Junior Mints are a candy brand consisting of small rounds of mint filling inside a dark chocolate coating, with a dimple on one side. The product is currently produced by Tootsie Roll Industries, and is packaged in varying amounts from the fun-size box to the much larger 12.0 oz. box.
James O. Welch was born in Hertford, North Carolina, attended the University of North Carolina, and then founded his Cambridge candy company in 1927. His partner in the company was his brother, Robert W. Welch, Jr., who retired from the confectionery business in 1956 and two years later founded the John Birch Society.
Origin of product name
The name of the product is a pun on Sally Benson's Junior Miss, a collection of her stories from The New Yorker, which were adapted by Jerome Chodorov and Joseph Fields into a successful play. The play was directed by Moss Hart and ran on Broadway from 1941 to 1943. According to one past official company history, when James Welch developed and launched the product in 1949, he named the candy after his favorite Broadway show. Yet the candy came six years after the play had closed on Broadway. Current copy on the Junior Mints box incorrectly gives the date of the Broadway play as 1949. Some may argue that this is comparable to the "potato potato" scenario, as depending on how you read "named after a top Broadway play in 1949: "Junior Miss"", it may be interpreted that it is simply referring to the candy being named in 1949.
In 1945, the play was adapted to film, with George Seaton directing Peggy Ann Garner in the lead role. The Junior Miss radio series, starring Barbara Whiting, was being broadcast weekly on CBS at the time Junior Mints were first marketed in 1949. Thus, Welch had cleverly created a product sold at movie theater concession stands and identified with a specific movie and radio series and displaying a name that sounded almost exactly like that property–yet different enough that it avoided any fees for licensing and merchandising. Junior Mints quickly became a popular candy at movie concession stands, and one product in the line is the three oz. box marketed as the "Theater Size Junior Mints Concession Candy".
In 1963, the brand was acquired by Nabisco, who sold the brand to Warner-Lambert Company (now part of Pfizer) in 1988, who in turn sold the brand to Tootsie Roll in 1993. Today, Junior Mints are still manufactured in the Area 4 neighborhood of Cambridge at Tootsie Roll Industries.
Over 15 million Junior Mints are produced daily. Tootsie Roll also makes Junior Caramels (caramel filling with a milk chocolate coating) and limited edition "Inside Outs" (mint-chocolate filling with a white chocolate shell). Other limited edition Junior Mints include Valentine's Day Pastels/Valentine's Day Regulars (not pastel), Easter Pastels, Christmas edition (featuring red and green fillings), and Christmas Peppermint Crunch edition (featuring crunchy peppermint flakes in the outer chocolate coating). Junior Mints are sold in various amounts from the fun-size boxes to the movie theater-size boxes, since the product continues to sell well in movie theaters. Junior Mints have traveled throughout the world. They are now certified kosher dairy by the Orthodox Union.
In 2009, Tootsie Roll introduced a companion product - "Junior Mints Deluxe". The "Deluxe" is a larger dark chocolate covered mint that comes foil wrapped (much like a chocolate covered cherry) and is sold in various quantity boxes - 10, 22, and a 72 piece box with a fold up sign, designed for individual piece sale on retail counter tops.
In popular culture
New England Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick, answering fan questions via the Twitter account of his girlfriend Linda Holliday on 12 March 2013, described Junior Mints as his favorite sweet treat.
On the title track of Fruitcakes, an album released in May 1994 by American popular music singer-songwriter Jimmy Buffett, Buffet expresses extreme frustration by the disappearance of Junior Mints from the concession counter of modern cineplex theaters.
The candy is also mentioned in "cold shower tuesdays" by the American band Bowling For Soup.
Internet, TV and films
Junior Mints were prominently featured in an episode of Seinfeld titled "The Junior Mint". While observing the surgery of Elaine's ex-boyfriend Roy, Kramer offers a Junior Mint to Jerry, who refuses the offer—to which Kramer later states, "Who's gonna turn down a Junior Mint? It's chocolate, it's peppermint; it's delicious!"—and the two accidentally drop it into the retracted abdominal cavity below. After Roy's condition deteriorates, Jerry calls the hospital intending to confess the whole situation, only to discover that Roy's condition has improved. The doctor attributes the miraculous recovery to "something beyond science — something, perhaps, from above." In reality, a York Peppermint Pattie was used because Junior Mints were too small to be filmed.
Junior Mints are also referred to in the season three episode "That Special Tug" Two and a Half Men.
In Knight and Day Tom Cruise says he can dismantle bombs using a safety pin and a Junior Mint when Cameron Diaz asks how she got into a bikini whilst being unconscious.
In "The Justice League Recombination" episode of The Big Bang Theory, Rajesh Koothrappali (unsuccessfully) proposes Junior Mints as an alternative to Sheldon Cooper's assertion that Milk Duds, with their self-deprecating name and remarkably mild flavor, are the most apologetic of boxed candies.
In Fancy Boys episode "The Junior Mints", Aaron and Barry try to somehow get a lifetime supply of Junior Mints throughout the episode.
The 2006 Augusten Burroughs book Possible Side Effects contains a chapter, "Mint Threshold", about the author's experience creating an advertising campaign for Junior Mints.
In the novel I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You, the protagonist's friend suggests Junior Mints as the best candy to buy during a date, which is then declared to be the perfect movie candy.
In Sarah Dessen's book Dreamland Junior Mints are mentioned in Chapter 7 when her boyfriend tells her to "shut up and eat your Junior Mints."
In Michael Grant's book Hunger, Junior Mints are mentioned several times; most notably when Bug steals them and when they become a part of Sam's dream.
- "James O. Welch Dies at 79; Founder of Candy Company", The New York Times, February 1, 1985.
- Smith, Andrew F. Encyclopedia of Junk Food and Fast Food. Greenwood Publishing, 2006.
- Junior Mints box copy