Peanut Chews 05/28/13
In 2003 Just Born Candies, from Bethlehem, Pa. purchased Goldenberg's Peanut Chews from the Goldenberg family. The Goldenberg's had been producing confections in Philadelphia since 1890 when Romanian immigrant David Goldenberg start the business.
The Peanut Chew, which began life as a wartime ration in 1917, is a combination of molasses and roasted peanuts covered in dark chocolaty coating. Long before the rest of the country discovered dark chocolate, Philadelphians were eating Peanut Chews as fast as the Goldenberg family could make them.
Just Born ,makers of Mike & Ike's, hot Tamales and the iconic Peep, thought Goldenberg's, with a little repackaging and marketing muscle could expand nationally.
One of the first steps undertaken by Just Born to transform the Peanut Chew from a regional favorite to a national player was to change the candy wrapper to brighter colors and to remove from it the name Goldenberg's. Perhaps thinking that the name was too 'ethnic" for a national audience this decision was met by derision by its loyal customer.
Unfortunately, not only did the expected national growth fail to materialize, local sales started to fall. A Just Born executive shopping in Philadelphia inquired as to whether the store sold Peanut Chews was informed by the salesperson that they didn't have any because the company had stopped making them.
It is beyond my expertise to speculate why Peanut Chews didn't find a more receptive audience nationally; but I am pretty sure why sales slipped in the Philly region. Simply put, we don't like change. For the most part we all hate change, but as a city we have turned not liking change to an art form. As soon as the look of the Peanut Chew wrapper changed we assumed the worst.
Whether it is building an office tower higher than Billy Penn's hat, changing the color of the Eagles uniforms or the look of our favorite candy, we translate "new and improved" to mean not as good. As soon as the candy wrapper changed Peanut Chew fans flew into immediate speculation that Just Born was changing the recipe.
This is not to suggest Philadelphians are not willing to try new things; the Philly food scene is bursting with restaurateurs and artisan food producers exploring new foods. We can embrace the new, but a pox on the house of those who would change what we love or perhaps more importantly what we are used to.
There are talented new confectioners working in Philly today, and while I love a dark chocolate sea salt caramel as much as the next person, as a Philadelphian I am loyal to the tastes of my childhood.
Eating a Peanut Chews as an afternoon pick me up or waiting impatiently for the seasonal appearance of a Zitner Butter Krak Eggs right before Easter is the birthright of growing up a Philadelphian As for the Peanut Chew, the good folks at Just Born are no dummies, the name Goldenberg's is back on the wrapper which has been changed back to its original colors. Local advertising has increased tooting the Peanut Chew as "Old School"
So if the folks in California don't want a Peanut Chew with or without the name Goldenberg's on it, so be it. Yo, whadda we care, more for us anyway.