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Pop Rocks: The Inside Story of America's Revolutionary Candy

In 1976, the two hundredth anniversary of the American Revolution, General Foods Corporation launched a candy that became a cultural phenomenon. William A. (Bill) Mitchell invented Pop Rocks Crackling Candy in 1956 as an attempt to create an instant carbonated drink. His invention languished in the research laboratories at General Foods for twenty years until an unforeseen series of events compelled the company to venture into the confections industry, where they had no products or experience.

Pop Rocks was a huge and instant success with kids. The fruit-flavored candy contained entrapped bubbles of carbon dioxide, which when released created tiny explosions with sound effects. Almost immediately, the candy was bootlegged, a fifteen-cent package selling for one dollar on the streets of New York. At the same time, rumors circulated that if a person ate Pop Rocks while drinking a carbonated beverage, the carbonation combination would blast one's stomach apart. One such victim was allegedly "Mikey," the cute boy in the Life cereal commercials. As a research chemist at General Foods during the Pop Rocks heyday, Marvin J. Rudolph led a group assigned to bring Pop Rocks out of the laboratory and into the manufacturing plant. During that time, he was awarded six U.S. patents based on Pop Rocks production improvements, and one for Increda-Bubble, a popping bubble gum.

Drawing on interviews with food technologists, engineers, marketing managers, and members of Bill Mitchell's family, Rudolph takes readers from the day Pop Rocks were invented to the present day, where they are still being manufactured around the globe.

 
 

About the Author

Marvin J. Rudolph has been a food product developer for thirty-five years for such companies as General Foods Corporation (merged into Kraft Foods), Ragú Foods (purchased by Unilever), Lehi The Farmers Dairy, and Arthur D. Little, a technical and business consulting firm. He holds nine U.S. patents in such areas as confections (Pop Rocks processing; Increda-Bubble), snack foods, and ice cream. He is a frequent speaker on managing innovation and strategic partnerships within the food industry. He holds a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he was raised, and now lives in Sharon, Massachusetts.