- Just Born makes 2 billion Peeps a year in their Bethlehem, PA factory.
- Every year people use Peeps to fill Easter baskets, make dioramas, and compete in eating challenges.
- Easter makes up 70% of Peeps’ annual sales.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Narrator: These little marshmallow blobs are being blasted with sugar to become Peeps. Just Born can produce 5.5 million edible chicks and bunnies a day in this facility.
Caitlin Servian: I think they’re so versatile and there’s really nothing like Peeps. They’re really
irreplaceable at Easter, but also at the other seasons.
Narrator: From their Easter bunnies to Halloween ghosts, Peeps are a household name.
Malcolm: Sugar, corn syrup, and gelatin. How can something so simple be so delicious?
Narrator: Every year, people compete nationwide to make the best dioramas, they’ve stuffed themselves in the “100 Peeps challenge,” and even popped them in the microwave to see if they’ll explode.
And Easter accounts for 70% of Peeps’ annual sales.
We visited Just Born’s Pennsylvania factory to see how these iconic treats come to life.
Sam Born started the company in 1923 in Brooklyn, New York. Born was a candymaker by trade and earned a
name for himself through his confectionary innovations.
He created the technology to make sprinkles and invented a machine that inserted the sticks into lollipops, which
actually earned him the keys to the city of San Francisco in 1916.
After introducing popular candies like Mike and Ikes and Hot Tamales, he bought the Rodda Candy Company, but it wasn’t because of the marshmallow chicks.
Caitlin Servian: Just Born was actually looking for jelly bean technology.
Narrator: The Peeps fell into their lap sort of by accident.
Caitlin Servian: We found that they were making Peeps by hand in the back room by pastry tubes. They took 27 hours to make.
Narrator: Just Born decided to ramp up production of these gooey treats.
Caitlin Servian: Our founder’s son, Bob Born, he actually mechanized the process, and thankfully, because of him, we are all able to enjoy a lot more Peeps.
Narrator: Automating meant building a top-secret machine called the depositor, which could spit out rows of marshmallow chicks at once.
Caitlin Servian: So the way the machine works, and this is actually proprietary so nobody can actually see the chicks being formed.
Narrator: Now the process of making Peeps takes just six minutes from start to finish.
So what’s inside a Peep?
There are four basic ingredients: sugar, corn syrup, gelatin, and air. They all combine to make the marshmallow base.
But making that marshmallow isn’t easy. Cooking and setting it takes hours.
Caitlin Servian: It’s very important, because Peeps have to be a specific density when they’re deposited onto the belt to make sure that the marshmallow is stable.
Narrator: The six minutes begin when the marshmallows hit the production belt.
Caitlin Servian: For the chicks, those are just deposited. For our 2D shapes, it’s basically like a cookie cutter.
Narrator: There’s already a thin layer of colored sugar on the belt. Just Born makes 19 colors of sugar, but …
Caitlin Servian: Yellow is our most popular color for chicks and bunnies, followed by pink and then blue.
Narrator: The sugar is colored in these giant drums. The Peeps move on a conveyor belt.
Caitlin Servian: They go into an enclosed area that’s covered so that when the sugar blows around, it’s contained. It’s very quick.
Narrator: Any sugar that doesn’t stick gets recycled for the next batch on the belt.
And Peeps aren’t exactly known for their nutritional value. Each chick has 6.8 grams of carbs, and 6 of those come from sugar.
Then it’s onto the most important part.
Caitlin Servian: Peeps become Peeps when they get their decorations. So when they’re chicks and they get their eyes added, when they’re bunnies and they get their nose added, that’s when I would say they officially become Peeps.
Narrator: The decorations are made with edible wax, then squirted onto the Peeps with precision.
Caitlin Servian: We have an entire QA team that checks everything frequently throughout the entire production process. We also have associates who check for decoration and making sure that their eyes are in the right spot.
We manufacture Peeps all year long. We produce the most Peeps for Easter season, but because they’re on shelves starting really in January, we are producing them in the summer and fall.
Narrator: But there’s a reason Easter is the brand’s time to shine.
Caitlin Servian: Peeps are an Easter tradition. Families have passed them down through the generations, so if you grew up with them in your Easter basket, you’re likely going to put them in your child’s Easter basket.
Narrator: But in order to keep up with Easter demand, the company had to make a hard choice.
Caitlin Servian: Part of the reason why we made the difficult decision to not produce our Halloween, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day Peeps this past year was to ensure that we had the supply that people want for Easter production.
Narrator: A pack of 10 marshmallows can cost less than $2, and they’re sold everywhere in the United States and Canada at grocery stores and pharmacies. Though the pandemic shifted what consumers bought in 2020, Just Born says Peep sales didn’t drop.
Caitlin Servian: All Easter Peeps had been in stores for a couple of weeks at that point. And in fact, a lot of our customers still went out to buy Easter Peeps because it was that sense of normalcy people were seeking during the pandemic.
Narrator: But this year, the company has been adapting to changing trends. It’s launched initiatives like Peepsonality Live on Instagram.
Erica Domesek: Welcome to the first ever Peepsonality Live. I am a Peeps megafan.
Narrator: Where it’s hoping people make this Peeps play dough.
Erica Domesek: I just used all the Peeps that I had to make this, but I will open a pack right now and snack while I craft.
Narrator: Peeps have been around for more than 60 years, but Just Born thinks there will always be new ways to use them.
Caitlin Servian: Peeps are a big part of American culture. In fact, we see the characters as icons, because you can do
so much with them.
Narrator: Whether you’re crafting crowns or just eating them plain, Peeps have staying power and don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.