Many have recounted the story of Eduard Haas III of Austria. He is the man who invented the original Peppermint Pez candies in 1927. The story has it that he was strongly against smoking and he developed the candy as something to do instead of smoking. Early advertising campaigns support this with slogans such as ‘No Smoking, Pezzing Allowed’. The name PEZ is derived from the first, middle and last letters in the word Pfefferminz, Peppermint in German. The mints were first sold in small tins, some about the size of the small purse size tin for Bayer Aspirin, and others similar in size to the old Sucrets tins or today’s Altoids tins. Haas later conceived of the idea of being able to offer someone a mint (likely someone who had been smoking) in a hygienic way without touching the candy or having someone else touch all the other candies in the tin.
The story of Oskar Uxa and the invention of the Pez Dispenser.
It is often said that the pez dispenser was designed to look like a cigarette lighter in hopes of providing smokers a substitute to this part of the smoking habit. The problem with this ‘story’ is that cigarette lighters of the time were not shaped like the Bic lighters of today. They were more typically square, lighter fluid filled rather than the longer thinner butane lighter of today. Perhaps today’s lighter should be considered to resemble the first pez dispensers, rather than the other way around. In reality, the goal was to design a convenient, hygienic container to dispense a single tablet, using only one hand and Oskar Uxa was the engineer who designed the Pez Box. The drawing for the patent of the original Pez Dispenser was filed on October, 14, 1949, and on December 2, 1952, the patent number 2.620.061 was issued by the Patent office.
PEZ Co. comes to the USA
In 1952, PEZ came to the United States and Haas hoped to expand sales of his peppermint candy. Curtis Allina was the first president of the PEZ Company in the USA and he had his work cut out for him. The strong peppermint flavor was not well received by either adults or children in America, and sales were not taking off as Haas had hoped. In 1955, PEZ tried something different. Based on other more popular candies, it was believed that fruit flavors would be better received and combining the candy with a toy to dispense it might be a better marketing strategy. What we know today as the full body Santa and the full body Space Trooper were developed and candy sales did increase, but the production costs for the full body dispensers was too great. The concept of simply adding a character head on top of the ‘regular’ dispensers was thought to be a good compromise that would continue to attract sales to children. Popular cartoon characters of the time were used and this proved to be a great marketing strategy that is still used today. It should be noted that except for a very short time, the Pez dispensers themselves have always been made in factories in other countries. The candy sold in the USA is made in the USA, but the dispensers are made in different countries.