Earlier this year, Just Born Quality Confections, located in Bethlehem, decided to temporarily suspend the production of the seasonal holiday candy Peeps until 2021 to ensure the health and safety of its employees.
The factory produces world-famous candies such as Mike and Ike, Hot Tamales and, most famously, Marshmallow Peeps. The baby chick-shaped marshmallow treats were born in 1953 to celebrate Easter, but since then have evolved into various types of creatures and colors for all times of year.
In an official statement from Just Born, shared with The Brown and White, the company explained its decision to halt the production of Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day Peeps, to focus on their most lucrative season, Easter.
“While PEEPS Marshmallow Candies, Mike and Ike and Hot Tamales would typically be available in fun shapes and packaging sizes for the Halloween and holiday seasons, unfortunately, the seasonal varieties will not be in stores again until 2021,” the statement said. “As you may know, due to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, we temporarily suspended production of our candy brands to ensure the health and safety of our associates.”
Just Born also owns the candy store PEEPS & Co., which had to be shut down during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rachel, who chose not to disclose her last name for privacy reasons, is a manager at PEEPS & Co. She said the factory started up production in May, and the store opened back up in June.
“Because the company cares about our factory workers, store workers and our customers, they decided to shut the factory down and put a pause on seasonal candy to make it safe for everyone,” Rachel said.
George Theoharis and his 16-year-old daughter, Ella Theoharis, are fans of Peeps. Not just to eat, but also to create dioramas with, George Theoharis said.
“We’re sort of Easter-Peep die-hards,” George Theoharis said. “We mostly buy Easter bunny Peeps to eat and for the diorama, so we’re not too disappointed about their decision to stop the seasonal production.”
In a collaborative effort, the father-daughter duo have won multiple awards for their Peeps dioramas, including one hosted by The Open Notebook called #PeepYourScience.
“Ella has a real artistic sense, and she really likes Peeps, so we started to make Peeps dioramas as a family,” George Theoharis said. “Her older brother does all the photoshopping for the images and her aunt comes over for a weekend to work on it, and we all think it’s really fun.”
Siri Carpenter, an editor for The Open Notebook, said they host the contest to give people a chance to express their love of science in a fun and different way.
“When The Washington Post discontinued their Peeps diorama contest, some science writers and their friends had the idea to do a science-themed diorama contest for The Open Notebook, and it was a hit,” Carpenter said.
They received around 50 to 75 entries in 2020, and she said they plan to continue hosting the contest despite the halt on seasonal Peeps production.
“Because the contest doesn’t start until after February, most of the entries feature regular spring Peeps, although last year, someone cleverly hoarded Christmas Peeps and used them as part of an award-winning diorama,” Carpenter said.
Ella Theoharis said she likes Easter Peeps the best because they’re easiest to work with when creating dioramas.
Her 2019 diorama called “Hidden Peeps” won first place, and in 2020, “Chicks Save the Planet” came in second.
“We like to make dioramas based on current events, so we’ll find a current issue that would work best with the diorama visually and aesthetically,” Ella Theoharis said.
George Theoharis said his family enjoys working on the dioramas because they can use Peeps in a positive and fun way, while also being “contemporary, political and a little bit ridiculous.”
“It’s not like we see other dioramas made with other kinds of candy,” Carpenter said, “I think it’s because Peeps are strangely beguiling. They almost seem like they have facial expressions, and they’re not all exactly the same, so it seems like they lend themselves to attributing some personality to them.”
Ella Theoharis said she enjoys Peeps for the taste and colors, and although it’s a popular treat among kids, Peeps is also loved by older generations.
“They’re fun, the colors are cool, but they’re also nostalgic and kitschy for older people, like my generation,” George Theoharis said. “And then there are people who like a good marshmallow and roasting marshmallows to make s’mores. I think the Just Born Factory really has a niche on the popular marshmallow experience.”
He said Peeps also bring a lot of joy to those who consume them and those who can find creative uses for them.
“I call my kids Peeps all the time now, and it’s because of the Peeps dioramas,” George Theoharis said. “So that’s thanks to the Just Born Factory folks.”
While the Theoharis family shared disappointment in the factory’s temporary closure, the family appreciates the efforts taken to ensure the safety of Peeps employees and customers.