Inventing a new candy can be somewhat akin to reinventing the wheel, but when Pop Rocks exploded onto the market in the 70s, they were unlike any confection that preceded them. Word-of-mouth quickly propelled them to the top of the “must have” list among young consumers, and also contributed to one of the most fanciful urban legends of all time. We’ll get to that in a moment but first, let’s take a look back at the origins of this effervescent treat.
Perhaps surprisingly, the patent for the technology behind Pop Rocks dates all the way back to 1956, when General Foods chemist William A. Mitchell discovered a way to trap carbon dioxide bubbles within the confines of hardened candy by applying pressurized gas to the hot candy, then letting it cool. Placing the sweet substance in one’s mouth would start it dissolving, thereby releasing the carbon dioxide. The result was a candy that made an audible crackling noise while playfully tickling the tongue. Kids were undoubtedly going to love the stuff, but it would take another two decades before the confection was ready for market. Finally in 1975, General Foods released two similar products utilizing the fizzy technology – Pop Rocks, which took the form of small pebbles, and a pulverized version called Space Dust. Each were available in three flavors – cherry, grape and orange.