PA Senate Declares “Peeps Are the Best”

Harrisburg pols find common ground in marshmallows.

In case tax season has left you grumpy about the productivity of your tax dollars, buck up! Last Tuesday, at the Pennsylvania State Senate, which has been toiling away at liquor privatization and budgets lately, Senator Lisa Boscola issued a mood-lightening memorandum to her fellow senators:

“I intend to introduce a resolution in the near future to recognize the accomplishments of Just Born, Inc., on the 60th anniversary of the Marshmallow Peeps candy.”

Bethlehem’s Just Born, which makes Peeps, Hot Tamales, and Mike and Ikes, and now owns Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, is stationed in Boscola’s district, where, she notes, it “hatches 5 million Peeps a day.” She continues the memo with flourish:

Long associated with Easter, Peeps have penetrated pop-culture consciousness in a way that other candy brands have not. The Peeps brand has grown to become the largest seasonal-marshmallow brand. Consumers and fans of the candy do creative things with the candy, including decorating, diorama making and microwave jousting.

Happy Easter, indeed. The resolution went gangbusters on the Senate floor, picking up 22 co-sponsors, almost half the Senate. They officially adopted it two days ago in the form of “Senate Resolution No. 63,” a fascinating three-page timeline detailing Peeps milestones. (The first Marshmallow Peep, made in 1953, took 27 hours to make; lavender became the fourth color in 1995; Cocoa Bats, the first chocolate-flavored Peeps, were introduced in 2002).

I’ve never caught the Peep fever that infects the entire country this time of year. My sweet tooth is a well-sharpened fang, but I can barely bite the head off those iridescent little sugar-chicks without going bug-eyed. Microwave jousting (which I had to Google) just sounds like an efficient way to fry brain cells.

And at the risk of sounding like a crank, I also didn’t really see the need to give Just Born a government-sealed gold star for being around a long time; is the “seasonal marshmallow” market even all that competitive?

More to the point: What benefit does our great Commonwealth reap from a government endorsement of a candy company? What’s next? City Council drops paid sick leave to honor Philadelphia’s most beloved water ice stand?

To see if I was missing something, I called Senator Boscola’s office, and talked with her chief of staff, Steve DeFrank. He pointed out the important difference between bills and typically “non-controversial, unanimous consent resolutions.” This week, the Senate’s also been considering resolutions like Farm Bureau Day, Community Banking Week, and Life Sciences Day, to name a few.

“From the standpoint of the public, it’s a recognition of a Pennsylvania business,” said DeFrank. “[Just Born] employs over 600 folks in the Lehigh Valley. The company has traditionally been a good corporate neighbor and corporate citizen.” He also mentioned that it’s not uncommon for a resolution to congratulate a business on good work, or some milestone.

That’s fine, of course, but Resolution No. 63 says very little about Just Born’s contributions to the region; it reads like a comprehensive Peeps retrospective, which I’m happy to read, but don’t think I need my state senators writing for me. Community banking and farm bureaus feel like more substantive issues for Pennsylvania legislators than pastel-flecked marshmallows.

Besides, if we’re going to be passing Easter legislation to celebrate candy birthdays, the Cadbury Creme Egg is turning 90 this year. That candy doesn’t have the Keystone heritage that Peeps do, of course, but they’re much tastier, and its parent company (Hershey) is based in Pennsylvania. That’s a bill worth backing.

But I digress. The ironic backdrop to all this is a recently proposed piece of legislation that would require all genetically modified foods to be labeled as such. That bill only has 12 co-sponsors, and is hardly poised to glide across the Senate floor the way the Peeps resolution did. If it does pass, though, at least we’ll know which artificially flavored candy is the favorite one.