The Jew And The Carrot

Putting the 'Goldenberg' Back Into Peanut Chews

By Blair Thornburgh

  • Print
  • Share Share

For die-hard fans of local food specialties, the prevailing wisdom seems to be you are where you eat. Just Born, the company that manufactures retro favorite Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, found itself in a sticky situation when its experiment with a flashy national brand that wiped the Goldenberg’s name off the label left fans of the candy confused and sugar-deprived. Now, the makers of the classic confection are bringing the nutty treats back to their local (and Jewish) roots.

Harry Goldenberg got a sweet start to his professional life, skipping high school to help his family make candy apples and lollipops in their Kensingon, Pa. kitchen to sell off their back porch. The business took off, and in 1917 Goldenberg came up with Peanut Chews as a tasty, high-protein World War I ration. They made their civilian debut in 1921, and in 1930, Goldenberg had an innovative idea: pre-package the sweets in already bite-sized bits.

It was a hit. The simple wrapper, featuring Goldenberg’s name over a blue star and a red stripe, covered eight pieces of a candy as unassuming as it was delicious. The not-too-sweet taste of roasted peanuts held together with a sticky molasses base and dipped in a chocolatey coating became a childhood classic for kids all along the manufacturer’s New York to Baltimore market.

“Back in the 60’s when I was a really young kid with three brothers close to my age, I lived in Philadelphia, around the corner from the Goldberg Peanut Chew factory,” one commenter on the website Old Time Candy writes. “A man from the factory [once] came out the loading dock door with a big blue commercial sized box of Peanut Chews. ‘Don’t eat that other candy,’ he said to us, ‘eat Goldenberg Peanut Chews,’ as he handed us four the entire box. We believed at that moment that we were the luckiest kids in the world.”

Flickr: www.schoko-riegel.com

Just Born (they of Peeps and Mike and Ike) bought out the Goldenberg Candy Company from Harry Goldenberg’s grandson in 2003. But unlike Goobers, Raisinets, Sno-Caps, Good and Plenty, and 5th Avenue Bars, all of which left the Philadelphia Manufacturers of Confectionary and Chocolate group for new production locales, Peanut Chews would keep their Philly terroir. The new owners maintained the same plant in Holmesburg, Pa., producing up to two million pieces (that’s around 45 million calories) per shift in 2006.

Still, it would prove hard to leave well enough alone. Peanut Chews would find themselves reconcocted for shelf stability, packed up to sell in international markets such as Korea and Japan, and clothed in a redesigned label that left out Goldenberg’s name entirely. And despite a kicky new marketing campaign, sales in the Mid-Atlantic plummeted. Clearly, mistakes were made.

“We lost probably half of our sales volume in our core markets,” Robert Zender, the brand manager for Peanut Chews, told the New York Times. The new labels were effectively camouflage, throwing longtime Peanut Chew customers off the scent. Zender himself was told by a shop owner that the bars had been discontinued.

Fortunately for its fans, the brand reversed itself in 2011 and re-embraced its Philadelphian origins with a “new” wrapper more like the original. As part of a newly-trained focus on regional marketing, the labels featured the city’s skyline, the Liberty Bell, and, once again, the name of its creator — and according to the latest marketing figures, “Goldenberg’s” is the golden ticket. Peanut Chews sales for the 24 weeks ending June 10 have trounced the same period last year by almost 50%, giving the company its highest revenue ever for the fiscal year. A new marketing campaign highlights the “old-school” appeal of a classic candy, with commercial actors transforming into their younger selves after a bite of the bar.

On the food-review website candyblog.net, candy connoisseur Cybele May gives Peanut Chews points for being “small and easy to share” with “a flavor combination not found in any other candy bar on the market in the states.” But, she notes, “I’ve always referred to these as Goldenbergs.”

Clearly, it pays to stick around.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Goldenberg's Peanut Chews, Peanut Chews

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.