It’s available only in Canada. It’s available only during Halloween. No one seems to ever like them, but it mysteriously sells-out of stores every year…Canada’s love-hate relationship with a 75 year old candy that is an endearing seasonal confection: The Kerr’s Molasses Candy Kiss.
Kerr’s is a Canadian candy company that first offered products in 1895. Their website states that the company was founded by Edward and Albert Kerr after they immigrated from Scotland to Canada.
In Scotland, the molasses candy kiss was made by Stewart and Young in Glasgow under “The Steamship Brand”. Perhaps these sticky, tooth pulling candies were harvested from the depths of a Scottish bog. Kerr’s would use their Scottish angle in their branding with their highly recognizable Scottish “tartan” packaging, a uniquely Canadian brand. But it would not be until the 1940s that Kerr’s would venture into the bizarre world of hard, chewy molasses candies that would find their way into the bottom of Canadian trick-or treaters bags each Halloween.
The Kerr’s website details what is exactly in these “molasses Candy Kisses” and in all honestly, they sound very wholesome and a most natural kind of candy. They use an original recipe made with 10% real molasses, no artificial colours, real sugar (not the usual cheaper high fructose corn syrup), no modified or hydrogenated fats or oils, and they are peanut free, tree-nut free, gluten free, vegetarian & Halal. By all intent, this sounds like a great candy…but why do so many of us Canadians say we dislike them and yet it still is available each year? Is it because of nostalgia we can never get rid of it like an old pair of slippers? According to Kerr’s company President, “Molasses Kisses are a Canadian Halloween tradition,” but also admits that the love of this treat within the Kerr’s company hovers around the 50% mark.
Even though most of us Canadian kids would turn our noses up at these morsels in our Halloween candy sacks, these tar-like candies have miraculously increased in production each year to meet increasing demand, which leads me to believe there is some cult like following of this product similar to the bizarre people that like that Thrills gum that tastes like soap.
So why make a molasses candy that could be one molecule apart from the tar putty used to patch cracks in asphalt? The history of the molasses candy kiss dates back to 1887 where the earliest mention I could find of the candy was in the Official White House Cook Book. Listed under “Dessert Candy” the White House may have been the source of this sweet scourge to find its way into our loot bags, making the molasses treat popular. This candy in the US would be labeled more popularly as “Tootsie Rolls”, whose lineage traces back to World War 2 when they were included in American field rations, since their toughness allowed them to survive a variety of environmental conditions on the frontlines.
Perhaps then it is not coincidence that Kerr’s would also introduce their version of a molasses candy during World War 2 with their own molasses treat. Was it like Silly Putty and accidentally invented in a confectionary lab that would later be used to seal tire punctures on operational war vehicles during battle? Who knows. But it did become a tradition to get these molasses candies every Halloween, a bargaining item during “tradesies” of a candy haul after a night trick-or-treating.
Now proudly in its 75th year of production, the Kerr’s Candy Kiss with its distinctive orange, yellow and black wrapper seems to defy the marketing odds, a treat for the molasses masses. For better or worse, the Molasses Candy Kiss will remain a part of Canada’s bizarre collective cultural enlightenment, sitting proudly up there with Ketchup Chips, cheese curds, Kraft Dinner, and our need to put vinegar on French fries.
So this Halloween if you get a Kerr’s Candy Kiss, don’t grimace in disgust, embrace its uniquely Canadian heritage and maybe melt it into your Tim Horton’s coffee for a truly Canadian seasonal treat, eh?
Andrew King, October 2017
Another great story, Andrew. Personally, I’ve always loved candy kisses and look forward to them every Halloween. Laura Secord used to make a nice, hard molasses (dark) chocolate that my mother would buy a 1/2 pound of for me every Christmas for years, now sadly unavailable. But I am in a distinct minority, although I’ve never understood why.
I have always loved and still love this (unfortunately) only once-a-year candy. And I’m 62 years old! Thankfully, I have no dentures to worry about. 🙂
Thanks for posting! As always, truly interesting. And not as always, HILARIOUS presentation. Made me laugh.
If you happen to be given Candy Kisses in the following week and have no plans on using them for ingenious and industrious ways to fix stuff, fire them off to me. I’ll be sure to give them a good home as they wait upon their eventual demise.
I love ‘em, too and can’t understand why others don’t!
My family loves them! To bad they only come out at Halloween!!
I love the molasses kisses.
I love them too but did not know the history of them. Interesting for sure and so Canadian. Happy Halloween.
Reblogged this on Larry Muffin At Home and commented:
A story about a very Canadian Candy made only for Halloween.
Those things are delish. Can’t imagine Hallowe’en without them 🙂
Oh but I want some!!!
I love them…. Why not sell year round?
Ps: an overly sarcastic piece.
I LOVE THESE and oddly enough my kids love these too! I think that this has got to be one heck of a marketing gimmick.
Last year I ran into this woman that loves them so much that she was going to every store in town on November 1st and trying to buy up every bad she could.
I would not eat them even when I was a kid. If I could not trade with another kid for something else I put them in the garbage. I think they were the ultimate in “cheap” candy so people would buy them just to have something to put in kids treat bags.
I love these – just don’t tell my dentist.
I remember the orange, white, and black (licorice) candy kisses in the early 60s, which to me were much better. I believe they may have been Loblaws. Sadly, I haven’t seen them for decades.
You other commentators are crazy! Sure, I would eat them if there were no other options in the world (or pillow case) but they are obviously at the bottom of the Halloween candy heirarchy.
But tootsie rolls are chocolate do I don’t understand why you compare them to this sweet?
99 percent of my Halloween loot comprised of these kisses. I couldn’t eat them fast enough. By morning of November first they would be almost gone. Started trick or treating in 1950. And I happen to love Thrills gum!
I’ve pulled many a filling out by pinching my kids candy but I LOVE those candy kisses.
They are the best kisses ever! I have loved them since I was a child, and I am now 72 years young. I look for them every year.
Thank you for the continued production of them.
Bought 3 800 gram, 100 count bags. One for the children and 2 for me. Not enough though, I love, love, love them!!
I used to love Thrills and SenSen for that matter but could never stomach these molasses candies. Even my mother who liked molasses didn’t like them.
They were always part of the dregs of any Halloween candy, you couldn’t trade them, couldn’t give them away and they eventually went in the garbage.
Hi there, I just wanted to mention that perhaps part of the demand for kisses comes from French Canadians. French Canadian / Québecois kids who went to Catholic school celebrated Saint Catherine’s day by making molasses taffy called “tire” in French, which means “pull” in English. The tradition was started by Marguerite Bourgeois / Bourgeoys, the first teacher to arrive in New France. She made these candies to entice kids to come to school. Growing up, nobody I knew disliked these candies, and I suspect that effect extended to Halloween; no one I knew turned their noses up to kisses. Food for thought and maybe worth looking into!
One more thing: I think discount retail stores used to sell cheaper versions because, every so often, I’d find white-ish kisses in my loot. No fun.
It’s September 2018; I started my quest to find some for trick-or-treat this year. Do you or anyone know where I can purchase some? thanks
KERR Halloween kisses were always my favourite Halloween candy.When my daughters were growing up I would raid their bags in search just for Kerr Kisses. My girls also like them.Is not the same Halloween in Canada without them.🎃
Ok…as a kid, I hated them…I used to give then to trick or treaters that came after I got home and had my candy checked. Fast forward…kids of my own…they don’t like them, I was going to give them away…but had one…and now am so in love with them!! Maybe all I needed was a dash of maturity 😉
I remember them too. I’m going to go out and try to get a bags of the Kerr’s Candy Kisses today! Remember the whites ones. Were they made by Kerr’s too? I loved them as much as the molasses ones.
Steve is right on!
I’m a senior now
And it was a tradition when I was a child to make taffy on November 25 to celebrate St-Catherine and still is
Made it in my classroom through the years!
Love those candies
This is a very informative piece, but I can’t help but want to point out a maybe not-so-obvious oversight: It’s not that Canadians don’t like this little candy. As you’ve pointed out, they’re made with all natural ingredients and in my opinion taste pretty good compared to the pure-sugar grossness of candy corn or rockets. The reason, from my recollection of childhood, that we had to toss them every year was the fear around the ease at which they could be tampered with.
It’s a sad, but true reality. I wonder what the percentage break down is from those bought, how many are consumed v thrown out? We were always told not to trust this little candy because they could be poisoned.
And have you considered that people are still buying them because of how cheap they are compared to the rising price of the other halloween treats and assume children care more about the amount of candy they get instead of the quality?
Also, these are a nightmare for anyone with braces or retainers… something I learned from experience 😉
It was said to be poisoned because then we adults got them all. Kids needed to have us check their candy for poison.
this was my fathers favorite halloween candy he liked the plain but i loved the orange and black,lol we would take them hunting and eat all day on them .i hav found memories of following the wrapers threw the woods that lead me right to him .this is one of my memories .thank you for making them .
My mom lives candy kisses and yet this yr we couldn’t find them in walmart anywhere. Seems no one.sold them this yr 2019.. she would have bought four bags.. yes she lives them.
When I was a kid the Kisses were much darker and harder more chewy than they are now. The texture is much softer and the colour far lighter than it used to be. I loved them years ago when I was young and they had the long chew to them. now they are too soft and do not last as long. I assume some of the molasses was removed and more sugar added. Something changed in the recipe regardless because they are just not the same anymore. Thanks for the history of them though!
My dad loved these….so he made a haul every year when we’d go through our bags and give them all to him. He also liked Thrills and carried SenSen in his pocket too. Treats were in short supply in those days, so Thrills were about the only gum we got, as well as Beeman’s
This is absolutely fascinating!!! I never liked these as a kid…. Excellent article! Can I reblog this?
Thanks for reading! And yes, please do!