Stuff You Should Know | Podcast Review | October 5, 2015 | By

Stuff You Should Know: “How PEZ Works”

I don’t what it was about the nineties, but man, people seemed to love to collect shit. There had to be something in the water that caused people to hoard Beanie Babies and baseball cards like the Rapture was coming.



We’re about a month away from Halloween, and that means candy, so it makes sense that Josh and Chuck are delving into How PEZ works this week. Americans consume 3 billion PEZ per year, which by my calculations means about 250 million packages per year. That’s a lot of tiny candies.

For the record, Josh is a fan of the Orange PEZ and Chuck doesn’t really eat them (he doesn’t like candies). Headquartered and made in Orange, CT, PEZ continues to be one of the most popular and differentiated candy products in the country.

The appeal of Pez is based on two components: the candy and the mechanical Pez dispensers.

How does the creation of the candy work? Pressure, and a lot of it. Josh and Chuck discuss that it takes about 3,000 pounds of pressure to make the sugar and other ingredients into their PEZ-shaped mold. They remark it’s similar to the process used to make those Lego-shaped candy bricks. Personally, I think the candy is boring. The dispensers are where PEZ really shine.

To my surprise, Josh and Chuck explain the original Pez dispensers had no heads and were called “regulars”. In the fifties some clever PEZ employee realized adding toy heads to the tops would make a more attractive product for kids. Josh and Chuck mention that PEZ really didn’t take off until the eighties. This likely resulted from an increase in the number and variety of the licensed heads on the dispensers.

And at some point, the licensing got out of hand. The different heads and certain limited edition versions even spurred a vibrant collector’s market. I don’t what it was about the nineties, but man, people seemed to love to collect shit. There had to be something in the water (or in the Pez) that caused people to hoard Beanie Babies and baseball cards like the Rapture was coming, and mass-produced collectibles were admission tickets to heaven. But I digress.

The episode peaks when Josh and Chuck dive into the world of the counterfeit PEZ market, concluding with a story about a sketchy meeting at the (Canadian?) border.  Josh throws in a casual reference to the villainous and terrifying Cenobites—google at your own risk— from the Hellraiser saga of horror movies, which served as a nice reminder of why I tune in each week. It feels like a casual bar conversation with some of your most knowledgeable and mildly nerdy buddies.

The Pez dispenser is a successful gimmick with staying power that you don’t often see in the food industry. In a market like candy that is packed with competition, finding something to stand out is important. I will say, though, that this isn’t the most enthralling topic if you don’t have any interest in it. Thankfully I’m fascinated by just about anything Josh and Chuck bring up—and I may or may not have purchased a pound of PEZ off of Amazon—but, if your just joining in, this week’s episode won’t suck you in as much as others.


How Female Puberty Works

I don’t know if I’m qualified to talk to you about female puberty; maybe you should talk to a nurse or your parent. However, if you don’t have the schedule flexibility to pencil in a lesson from a professional, let Josh and Chuck guide you through this difficult and awkward time for female adolescents.

About the Author

Nick Wade is a founding writer at Audiologue, where he writes about The Sporkful and Stuff  You Should Know. You can find him at nick@audiologue.xyz.

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