, but this was not the common practice. After the polio outbreak in 1916, unwrapped candies garnered widespread censure because of the dirt and germs. At the time, only upscale confection stores used glass jars. With advancements in technology, wax paper was adopted, and foil and cellophane were imported[vague] from France by DuPont in 1925. Necco packagers were one of the first companies to package without human touch.[18]


Confection packaging played a role in its adoption as the most popular treat given away during trick-or-treating for Halloween in the US. In the 1940s, most treats were homemade. During the 1950s, small, individually wrapped candies were recognized as convenient and inexpensive. By the 1970s, after widely publicized but largely false stories of poisoned confection myths circulating in the popular press, factory-sealed packaging with a recognizable name brand on it became a sign of safety.[19]

Marketing and design

Packaging helps market the product as well. Manufacturers know that confection must be hygienic and attractive to customers. In the children's market quantity, novelty, large size and bright colors are the top sellers.[18] Many companies redesign the packaging to maintain consumer appeal.

Shelf life

Because of its high sugar concentration, bacteria are not usually able to grow in confection. As a result, the shelf life is longer for confection than for many other foods. Most candies can be safely stored in their original packaging at room temperature in a dry, dark cupboard for months or years. As a rule, the softer the confection or the damper the storage area, the sooner it goes stale.[20]


Shelf life considerations with most candies are focused on appearance, taste, and texture, rather than about the potential for food poisoning. That is, old confection may not look pretty or taste very good, even though it is very unlikely to make the eater sick. Confection can be made unsafe by storing it badly, such as in a wet, moldy area. Typical recommendations are these:[20]

Hard confection may last indefinitely in good storage conditions.

Milk chocolates and caramels usually become stale after about one year.

Dark chocolate lasts up to two years.

Soft or creamy candies, like confection corn, may last 8 to 10 months in ideal conditions.

Chewing gum and gumballs may stay fresh as long as 8 months after manufacture.



Even in a culture that eats sweets frequently, confection is not a significant source of nutrition or food energy for most people. The average American eats about 1.1 kg (2.5 pounds) of sugar or similar sweeteners each week, but almost 95% of that sugar—all but about 70 grams (2.5 ounces)—comes from non-confection sources, especially soft drinks and processed foods.[21]

Meal replacements

Confection is considered a source of empty calories, because it provides little or no nutritional value beyond food energy. At the start of the 20th century, when undernutrition was a serious problem, especially among poor and working-class people, and when nutrition science was a new field, the high calorie content was promoted as a virtue. Researchers suggested that confection, especially confection with milk and nuts, was a low-cost alternative to normal meals. To get the food energy necessary for a day of labor, confection might cost half as much as eggs.[22] During the 1920s and 1930s, confection bars selling for five cents were often marketed as replacements for lunch.[23]


At the 1904 World Fair, the Quaker Oats Company made a confection-coated puffed cereal, a wheat-based product similar to Cracker Jack's confection-coated popcorn. The product concept was re-introduced unsuccessfully in 1939 by another business as Ranger Joe, the first pre-sweetened, confection-coated breakfast cereal. Post Foods introduced their own version in 1948, originally called Happy Jax and later Sugar Crisp. They marketed it as both a replacement for unsweetened breakfast cereals and also for eating as a snack or as confection, using three animated cartoon bears as the mascots: Confection, Handy, and Dandy. The early slogans said, "As a cereal it's dandy—for snacks it's so handy—or eat it like confection!"[24]


Traditional holiday confection house.

In more recent times, a variety of snack bars have been marketed. These include bars that are intended as meal replacements as well as snack bars that are marketed as having nutritional advantages when compared to confection bars, such as granola bars. However, the actual nutritional value is often not very different from confection bars, except for usually a higher sodium content, and the flavors (most popularly, chocolate, fudge, and caramel) and the presentation mimic confection bars.[23]


Among the Bengali people, confection may be eaten for an entire meal, especially during festivals. Confection may also be offered to vegetarian guests in lieu of fish or meat dishes in India.[25]



Most confection contains no meat or other animal parts, and many contain no milk or other animal products. Some confection, including marshmallows and gummi bears, contains gelatin derived from animal collagen, a protein found in skin and bones, and is thus avoided by vegans and some vegetarians. "Kosher gelatin" is also unsuitable for vegetarians and vegans, as it is derived from fish bones.[26] Other substances, such as agar, pectin, starch and gum arabic may also be used as setting and gelling agents, and can be used in place of gelatin.


Jelly beans held in the hands

Jelly beans are often coated with shellac.[27]

Other ingredients commonly found in confection that are not suitable for vegetarian or vegan diets include carmine, a red dye made from cochineal beetles, and confectioner's glaze, which contains shellac, a resin excreted by an insect.

Health effects


Confection generally contains sugar, which is a key environmental factor in the formation of dental caries (cavities).[28] Several types of bacteria commonly found in the mouth consume sugar, particularly Streptococcus mutans. When these bacteria metabolize the sugar found in most candies, juice, or other sugary foods, they produce acids in the mouth that demineralize the tooth enamel and can lead to dental caries. Heavy or frequent consumption of high-sugar foods, especially lollipops, sugary cough drops, and other sugar-based candies that stay in the mouth for a long time, increases the risk of tooth decay.[28][29] Candies that also contain enamel-dissolving acids, such as acid drops, increase the risk.[29] Cleaning the teeth and mouth shortly after eating any type of sugary food, and allowing several hours to pass between eating such foods, reduces the risk and improves oral health.[28][29]

However, frequent consumption of fruits and fruit juice, which contain both acid and sugars, may be a more significant factor in dental decay than candies.[29]

Glycemic index

Most confection, particularly low-fat and fat-free confection, has a high glycemicindex (GI), which means that it causes a rapid rise in blood sugar levels after ingestion. This is chiefly a concern for people with diabetes, but could also be dangerous to the health of non-diabetics.[30]

Health benefits

Candies that primarily consist of peppermint and mint, such as confection canes, have digestive benefits. Peppermint oil can help soothe an upset stomach by creating defense against irritable bowel syndrome and is effective in killing germs.[31]


Mint-flavored gum increases short-term memory, heart rate, and the amount of oxygen in the brain. The correlation between heart rate and oxygen in the brain triggers short-term memory. Chewing gum can also provide a burst of insulin in the anticipation for food.[32]


When eaten in moderation, dark chocolate can have health benefits. The cocoa in chocolate can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Vitamins and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and sodium can be found in chocolate, as well as antioxidants.[33]


In a study of approximately 8,000 individuals, confection consumers enjoyed an average of 0.92 years of longer life, with greater consumption of confection not associated with progressively lower mortality. Non-consumers typically ate less red meat and salads, drank more and were more likely to smoke. Mortality was lowest among those consuming confection 1–3 times a month and highest among those consuming confection three or more times a week. The study concluded that one possible explanation for this was the presence of antioxidant phenols in chocolate, but the study could not differentiate between consumption of sugar confection and chocolate in they study.[34]


Some kinds of confection have been contaminated with an excessive amount of lead in it.[citation needed] Claims of contamination have been made since shortly after industrial-scale confection factories began producing confection in the mid-19th century.[35]

Choking deaths

Hard, round candies are a leading cause of choking deaths in children.[36] Some types of confection, such as Lychee Mini Fruity Gels, have been associated with so many choking deaths that their import or manufacture is banned by some countries.[36][37]


Non-nutritive toy products such as chocolate eggs containing packaging with a toy inside are banned from sale in the US. If the material attached to confectionery does have a function and will not cause any injury to the consumer, it is allowed to be marketed. In the EU however, the Toy Safety Directive 2009/48/EC specifies that toys contained in food only need separate packaging that cannot be swallowed.[38]



See also: List of top-selling confection brands

Global sales of candies were estimated to have been approximately US $118 billion in 2012.[39]


Because each culture varies in how it treats some foods, a food may be a confection in one place and a dessert in another. For example, in Western countries, baklava is served on a plate and eaten with a fork as a dessert, but in the Middle East, Northern Africa, and Eastern Europe, it is treated as a confection.[1]

Cultural significance


Confection is the source of several cultural themes:

Adults worry that other people will use confection to poison or entice children into harmful situations. Stranger danger warnings include telling children not to take confection from strangers, for fear of the child being abducted. Poisoned confection myths persist in popular culture, especially around trick-or-treating at Halloween, despite the rarity of actual incidents.[35]

The phrase like taking confection from a baby is a common simile, and means that something is very easy to do.[35]

A 1959 Swedish dental health campaign encouraged people to reduce the risk of dental problems by limiting consumption of confection to once a week. The slogan, "All the sweets you want, but only once a week", started a tradition of buying confection every Saturday, called lördagsgodis (literally "Saturday confection").[40]

See also

Portal icon Food portal

Lolly salad

Confection making

List of candies

List of desserts

List of top-selling confection brands




1.^ Jump up to: a b Richardson, Tim H. (2002). Sweets: A History of Confection. Bloomsbury USA. pp. 53–54. ISBN 1-58234-229-6.

2.Jump up ^ McWilliams, Margaret (2007). Nutrition and Dietetics' 2007 Edition. Rex Bookstore, Inc. pp. 177–184. ISBN 978-971-23-4738-2.

3.Jump up ^ Edwards, W.P. (2000). The Science of Sugar Confectionery. Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry. p. 1. ISBN 9780854045938.

4.Jump up ^ Norman Potter and Joseph Hotchkiss (1999), Food Science: Fifth Edition, ISBN 978-0834212657, Springer, Chapter 20

5.Jump up ^ "Agribusiness Handbook: Sugar beet white sugar" (PDF). Food and Agriculture Organization, United Nations. 2009.

6.Jump up ^ Harper, Douglas. "sugar". Online Etymology Dictionary.

7.Jump up ^ See: George Watt (1893), The Economic Products of India, W.H. Allen & Co., Vol 6, Part II, pages 29–30;

J.A. Hill (1902), The Anglo-American Encyclopedia, Volume 7, page 725;

Thomas E. Furia (1973), CRC Handbook of Food Additives, Second Edition, Volume 1, ISBN 978-0849305429, page 7 (Chapter 1, by Thomas D. Luckey);

Mary Ellen Snodgrass (2004), Encyclopedia of Kitchen History, ISBN 978-1579583804, Routledge, pages 145–146


8.Jump up ^ NPCS (2013). Confectionery Products Handbook (Chocolate, Toffees, Chewing Gum & Sugar Free Confectionery). India: Asia Pacific Business Press. p. 1.

9.^ Jump up to: a b Toussaint-Samat, Maguelonne (2009). A History of Food. New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 9781444305142.

10.Jump up ^ Harper, Douglas. "confection". Online Etymology Dictionary.

11.Jump up ^ "Sugarcane: Saccharum Offcinarum" (PDF). USAID, Govt of United States. 2006. p. 1 (Chapter 7).[dead link]

12.^ Jump up to: a b Woloson, Wendy. "The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 18 March 2012.

13.Jump up ^ Woloson, Wendy (2002). Refined Tastes. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

14.Jump up ^ The Cold Water Confection Test, Exploratorium; Sugar Syrup Chart at Baking911

15.Jump up ^ Richardson, Tim H. (2002). Sweets: A History of Confection. Bloomsbury USA. pp. 12–13. ISBN 1-58234-229-6.

16.Jump up ^ Old Confection Wrappers. Wholesale Confection Store. Retrieved on November 2, 2011.

17.Jump up ^ "Trends in Food Packaging Technology". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 1 (16): 978–986. October 1953. doi:10.1021/jf60016a002.

18.^ Jump up to: a b Kawash, Samira (September 2012). "The Confection Prophylactic: Danger, Disease, and Children's Confection around 1916". The Journal of American Culture 33 (3).

19.Jump up ^ Kawash, Samira (2013). Confection: A Century of Panic and Pleasure. New York: Faber & Faber, Incorporated. pp. 271–276. ISBN 9780865477568.

20.^ Jump up to: a b The Shelf Life of Confection from The Confection Crate

21.Jump up ^ Kawash, Samira (2013). Confection: A Century of Panic and Pleasure. New York: Faber & Faber, Incorporated. p. 11. ISBN 9780865477568.

22.Jump up ^ Kawash, Samira (2013). Confection: A Century of Panic and Pleasure. New York: Faber & Faber, Incorporated. p. 98. ISBN 9780865477568.

23.^ Jump up to: a b Kawash, Samira (2013). Confection: A Century of Panic and Pleasure. New York: Faber & Faber, Incorporated. pp. 310–318. ISBN 9780865477568.

24.Jump up ^ Kawash, Samira (2013-10-15). Confection: A Century of Panic and Pleasure. Macmillan. pp. 287–289 and color plate #15. ISBN 9780865477568.

25.Jump up ^ Richardson, Tim H. (2002). Sweets: A History of Confection. Bloomsbury USA. pp. 335–336. ISBN 1-58234-229-6.

26.Jump up ^ Will These Bones Live? Yechezkel 37:3. Retrieved on November 2, 2011.

27.Jump up ^ Embuscado, Milda; Huber, Kerry C. (2009). Edible Films and Coatings for Food Applications. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 9780387928241. Retrieved 2015-03-25.

28.^ Jump up to: a b c "Maintaining and improving the oral health of young children". Pediatrics 134 (6): 1224–1229. Dec 2014. doi:10.1542/peds.2014-2984. ISSN 1098-4275. PMID 25422016. Retrieved 2015-03-25.

29.^ Jump up to: a b c d "Delivering better oral health: an evidence-based toolkit for prevention" (PDF). Public Health England. June 2014.

30.Jump up ^ Balkau et al. (1998) "High blood glucose concentration is a risk factor for mortality in middle-aged nondiabetic men. 20-year follow-up in the Whitehall Study, the Paris Prospective Study, and the Helsinki Policemen Study." Diabetes Care 1998 Mar;21(3):360-7

31.Jump up ^ Viegas, Jennifer. "Confection Canes Fight Germs, Settle Stomachs". Retrieved March 14, 2012.[dead link]

32.Jump up ^ Scholey, Andrew. "Chewing Gum Found to Increase Brain Power". Retrieved March 20, 2012.

33.Jump up ^ Mondestin, Angely. "Chocolate? As a Health Benefit?". Retrieved March 14, 2012.

34.Jump up ^ Paffenbarger, Ralph. "Life Is Sweet: Confection Consumption and Longevity" (PDF). Retrieved March 15, 2012.

35.^ Jump up to: a b c Kawash, Samira (2013). Confection: A Century of Panic and Pleasure. New York: Faber & Faber, Incorporated. pp. 8–25. ISBN 9780865477568.

36.^ Jump up to: a b Roach, Mary (26 March 2013). "Mary Roach on Studying How Humans Chew and Eat". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 March 2013.

37.Jump up ^ Seidel JS, Gausche-Hill M (November 2002). "Lychee-flavored gel candies: a potentially lethal snack for infants and children". Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 156 (11): 1120–2. doi:10.1001/archpedi.156.11.1120. PMID 12413340.

38.Jump up ^ "Directive 2009/48/EC on the safety of toys". European Parliament & Council. 18 June 2009. Retrieved 8 April 2015.

39.Jump up ^ Kawash, Samira (2013). Confection: A Century of Panic and Pleasure. New York: Faber & Faber, Incorporated. p. 6. ISBN 9780865477568.

40.Jump up ^ Kawash, Samira (2013). Confection: A Century of Panic and Pleasure. New York: Faber & Faber, Incorporated. pp. 257–258. ISBN 9780865477568.

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