Taffy (candy)

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Salt water taffy.jpg
Salt water taffy with a U.S. quarter for scale
Alternative namesSalt water taffy
Place of originUnited States
Region or stateAtlantic City, New Jersey
Main ingredientssugar, cornstarch, corn syrup, glycerine, water, butter, salt, flavoring, food coloring

Taffy is a type of candy invented in the United States, made by stretching or pulling a sticky mass of boiled sugar, butter or vegetable oil, flavorings, and colorings, until it becomes aerated (tiny air bubbles produced), resulting in a light, fluffy and chewy candy.[1] When this process is complete, the taffy is rolled, cut into small pieces and wrapped in wax paper to keep it soft. It is usually pastel-colored and fruit-flavored, but other flavors are common as well, including molasses and the "classic" (unflavored) taffy.


The word taffy, referring to the boiled candy, is first known to have appeared in the United States circa 1817. The word is also used metaphorically to refer to insincere flattery.[2]

The Oxford English Dictionary dates the first written record of the word toffee in the forms tuffy, toughy to 1825 and identifies it as a southern British dialectal variant of taffy (first recorded use in 1817), whose modern spelling is first recorded from 1843.[3][4][5] Toffee is a caramelized sugar or molasses candy invented in the United Kingdom, entirely distinct from taffy.

United States[edit]

Cherry taffy

Salt water taffy[edit]

Salt water taffy in a candy store in Portland, Oregon

Salt water taffy is a variety of soft taffy originally produced and marketed in the Atlantic City, New Jersey area of the Jersey Shore starting in the 1880s.[6] Its late 19th century appellation most likely originated in New Jersey, United States.[7] Salt water taffy is still sold widely on the boardwalks in Atlantic City (including shops in existence since the 19th century),[8] nearby Ocean City, and other popular beaches throughout the United States like Cape Cod. It is also popular in Atlantic Canada, and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Modern commercial taffy is made primarily from corn syrup, glycerin and butter. The pulling process, which makes the candy lighter and chewier, consists of stretching out the mixture, folding it over and stretching it out again. Although it is called "salt water" taffy, it does not include any seawater but does contain both salt and water in its manufacture.[9] In the local Philadelphia dialect, the term "taffy" without "salt water" refers to a lollipop.[10]

The original invention of the candy has several different stories circulating, likely all apocryphal. One relates to an assistant who substituted fresh water with sea water—either through laziness or accident.[citation needed] Another cites a storm which caused ocean water to wash over the candy, which was consequently (and successfully) marketed with the appropriate name.[11]

Joseph Fralinger popularized the candy by boxing it and selling it in Atlantic City. Fralinger's first major competition came from candy maker Enoch James, who refined the recipe, making it less sticky and easier to unwrap. James also cut the candy into bite-sized pieces, and is credited with mechanizing the "pulling" process. The candy was also sold mail order; in 1926 sheet music was commissioned by James with the title "Send Home Some Taffy Today!" [12] Both Fralinger's and James's stores still operate on the Atlantic City boardwalk. Both companies have been owned and operated by the Glaser family since 1947.[13][11]

On August 21, 1923, John Edmiston obtained a trademark for the name "salt water taffy" (number 172,016), then demanded royalties from companies using his newly acquired name. He was sued over this demand, and in 1925, the trademark was invalidated as being in common use.

Caramel candies are sometimes referred to as taffy (taffy apples), but are very different from common salt water taffy.


Salt water taffy stretching and wrapping machines

Salt water taffy is composed of sugar, cornstarch, corn syrup, glycerine, water, butter, salt, natural and/or artificial flavor, and food color. Some examples of flavoring include vanilla, lemon, maple, banana, red licorice, watermelon, raspberry or mint extracts.[9] Despite its name, the taffy contains no salt water (seawater), but does contain both salt and water.

United Kingdom[edit]

In the United Kingdom, taffy pieces are known as "chews" or "fruit chews"[14]—the term "taffy" is practically unknown. Popular brands of chew include Chewits and Starburst (Opal Fruits).[14]


In Canada, a form of molasses taffy candy, known as "hallowe'en kisses", is produced in time for the Hallowe'en occasion.[15] The candy was first offered by the Kerr's Canadian candy company in the 1940s. At the time, a molasses candy was made by Stewart and Young in Glasgow.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Science of Candy: Why Do You Pull Taffy? - Exploratorium". Exploratorium: the museum of science, art and human perception. Retrieved November 23, 2015.
  2. ^ "Merriam-Webster Dictionary
  3. ^ toffee | Etymology, origin and meaning of toffee by Etymonline.com
  4. ^ "toffee, n. and a.", Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition 1989
  5. ^ "taffy1", Oxford English Dictionary Second Edition 1989
  6. ^ Genovese, Peter. "Chew on this: 125 years later, Jersey Shore still daffy over salt water taffy", The Newark Star Ledger, August 19, 2013.
  7. ^ "Chew on this: 125 years later, Jersey Shore still daffy over salt water taffy". NJ.com.
  8. ^ Sharkey, Joe (November 11, 2001). "Traces of the place at high tide". The New York Times. Retrieved June 25, 2011.
  9. ^ a b "Recipe: Saltwater Taffy". Exploratorium, San Francisco, California, USA.
  10. ^ "Yo! And Other Lexicographical Peculiarities". Philadelphia Citypaper. Archived from the original on July 11, 2012.
  11. ^ a b "Joseph F. Fralinger, the History of Salt Water Taffy, and the Gager Family". ahg3rd. February 13, 2016.
  12. ^ "Send Some Taffy - James Salt WaterTaffy Advertisement Sheet Music". eBay. Archived from the original on June 22, 2018.
  13. ^ "Shop Fralinger's Candy – James Candy Company". www.fralingers.com. Archived from the original on June 23, 2016. Retrieved July 6, 2016.
  14. ^ a b "What is taffy? Let's make some sense of this oddly confounding chewy sweet". Mr Dach. March 2, 2018. In most of the UK and Ireland, it's never taffy — only chews or fruit chews.
  15. ^ a b "A Trick or a Treat: The story of Canada's Cursed Candy Kiss". ottawarewind.com. Retrieved November 1, 2019.

External links[edit]

  • The dictionary definition of taffy at Wiktionary