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Bethlehem's Just Born celebrates 60 years of Peeps

By Bo Koltnow, Reporter, BKoltnow@wfmz.com
Published On: Mar 19 2013 07:00:00 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 21 2013 08:37:25 AM CDT

"Chicks rule" seems to be the theme for Just Born.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -

It's the little candy that's been ringing up sales for more than half a century.

"I can't ever remember not having an Easter basket with Peeps in it," said customer Darletta Terrett.

From pink to purple and almost every color in between, Peeps, that marshmallow chick, is celebrating its 60th birthday, but the iconic chick is cannery yellow. 

"It's the symbol of the brand," said David Yale, Just Born president and COO.

The potpourri of colors came in the 1980s. Peeps is one of five brands of Bethlehem-based Just Born. The Peep has permeated pop culture, from a Peep conclave to Peep parodies online.

The chicks even turn customers into candy-crazed scientists, as microwaving them and watching the little birds explode is posted online.

"I like to slit them open and let them set," said Terrett, of Maryland, who has been popping Peeps for 57 years. On this day, she drove five hours just to visit the Peeps store in Bethlehem.

"All part of Peeps connecting with people and consumers connecting with Peeps," Yale said.

Yale also said it's that cult-like following that has carried Peeps from its humble beginnings to a giant in the ultra competitive, $33 billion a year candy business.

The brand most identified with Easter no longer lives on heavy holiday sales. Peeps now include different shapes and flavors, like chocolate.

"We opened up a whole new market of consumers, who love chocolate," Yale said.

There are also three Peeps stores, a clothing line, nail polish, and summer flavors were just added.

"If we can fill in the gaps, as we think we can, with a variety, it portends itself to tremendous growth and opportunity in business," Yale added.

During the recession, Yale said the company invested in technology and added 10 percent to its workforce. It's a business model that appears to have the sweet taste of success.