Candy manufacturer Clarence Crane of Garrettsville, Ohio, (father of the poet Hart Crane) invented the brand in 1912 as a "summer candy" that could withstand heat better than chocolate. The candy's name is derived from its similarity to the shape of life preservers used for saving people who have fallen from boats.
After registering the trademark, Crane sold the rights to his Pep-O-Mint peppermint candy to Edward John Noble for $2,900. Instead of using cardboard rolls, which were not very successful, Noble created tin-foil wrappers to keep the mints fresh. Noble founded the Life Savers and Candy Company in 1913 and significantly expanded the market for the product by installing Life Savers displays next to the cash registers of restaurants and grocery stores. He also encouraged the owners of the establishments to always give customers a nickel in their change to encourage sales of the $0.05 cent Life Savers. Since then, many different flavors of Life Savers have been produced. The five-flavor roll first appeared in 1935.
A series of mergers and acquisitions by larger companies began in 1956. Life Savers is currently a property of Mars, Incorporated. In recent decades, the brand expanded to include Gummi Savers in 1992, Life Saver Minis in 1996, Creme Savers in 1998, and Life Saver Fusions in 2001. Discontinued varieties include: Fruit Juicers, Holes, Life Saver Lollipops and Squeezit.
Life Savers candy was first created in 1912 by Clarence Crane, a Cleveland, Ohio, candy maker and father of the famed poet Hart Crane. Crane developed a line of hard mints but did not have the space or machinery to make them. He contracted with a pill manufacturer to press the mints into shape.
In 1913, Crane sold the formula for his Life Savers candy to Edward Noble of Gouverneur, NY for $2,900. Noble started his own candy company and began producing and selling the mints known as Pep-O-Mint Life Savers. He also began to package the mints into rolls wrapped in tinfoil to prevent them from going stale. This process was done by hand until 1919 when machinery was developed by Edward Noble's brother, Robert Peckham Noble, to streamline the process.
Robert Peckham Noble, a Purdue educated engineer, took his younger brother's entrepreneurial vision and designed and built the manufacturing facilities needed to expand the company. The Lifesavers primary manufacturing plant was located in Port Chester, New York. Robert P. Noble led the company as its Chief Executive Officer and primary shareholder for more than 40 years, until selling the company in the late 1950s.
By 1919, six other flavors (Wint-O-Green, Cl-O-ve, Lic-O-Riche, Cinn-O-Mon, Vi-O-Let and Choc-O-Late) had been developed, and these remained the standard flavors until the late 1920s. In 1920, a new flavor called Malt-O-Milk was introduced. This flavor was received so poorly that it was discontinued after only a few years. In 1925, the tinfoil was replaced with aluminum foil.
Noble promoted the candy at the cash registers of saloons, cigar stores, drug stores, barber shops, and restaurants. He had the candy placed, with a five-cent price, near the cash register.
In 1921, the company began to produce solid fruit drops. In 1925, technology improved to allow a hole in the center of the fruit candies. These were introduced as the "fruit drop with the hole" and came in Orange, Lemon and Lime, each of which were packaged in their own separate rolls. In contrast to the opaque white mints previously produced by the company, these new candies were crystal-like in appearance. These new flavors quickly became popular with the public. Four new flavors were quickly introduced, namely, anise, butter rum, cola and root beer, which were made in the clear fruit drop style. These did not prove to be as popular as the three original fruit drop flavors. In 1931, the Life Savers "Cough Drop" was introduced with menthol but it was not successful. In 1931, rolls of pineapple and cherry fruit drops were also introduced. As the public response proved positive for these, a new variety of mint, called Cryst-O-Mint, made in this same crystal-like style was introduced in 1932. In 1935, the classic "Five-Flavor" rolls were introduced, offering a selection of five different flavors (pineapple, lime, orange, cherry, and lemon) in each roll. This flavor lineup was unchanged for nearly 70 years, until 2003, when three of the flavors were replaced in the United States, making the rolls pineapple, cherry, raspberry, watermelon, and blackberry. However, orange was subsequently reintroduced and blackberry was dropped. The original five-flavor lineup is still sold in Canada. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, four new mint flavors were introduced: Molas-O-Mint, Spear-O-Mint, Choc-O-Mint and Stik-O-Pep.
During the Second World War, other candy manufacturers donated their sugar rations to keep Life Savers in production so that the little candies could be shared with Armed Forces as a tasty reminder of life at home. Soon after the war ended the manufacturing license was withdraw, but in 1947, the UK-based Rowntree's started to manufacture a similar product called the Polo mint.
In 1981, Nabisco Brands Inc. acquired Life Savers from the E.R. Squibb Corporation. A number of early mint flavors, including Cl-O-Ve, Vi-O-Let, Lic-O-Rice and Cinn-O-Mon were discontinued due to poor sales. Nabisco introduced a new Cinnamon flavor ("Hot Cin-O-Mon") as a clear fruit drop type candy. This replaced the white mint flavor Cinn-O-Mon which had recently been discontinued. The other original mint flavors were retired (although a mint similar to Vi-O-Let Life Savers continues to be manufactured by C. Howard). A number of other flavors were also quickly discontinued, after Nabisco took over, in order to make the business more profitable. In 2004, the U.S. Life Savers business was acquired by Wrigley's. Wrigley's introduced two new mint flavors (for the first time in over sixty years) in 2006: Orange Mint and Sweet Mint. They also revived some of the early mint flavors (such as Wint-O-Green).
Life Savers production was based in Holland, Michigan, until 2002 when it was moved to Montreal, Québec, Canada. Significantly lower sugar prices in that country were the reason behind the move. The company was headquartered in Port Chester, New York where, Life Savers were made from 1920 until 1984, where the distinctive former headquarters building (now apartments) still retains some Lifesavers signage. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.
- "Clarence A. Crane - Ohio History Central - A product of the Ohio Historical Society". Ohio History Central. Retrieved 2012-03-12.
- Gouverneur, New York
- New Yorker Magazine, Feb. 28, 1925, pages 47–50.
- Howard, Theresa (August 14, 2002). "LifeSavers changes its stripes Friday". USA Today. "Raspberry-, watermelon- and blackberry-flavored "O's" will replace the traditional orange, lemon and lime."
- Bennett, Oliver (9 August 2004). "Why we love things in mint condition". The Independent. "When US troops were stationed over here during the war, Rowntree started to manufacture Lifesavers for them under licence. When the war drew to a close, the licence was withdrawn. So in 1947, Rowntree came up with its own brand of holey mint, the mighty Polo"
- Frammolino, Ralph (March 20, 2002). "Workers Feel Like Suckers". Los Angeles Times. "Life Savers is moving its candy factory from Michigan to Canada, where sugar is cheaper, displacing 600 employees."
- "Life Savers". NPR. February 21, 2002. "The candy's manufacturer says sugar prices in the U.S. are too high, and it is moving the factory from Holland, Michigan, to Canada."
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13.
- 1912: Crane's Peppermint Life Savers created by Clarence Crane in Cleveland, Ohio.
- 1913: Edward Noble bought the Life Saver formula, renamed Pep-O-Mint Life Savers, and started Mint Products Company in New York City.
- 1921: The first fruit flavors were produced as solid candies.
- 1925: Technology improved to allow a hole in the center of the fruit candies.
- 1935: The Original Five-Flavor roll of Life Savers debuted.
- 1956: Life Savers Limited merged with Beech-Nut.
- 1968: Beech-Nut Life Savers merged with Squibb.
- 1981: Nabisco Brands Inc. acquired Life Savers from the E.R. Squibb Corporation.
- 1987: Canadian Life Savers business acquired by Hershey Canada.
- 1996: Canadian Life Savers business acquired by Beta Brands Limited.
- 2000: Kraft acquires Nabisco
- 2001: Kraft acquires Canadian Life Savers business from Beta Brands
- 2004: Life Savers business acquired by Wrigley's.
- 2008: Mars acquires Wrigley
In popular culture
In Horse Feathers, Thelma Todd falls off a boat and asks Groucho Marx to throw her a life saver. He pulls a roll of the candy out of his pocket and tosses her one.
In Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Latrine saves the Sheriff of Rottingham's life using a "magic pill" (a Life Saver) after he is stabbed by Robin Hood.
In the NTSC version of Croc 2, the player buys different colored Gummi Savers to use as a means to get to higher places by jumping on them. Gummi Savers were one of the sponsors of the game.
On the album Don't Panic by All Time Low, there is a song titled "The Irony of Choking on a Life Saver."
Stand-up comedian Mitch Hedberg mentioned Life Savers in a 1994 performance: "I have a roll of Life Savers, and pineapple is next!"
In the 2013 movie Man of Steel Superman mentions he can see "a half eaten roll of Wint-O-Green Life Savers" in one of the scientists' pockets with his X-ray vision.
- Polo mints – Similar European confection from Nestlé, who have had a trademark battle over Life Savers' ring-shaped form.
- Triboluminescence – An optical phenomenon in which light is generated when material is subject to mechanical breaking, especially noticeable when crushing Wint-O-Green Life Savers in the dark.
- Business Finance The Management Approach, Richards C. Osborn, pages 524-526
- TIME Magazine, June 18, 1956: CORPORATIONS: New Wrapper
- "Wrigley to Add Life Savers(R) and Altoids(R) to Its Confectionery Portfolio" (Press Release). Wrigley. November 15, 2004. "The Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company announced today that it has entered into an agreement to purchase certain confectionery assets of Kraft Foods for $1.48 billion. The transaction includes ownership of well-known, iconic brand franchises—such as Life Savers, Creme Savers, and Altoids—as well as production facilities in the United States and Europe."
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