The Spoils

Pop Star 


Illustra­tion by
Jaylene Arnold

Illustration of a singer and backup singers using Dum Dums as microphones

It doesn’t a take a genius to notice that Dum Dums are everywhere.

Visit a bank, barber shop, or dry cleaner and the 25-calorie suckers will likely be waiting in a bowl as a parting gift or something to sweeten the wait. 

The tiny treats have been tickling America’s tastebuds since 1924. Akron Candy Company sales manager I.C. Bahr named the now-famous lollipop, hypothesizing that a short, repeated syllable would be easy for children to remember. He was right.

Ninety-six years later, the Dum Dums name still sticks like corn syrup. Spangler Candy, which purchased the Akron Candy Company in 1953, keeps its Bryan, Ohio, factory humming round the clock, Monday through Friday, producing 13 million Dum Dums a day. Spangler also makes Circus Peanuts, Saf-T-Pops, Sweethearts, Necco wafers, and about50 percent of all candy canes in the United States.

In a world defined by rapidly evolving products and consumer tastes, Dum Dums are remarkable for their consistency—right down to the packaging. The sachet wrapper, made from wax and paper from Canadian spruce trees, was created with easy access in mind.

“It’s specifically designed so that kids can pull the wrapper off in a millisecond,” says Jeff Scolnick, SPA/BA ’91, Spangler’s director of national sales. “A lot of times parents are giving Junior a Dum Dum when they’re having a fit. You don’t want a delay of having to claw open some shrink-wrapped cellophane on a lollipop.”

Today, the Dum Dums flavor profile includes staples like orange and root beer, newer offerings like bubble gum and cotton candy, and seasonal favorites like funnel cake and sugar plum. A standard bag includes 16 varieties plus the “mystery flavor,” which is more efficiency than enigma. Barring a special promotion, it’s the combination of two existing flavors during a changeover on the production line.

Spangler’s advertising budget is relatively small; when new Dum Dums ads launched in fall 2019, it was the company’s first campaign since 1991. Instead, the brand has mostly relied on giveaways, nostalgia, and word of lollipop-in-mouth.

“We find it’s very generational. Grandparents feel excited to give the grandchildren Dum Dums. It gets passed on,” Scolnick says. “People get it—it’s not complicated and it doesn’t change.”

Correctly answer the trivia question and you’ll be entered to win a 1,000-piece Dum Dums bucket.

Dum Dums have been produced in more than 60 varieties. Which of the following is not one of those flavors?