BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The Peep, a sugar-coated marshmallow treat, is recognizable to almost everyone, especially around Easter. Originally yellow, the candy now comes in a variety of colors and has transcended across generations of moms and dads adding them to their children's baskets.
Some people have a love-hate relationship with the candy. For others, it's like a cult following - die-hard fans eat them up.
Over the years, Peeps have made their way into mainstream goods and products. They can be found on T-shirts, candles, novelty toys, pillows - a range of household items. All those things and more can be found inside the Outlets at Sands Bethlehem at the Peeps and Company Store.
"Consumers express their 'Peep-sonality in many different ways, particularly at Easter time, through dioramas, recipes, crafts and blowing them up in the microwave. The chick shape itself is synonymous with Easter; however, it has grown in popularity, it is available at other seasons and has transcended to become the everyday icon of the brand," said Matthew J. Pye, vice president of trade relations and cooperate affairs of Just Born Quality Confections.
The Peep and its candy counterparts Mike and Ike, Hot Tamales and Goldenburg Peanut Chews are headquartered right here in Bethlehem at Just Born Quality Confections. The plant has been making candies here since 1932.
"Just Born Quality Confections had been around since 1923 but relocated to Bethlehem, Pa., in 1932. In 1953, Just Born acquired the Rodda Candy Co. in Lancaster and was delighted to discover Peeps Chicks being made there by hand. One year later, the process was automated and Peeps began showing up around the country. Just Born now produces two billion Peeps in all shapes and sizes every year in our landfill-free facility here in Bethlehem," Pye said.
Lovers of Peeps aren't able to tour the plant, but the store is just as good.
As visitors walk in, vivid and vibrant colors hit the senses. Candy is virtually everywhere. It's like a sugar lover's dream. Smiling employees greet visitors with bowls of sweet goodness to sample.
"All of our stores have been built to excite the senses and bring the fun of Peeps and all of our other brands to life," Pye said. "There are videos, music, eye-catching displays, sweet smells and always a free sample in all of our stores."
"Wooooow," a young visitor exclaimed as he walked across the store's threshold.
A Hot Tamales interactive thermometer will tell customers if they're hot - or not - and they can create their own bucket or bag of assorted Mike and Ike flavors.
"Our brands, in particular Peeps, have such strong and loyal consumer followings that when people hear there is a retail store they can visit, it becomes a 'must do'. When visitors come to the Outlets at Sands Bethlehem, the Peeps and Company retail store stands out visually from the others.
Easter isn't the only season for Peeps. They can be found around all holidays including Halloween, Christmas and Valentine's Day, and in all types of flavors. Some even are dipped in chocolate.
On the wall of the "dipping chick," new flavors are added to the Peeps line. Milk or dark chocolate-covered bite-sized candies called Peepsters are filled with a marshmallow middle, making them appealing for chocolate and Peeps lovers alike.
The Peeps and Company Store is a place where adults can come and bask in the nostalgia of their childhood, and the kids can comewell for the candy.
"Consumers are treated to a very different retail experience, which brings smiles to their faces," Pye said.
Two other Peeps and Company Stores are in National Harbor, Md., and the Mall of America, Minn.
More information about the company can be found at www.peepsandcompany.com.