The Unexpected Reason PEZ Was Originally Invented

It seems many people at some point during their childhood encounter PEZ dispensers, whether in the shape of a favorite movie character, a beloved holiday mascot, or even a favorite animal. But the original version of PEZ was far from what you can find today. In fact, it only came in one flavor and it certainly didn't have the same kind of fun and whimsical packaging.

Per PEZ, the candy was invented in 1927 by Eduard Haas III in Vienna, Austria. At the time, the candies were actually peppermints. So no fruity or candy flavors that you might easily find today. But the name is derived from the German word and spelling of peppermint: "pfefferminz." PEZ took the first, middle, and last letter from the German word.

It wasn't until 1952 that PEZ expanded to the United States where the mints-turned-candy got the look and fun flavors you'd recognize today. Fans and collectors of the candy might even wonder what the original intent of the peppermints were if not for refreshing breath or as a small treat kept close at hand.

PEZ as an anti-smoking tool

According to Smithsonian Magazine, PEZ was originally created to be round-shaped peppermint-flavored drops that smokers could pop instead of lighting up to curb their habit. While the idea was certainly advanced for the time, the mints really gained popularity after the slender pocket-sized rectangular canister was invented and the mints were shaped into blocks. But the real success came much later after more flavors were added.

While you might instantly think of fruity PEZ flavors, there have been some unusual additions to the PEZ lineup over the years. In fact, "liquorice," coffee, and chlorophyll were all flavors at one point (via PEZ). Now as the brand approaches 100 years and is sold in more than 80 countries, it can be found in 10 original flavors, plus sours: Cherry, Strawberry, Raspberry, Grape, Orange, Lemon, Strawberry-Vanilla, Raspberry-Lemon, Chocolate, Cola, Sour Blue Raspberry, Sour Green Apple, Sour Pineapple, and Sour Watermelon. So don't take your PEZ favorite flavor for granted the next time you pick up a pack of rolls.