What Is Pez and Why Is It a Collector’s Dream?

In the town of Orange, Connecticut, there is an entire factory and store dedicated to the candy Pez. For a mere $5, you can go on a self-guided tour of thousands of pieces of Pez ephemera, learn the history of the candy, and even see inside the factory where it is made. For those of you who either don’t have $5 or plan to never visit Orange, Connecticut, here is the rundown on one of the strangest candy phenomena ever invented.

What is Pez?

Pez is a small, rectangular-shaped candy designed to be dispensed and eaten from a special plastic container. The candy is called a “tablet,” which gives it a medicinal vibe. They come in packages of 12, the exact amount of candy that fits in a dispenser.

The traditional flavors of Pez are grape, strawberry, lemon, and cherry, but there have been a whole host of varieties over the years; chocolate, banana, sour watermelon, candy corn, apple, coffee, and, strangest of all, flower and chlorophyll. 

The candy itself is unremarkable. It has a taste and consistency somewhere between Valentine’s Day conversation hearts and the truly disgusting Necco Wafers. The reason Pez has been around for so long is the dispensers and the human desire to collect stuff.

Who invented Pez?

Pez was invented in Austria by a man named Eduard Haas III. His original design was mint-flavored; the word Pez is an abbreviated form of the German word for peppermint, Pfefferminz. 

When did Pez come out?

Peppermint Pez was first devised in 1927. From its inception and into the 1950s, it was marketed as an alternative to smoking. However, anyone who has watched Mad Men knows that the 1950s were all about smoking as many cigarettes as you could as prescribed by your doctor. 

So, in 1956, fruit-flavored Pez came out to the joy and adulation of children everywhere. Since then, it has been strictly a candy for kids and adults in arrested development. 

What was the first Pez dispenser?

The first Pez dispensers came out in 1949 and were called regulars; they did not have the character heads on top yet. In 1955, when the brand pivoted to market to children, the company began making the plastic character dispensers we all see at every grocery store checkout aisle.

The first few character Pez dispensers were Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Popeye, and Santa Claus, who to this day remains the most popular and most sold Pez dispenser of all time.

Are Pez gluten-free? Are Pez vegan?

Pez advertises itself as “peanut, tree nut, soy, and gluten-free.” But they don’t say they are vegan. This is probably due to the fact that there are some artificial flavors and colors, which MIGHT have some trace animal products in them, angering the strictest of ethical vegans.

Does Pez expire?

Pez doesn’t have an expiration date on the packaging, but it’s estimated the candies have a shelf life of 5-6 years. The dispensers, however, can last forever—as long as you keep them in their hermetically sealed shelving units like a good little collector.

About the Author

Luke Field

Luke Field is a writer and actor originally from Philadelphia. He was the former Head Writer of branded content at CollegeHumor and was also a contributing writer and actor to the CollegeHumor Originals cast. He has extensive improv and sketch stage experience, performing both at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and with their Touring Company. In addition to writing, he also works as a Story Producer, most recently on season 4 of Accident, Suicide, or Murder on Oxygen. Keep your eyes peeled for his brief but impactful appearance as Kevin, the screaming security guard, in the upcoming feature The Disruptors, directed by Adam Frucci.

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