The story of the Lifesaver

Ann Swanson

One thing I remember about Christmases long ago was the gift of a book of Lifesavers. I think you got ten rolls in the little book, but I am not positive of that. I recently found some information about Lifesavers that I received from the company years ago after I had done a piece about the candy. That information and the current information that I could find are the basis of this piece.

When I got my little book of Lifesavers, I treasured them. Now I did not like all of the flavors equally so I kept the ones I liked the best to savor until last. The ones I was not so fond of I shared.

The company let me know that they received some creative uses for their product. They have been used to flavor tea, “cure” seasickness, keep drivers awake on trips, serve as Christmas tree ornaments, and make candleholders for birthday cakes. I admit to using the little things as rings around birthday candles. At least that way the child could eat the holder.

When we took a road trip, we always took hard candy along. It was something to keep your mouth from getting dry. I remember also when I was in the hospital with my babies, I always got very dry from the hospital air. When I asked for a pack of Life Savers, my husband came back with a little tin of hard candy – not was I was craving at that point!

My material tells me there are two types of Live Savers – one is mints and the other drops. The mints are made of dry granulated sugar, corn syrup, water, and oils. This is then pressed into a mold that looks like a small tablet. He drops must be boiled. The mixture is mechanically kneaded, then a rope is formed around a rod (to make the hole in the middle).

The flavors available come and go in popularity. The standard roll of Life Savers used to include wild cherry, orange, lemon, lime, and pineapple. Today Life Savers come in bags. They also come in gummies. I often take hard candy along with me because I enjoy eating it. I have gotten used to the bags.

Do you remember when they made small rolls of Life Savers for Halloween? I used to get some of those to give away along with some chocolate of course. What would Halloween be without something chocolate?

Life Savers date back to the early twentieth century. In fact, Life Saver turned 100 years old in 2012. The story goes that a chocolate manufacturer named Clarence Crane was looking to produce something that would take the heat of summer. He needed something to boost his sales during the hot summer months. His answer was to create a hard candy mint.

To set himself apart from his competition, he hired a pill maker to create mints with a hole in the center. The new product looked so much like a life preserver that he patented the name Life Saver and registered the trademark.

He was simply not into marketing. He believed that his product would make it on its own merit. A New York advertising executive tried to persuade Crane to market his product where people would see it and want to buy it.

Since he could not persuade Crane to market his product, he negotiated a deal to purchase the rights to the product. After the purchase, he discovered that the Life Savers became stale in the current packaging. He started using a tinfoil wrapper to preserve freshness and it worked. He became the first person in the industry to shrink-wrap his candy to keep it fresh.

Within a few short years, he was grossing a quarter of a million dollars.

From 1942-1945 the Armed Forces received twenty-three million boxes of Life Savers packed in their field rations. The idea was to remind them of home. In here 1974 they introduced Life Saver Lollipops. I remember purchasing some of those to send to school as a birthday treat. I do not think they lasted though. The variety with the Tootsie Roll center was more popular.

In 1992 Life Saver gummies made it on the scene. These were quite popular. They are still part of the collection of Life Savers that can be purchased today. In 1994 “the bag replaced the role of hard candy. They are still packaged by the bag. There was a need to produce sugar-free candy that was filled when the sugar-free variety was introduced in 1995. A few years later the idea of sour flavors took over. Life Saver was part of this movement. They offered sour flavors to satisfy this market.

In 1938 the flavor Butter Rum was introduced. This has been one of their staples for many years. The mints and wintergreen flavors also remained popular.

Whatever flavors you prefer there seems to be a Life Saver that you would like if you look at the availability. If you have not perused the candy aisle lately it would behoove you to take a walk and look at how the complexion of it has changed. Every candy maker is making something new. Even M&Ms has dabbled with new flavors. It seems that people are always eager to purchase something that is new, but the real test is the test of time. Will it be around ten years from now?

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.


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