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How SweeTARTS got their start by a father and his kids in St. Louis

Pixy Stix, Spree and Fun Dip also have a connection to St. Louis.
Credit: 5 On Your SIde

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis has sweet ties to some of the most popular candies you’ll find in a kid’s trick or treat bucket. And also, one of the most controversial.

If your kid reaches for the Pixy Stix, SweeTARTS, Sprees or Fun Dips first, you have a St. Louis father and his children to thank.

The sugary treats were invented by an employee of Sunmark Corporation, which was founded in St. Louis in 1952. The company was bought out and eventually became known as a little business called The Willy Wonka Candy Company (owned by Nestle).

The Sunmark employee came up with the idea after watching his son one day.

One of the guys discovered that the sour mix, the drink mix that you could mix at home to make your own little fruit drinks and stuff with. His kids were just eating the powder. So, he got the idea of maybe we could package this and that's what he did,” explained St. Louis food historian Suzanne Corbett on the Abby Eats St. Louis podcast.

LISTEN: Subscribe to the Abby Eats St. Louis podcast

And that’s how Lik-m-aid was invented. Younger generations will know the candy as Fun Dip: a paddle made of sugar that you use to dip into a packet full of sugar.

But the folks at Sunmark didn’t stop there. They turned that one idea into several others.

“The next step after that was Pixy Stix because Lik-m-aid got so messy,” Corbett said. “And of course, being any good candy maker, you wanna try to maximize what you have in order to make something different, something new.”

So, Sunmark took Pixy Stix and compressed them into a tablet. And what did they get?


The next step is to use SweeTARTS and put them through a candy cooking process called panning, which creates a sugar shell on the outside. When they did that they got…


So, Fun Dip (Lik-m-aid), Pixy Stix, SweeTARTS and Sprees all have their sugary roots in St. Louis. Thanks to a very observant father and some kids who decided to break the food rules.

RELATED: These are the best and worst candies for Halloween trick-or-treaters

The St. Louis area also has some very strong ties to a more controversial treat: candy corn.

The Goelitz Confectionary Company was founded in Belleville, Illinois, in 1869. The Goelitz family doesn’t get the credit for inventing candy corn, but they did popularize it. They marketed their mellow cream product as candy corn, ‘something worth crowing for.’ While the company that invented the candy called it Chicken Feed.

It all comes down to marketing, right?

READ MORE: Candy corn history and its ties to the St. Louis area

Learn more about St. Louis' role in some of the most loved and hated candies in the Abby Eats St. Louis podcast episode titled 'Treat me in St. Louis'. Download it for free wherever you get your podcasts.

More from Abby Eats St. Louis

About Abby Eats St. Louis

Abby Llorico tells the story of St. Louis based on what’s on the table. From the hunger for local ingredients, to the booming brunch scene and the craving for creative cocktails, Abby dives into the nitty-gritty of how St. Louis grew to become the foodie town that it is.

Abby Eats St. Louis is available for free on all podcast apps. Take a listen to our latest episodes in the audio player toward the top of this story. We’ve also included links to some of the most popular podcast platforms below.

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Make sure to subscribe to get the latest episode as soon as it drops.

Take a listen and let us know what you think! Have a topic idea or just want to send us your thoughts or comments? Email us at podcasts@ksdk.com.

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