March 28, 2023

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Bob Born, Who Brought Marshmallow Peeps to the Masses, Dies at 98

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Bob Born, a Pennsylvania confectioner who brought the marshmallow candies known as Peeps to Easter baskets nationwide — and incidentally launched a pop-culture phenomenon in which people consume, dismember, microwave and even dress them up by the millions every spring — died on Jan. 29 at his home in Conshohocken, Pa. He was 98.

His son, Ross, who succeeded him at the helm of Just Born Quality Confections, confirmed the death.

Mr. Born’s company, which his father founded and which he led for more than 30 years, produces a variety of candies — its best seller is Mike and Ike, the bullet-shaped fruit chews — but Peeps are by far its most recognized, and its best loved. Thanks to mass-production equipment that Mr. Born designed, the company makes more than 5.5 million Peeps a day, or close to two billion a year, the vast majority of which sell in the months leading up to Easter.

Most Peeps get eaten, sometimes in public displays of gluttony: In 2017 Matt Stonie ate 255 Peeps in just five minutes, breaking his own previous world record of 200. Some people like to gobble them fresh from the package; others let them age for a few days. Some use them in s’mores; others put them on pizza; a few intrepid souls infuse them into vodka.

Still others do not eat them at all. One company survey found that 30 percent of people put them in places other than their mouths: They use them as floral centerpieces, chess pieces and jewelry; they weave them into clothing and wreaths.

Peeps bring out a particular cruelty in some. They stick them in the microwave to watch them expand and explode; they put them in vacuum tanks to watch them shrink, or in beakers of chemicals to watch all but their beady carnauba-wax eyes dissolve.

Then there are the dioramas. In 2004 The St. Paul Pioneer Press sponsored a competition for the best Peeps-based display, and within a few years some 80 newspapers around the country had followed. The Washington Post has the biggest, often getting 600 entries…

Clay Risen

2023-02-04 14:17:47

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