The word "licorice" once referred to candy containing extract from the licorice root, but now, that definition has expanded to include red licorice as well, and the enduring dominance of Twizzlers is likely responsible for the nomenclature shift. Twizzlers (not to be confused with Red Vines) were first produced by the Lancaster, Pennysylvania-based Young & Smylie Confectionery Company in 1929. The company was founded in 1845, pre-Civil War, making Young & Smylie one of the oldest confectionery firms in the U.S. It rebranded as Y&S in 1968 before being bought by The Hershey Company in 1977.
In the Hershey candy timeline, that puts Twizzlers just after Kit Kats (1969) and right before Whatchamacallit chocolate bars (1978). Despite its now-characteristic red hue, the primary Twizzler flavor was black licorice until the mid-1970s, when Twizzlers expanded its oeuvre to grape, cherry, and its now-signature strawberry, as well as a more recent expansion into limited-edition and seasonal flavors like chocolate, green apple, and watermelon. (If you want to try it out for yourself, you can still get the original black licorice flavor, too, by the way.)
Speaking of the Twizzler oeuvre, it has also grown to include variations such as Pull 'n' Peel, Bites, Nibs, Filled Twists, Straws, a sugar-free version, and more. Today, the main Twizzler production factory remains located at (fittingly) a turn in the road near Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and it cranks out nearly 200 tons of Twizzlers every single day.
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Twisting Through Time And Remaining Relevant
The beloved red licorice is made from a blend of ingredients pushed through rotating nozzles, which create the candy's unique twist and hollow center. In the candy-making biz, this process is known as extrusion, and it's all about attention to detail -- an average of 15 twists per Twizzler and an average of 20 Twizzlers per package, except for the individually wrapped Twizzlers sold at Halloween for trick-or-treaters. The widely recognizable treat has reached an international market thanks to its chewy texture and versatility.
Twizzlers are the kosher, vegan, gluten-free snack that doesn't melt, stick, or spill, and foodies reach for them at pool parties, road trips, baseball games, and movies. In 1998, Twizzlers broke the Guinness World Record for the longest piece of licorice in history with a 1,200-foot-long Twizzler weighing in at 100 pounds. Per the lore, during the historical 1969 moon landing, Neil Armstrong is reported to have remarked, "I could go for some Twizzlers right now." It's unclear whether or not there's any validity to the legend, but it's encouraged by The Hershey Company. Pop star Kesha is also an outspoken Twizzler superfan.
Still think the candy is just for kids? Think again. Twizzlers fueled U.S. world leaders as they negotiated nuclear discussions with Iran. As ABC News reported in July 2015, "The 15-person U.S. delegation and their staff have, since June, scarfed down 10 pounds of strawberry Twizzlers." (We recommend enjoying 'em with a glass of white Zinfandel.)
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