Saturday, January 03, 2015

The Pez Factory


For the first time in a number of years, I spent the Christmas holidays away from home. I have a nephew who decided to get married on December 27th in Connecticut and, in order to allow for weather or equipment or other delays, my family decided to fly on Christmas Day. Fortunately the weather held off and the delays, although annoying, were minimal.

One of the advantages of being flexible in your travel plans is discovering things you never knew were there. Since we arrived with a full day available to use as we saw fit, we decided to follow the sign off the highway that led to the Pez Visitors Center in Orange, Connecticut. I remembered Pez from my childhood, but hadn’t heard much about it and assumed it was one of those brands that had disappeared over time to be replaced with more modern candies. It turned out I was wrong.

The novelty of Pez is not the flavor of the candies, but the dispensers. It’s not just a candy, but also a toy. When I was young (a long time ago), the dispensers were plain plastic columns. You press on the back of the top, which lifts it and allows a single rectangular candy to rise up and protrude from the stack. It’s a simple spring-driven machine, but there’s something addictive about pushing the top and pulling out the candy to pop it in your mouth.


Over the years, the dispensers have evolved. They have Barbie dispensers and sports dispensers and superhero dispensers and Star Trek dispensers. I had no idea the variety of dispensers that have been made. Needless to say, there are avid collectors of all the varieties.


The factory itself was closed when we visited, but there are clear walls where you can look in and see the machinery. The process isn’t very complicated. The candy itself is basically sugar and flavor which is mixed and then put under 3,000 pounds of pressure to create the tablets. While the factory in Connecticut makes fruit flavors, sours, and even chocolate Pez candies, the original peppermint is only made in Austria. I don’t think there was any explanation as to why.


It takes under an hour to go through the whole exhibit. If you’re in the area, you might want to stop by and see it. It’s a nostalgic walk down memory lane.
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