AirHeads are a tangy, taffy-like, chewy candy manufactured by Italian company Perfetti Van Melle in Erlanger, Kentucky, USA. They were created in 1986. First known as a small sugary brand, AirHeads has become a national staple to the candy industry in the United States. The candy comes in over 17 different flavors, with many television shows and industries promoting the brand. Located in stores and movie theaters all over, AirHeads is predominantly well-known for its sweet taste and texture.
Steve Bruner, the future inventor of AirHeads and Director of Marketing at the time, submitted his plans for a new brand of candy on August 7, 1985. At the time, Mentos was the main product that was being produced by Perfetti Van Melle, but a new fruity product by the company was in the works in Germany to expand their business. This product was known as The Fruit and Wafer Bar, a flat fruit candy put in between two pieces of rice paper. As they were making the fruity product, a competition was ensuing with Lipton Tea, who was also working on a product called Fruit Wrinkles. Fruit Wrinkles ultimately won, making Bruner and his associates rethink their new product. They focused on the fruit and the texture, eliminated the rice paper in favor of the fruity substance in a wrapper, and had a food sampling in Tennessee to make sure everything could be up to speed. Bruner himself went to his sons for an idea of the name of the product, with the question, "What would you call your friend who did something silly?" After many suggestions, one of the names they came up with was Airhead. Bruner went with it, asking children aged nine to fifteen how they thought about the name. It gained a high rating, so Bruner went forth with the idea, drawing the name with a balloon face to complete the packaging. They started with one individual red flavor, before expanding to others. Starting at 25 cents a bar and being distributed in New York and Los Angeles, AirHeads eventually became an instant success as more and more people talked about how special the candy really was. It would continue to be praised for years to come.
Perfetti Van Melle has resided in Erlanger, Kentucky since 1979, manufacturing candy-based products since 1982. It is a 120,000-square-foot plant, employing 200 workers to create, produce, and distribute candy, like AirHeads, each and everyday.
Mehmet Yuksek, the CEO of the company, conducted an interview about the legacy of AirHeads and Perfetti Van Melle. He said:
"The CEO job is one that can be very lonely at times. I continually revert back to my purpose, passion, and desired legacy as my compass and source of energy renewal. My desired legacy is clear - to bring the most value I have in me to the people and the business. When I remind myself of this, it gives me strength and drives me forward once again toward success."
In December 2015, an explosion occurred inside the factory, causing it to catch on fire. This prevented production to occur for a period of time. Nobody was harmed in the explosion.
The candy comes individually wrapped in long colored strips, in a variety of flavors:
- White Mystery
- Green Apple
- Blue raspberry
- Pink Lemonade
- Citrus Cooler
- Strawberry Banana
- Tutti Frutti
- "Slammin' Sour"
- "Flaming Hot."
It is also available in mini-size. Special edition flavors, such as Superman, SpongeBob and Spider-Man, are sold as promotions. "AirHeads Xtremes" are fruit rolls with a sour taste. AirHeads Pops are lollipops available in apple, blue raspberry, strawberry, cherry, watermelon, grape, strawberry kiwi and berry. In 2007, a new BerryHot flavor was introduced that claims to "heat up in your mouth." In 2008, "Chillin" flavors were released that have a minty "cold" feeling.
Perfetti Van Melle partnered with Koldwave Foods LLC to create AirHeads ice cream in August 2015. It comes in 8 different flavors: blue raspberry, cherry, watermelon, orange, green apple, pink lemonade, grape, and strawberry. Other frozen treats like ice cream sandwiches and sundae cups are included as well.
A normal 3.3oz pack of AirHeads is 360 calories, 51 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of saturated fat. AirHeads Xtremes Sweetly Sour Belts (3 oz) is 300 calories, 45 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of saturated fat.
Taffy produces a health-risk, especially towards AirHeads's main audience, children. Dr. Timothy Chase, Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) from Boston University, reported that bacteria can feed in the mouth the longer sticky food, like taffy, gets stuck in your teeth. It is best advised to keep the sticky and chewy candy at a minimum, and remember to floss when needed.
It is run on a conveyor belt style, where the taffy goes through sugars and sweeteners leading up to the thinning, forming, and eventual packaging process. The machines stir about 3,000 pounds of taffy.
Airheads were originally sold across Canada and the United States but an expansion into the United Kingdom was announced in 2015. Airheads Xtremes and Bars are manufactured in the US and Airheads Pops in Mexico and Spain.
It was reported that Perfetti Van Melle spent $2.5 million for media exposure in 1999.
In 2000, Perfetti Van Melle started a partnership with Mattell to reach out the children all over the country. The advertisements ran on children's programming networks like Fox Kids and Nickelodeon to continue AirHeads's already existing "Out of Control" campaign. The advertisements offered sweepstakes to Disneyland, as well as coupons on the back of AirHead packets for Mattel's X-V Xtreme Skateboarders.
- Candy Industry News
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- "Frequently Asked Questions". AirHeads. Retrieved 8 January 2013.
- Loveday, Samantha (18 May 2015). "Tallia Storm to be face of new Chupa Chups Airheads launch". Licensing.biz. Retrieved 7 June 2015.