Pop Rocks candy has been around for over 50 years, and it continues to be one of the most iconic candies in the world. However, there's a persistent urban legend that has been circulating on the internet for years - Can Pop Rocks kill you?
While most candies don't have deadly rumors associated with them, Pop Rocks seem to be an exception. Despite being disproven numerous times, some people still believe that consuming Pop Rocks with a cold soda can cause your stomach to explode. This gastronomical catastrophe, however, is nothing more than an urban legend.
To understand the origins of Pop Rocks, we have to go back to 1956 when General Foods product inventor, William Mitchell, was attempting to make a carbonated version of Kool-Aid. His aim was to put carbon dioxide directly into a solid that could then dissolve in a flat liquid such as water and create a fizzy, soda-like beverage. Unfortunately, the resulting powder didn't work as he had hoped, and he was left with a solid, sugary crystalline substance that looked rather appetizing.
One day, Mitchell and a few General Foods employees decided to pop a few chunks of the sugar crystals into their mouths, and they were immediately blown away by what happened next. The sugar chunks dissolved and popped inside their mouths when their saliva heated up the carbon dioxide. It was like a mini firework show going on inside their heads. Mitchell knew he had discovered something big, something that would take General Foods another 20 years to finally bring to market.
Pop Rocks start shaking the candy market…
It’s not known why General Foods held the Pop Rocks recipe secret for nearly 20 years, but they finally brought them to store shelves in 1976. Within weeks, they were a smashing success. Kids loved the popping sensation playing in their heads and a new candy was taking over the sweet tooth of every kid in America.
Former Pop Rocks product developer, Marv Rudolph, said that they sold over $100 million in product that first year. At one point, they were making 5 million pounds of the candy—2.5 billion pouches—at three different factories!
What quickly swept the nation with sweetness became a point of contention as urban legend spread that mixing Pop Rocks with soda would cause the stomach to swell with gas and explode.
That’s right, an exploding stomach.
Rumors had gotten so bad that people believed TV child star Mikey had dieddue to mixing the supposed-lethal combination together.
In 1979, General Foods saw a steep 24% decline in Pop Rocks sales and decided to pull them from production in 1982 citing a lack of success, much of which could be attributed to the myths circulating through local schools and parent groups across the nation.
General Foods was against the ropes and decided to take extended measures to ensure that consumers understood that Pop Rocks were not harmful to the human body.
First, they took out a full-page ad that ran in 45 major publications citing that Pop Rocks were safe. Then, they wrote over 50,000 letters to local school boards and principals citing there were no health hazards associated with Pop Rock and soda consumption. They updated product information forms, frequently asked questions, and gave new marketing material to the sales team making sure nothing could be misconstrued.And finally, when it was all said and done, they sent Pop Rocks inventor, William Mitchell himself to various schools and conferences to explain that Pop Rocks were safe to eat. He reiterated, "The worst thing the rocks could do is make you burp. The amount of gas in Pop Rocks is less than one-tenth the amount in a can of soda pop!"
Even the famous television show Mythbusters took it upon themselves to prove this stomach exploding theory wrong!
The resurgence of Pop Rocks today…
Two candy investors bought the recipe and rights to Pop Rocks, starting Carbonated Candy Ventures in Buffalo, NY. They began test marketing Pop Rocks in New England and the Dakotas in November, and scheduled a four-month test starting in late January in California. Sales soared, with over 1 million packets shipped by December 1986. Pop Rocks expanded production across the US and Europe, with Kraft eventually selling the manufacturing rights to Spanish company Zeta Espacial. Today, Pop Rocks offers flavors like Grape, Green Apple, and Watermelon, along with seasonal varieties like Chocolate and Candy Cane. Pop Rocks Crackling Gum, Pop Rocks Dips, and Pop Rocks Xtreme are also available.
So, there you have it, the fascinating and explosive history of one of America's most iconic candies. Pop Rocks may not be everyone's top choice, but they will undoubtedly continue to grace store shelves and self-checkouts for years to come.
If you're craving a blast of sweetness in your mouth, don't hesitate to grab a few packets of Pop Rocks and Taste The Explosion!