Not since M&M’s, has a candy leveraged its brand to expand across multiple categories the way Marshmallow Peeps has grown in the last few years. Today, Just Born Inc. produces enough Peeps in one year to circle the earth twice.
The brand has also crossed an envied barrier going from candy to new categories including toys and games, apparel, accessories, novelty house wares and giftware.
Peeps have been a simple, seasonal fixture of Easter baskets since the 1950’s. A polarizing product, people either love them or mock them. Based on their successes of late, it’s safe to say that most people love them.
Peeps was a single product for decades: marshmallows shaped like chicks, covered in yellow, white or pink sugar. In the 1980’s, they introduced the marshmallow bunny, and in the 1990’s they began adding more color options. At the recent turn of the century, they added flavors (vanilla, strawberry and chocolate) to the product line.
Now, themed Peeps can be found on store shelves year-round for virtually every major holiday from Valentine hearts to July 4th flags to Halloween pumpkins and Christmas trees.
In December of 2009, a Peeps-themed retail store opened in Washington D.C. and a second store opened at Minnesota’s Mall of America in January 2012.
Those who really love Peeps get very creative and playful – in fact, even a little zany - in expressing their affection.
The Racine Art Museum in Wisconsin sponsors the International Peeps Competition each year. Anyone can enter the contest, which is focused on the theme “Peep-powered work of art.”
Nearly 30 newspapers across the country sponsor annual Peeps diorama contests at Easter time. The Washington Post and Seattle Times each receive hundreds of entries - winning images often become viral online sensations.
All Just Born candies are “Made in the USA.” Peeps plush toys and other merchandise – including hats, t-shirts, and socks, can be found in many major grocery and retail outlets.
The Peeps brand is a case study in how to take a simple product with seemingly finite opportunities and instead, break through perceived barriers to reach new growth. In an age of revolutionary technology and a public that craves customized experiences, it will be fun to watch and see where Just Born takes their Peeps next.
Fun facts about Peeps:
Chicks and bunnies are most popular and are made year round at their plant in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
Peeps are made by squirting the soft, white marshmallow shapes onto a conveyor covered in colored sugar, which travels through a wind tunnel. The wind blows the colored sugar all over them until they are evenly coated.
In 1953, it took 27 hours to make a Peep start to finish. Today, it takes just six minutes.
Just Born Inc. was founded by Sam Born in New York City in 1910 after he emigrated to the U.S. from Russia. He moved the headquarters to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1932.
Just Born Inc. also makes candy industry fixture brands like “Mike & Ike,” “Hot Tamales,” “Zours,” and “Peanut Chews.”
Michelle Spelman is Editor and Inventor Relations Liaison for Chic
ago Toy & Game Group. She is a game inventor, and co-founder of Flying Pig Games LLC, creators of award-winning Jukem Football card game. She is also founder of Cincinnati Game & Toy Industry Professionals group, and is the Cincinnati Children’s Toy Examiner. An independent marketing consultant providing contract services, executive coaching and strategic direction, she’s in her sweet spot when she is working with companies focused on women and family-oriented products and services.