Turkish Taffy's Early History
Posted by Ken Shenkman on Oct 1st 2012
Contrary to popular misinformation Turkish Taffy was not invented by Victor Bonomo (pronounced "Bah nah moe"), but by Herman Herer in New York back in 1912. While making a batch of marshmallow candy for Herman accidentally added too many egg whites. Instead of throwing the whole mess away, he realized that he may be on to something. After a lot of experimentation and testing, Herman created “Turkish Taffy”. Unfortunately, no one actually knows why Herman came up with the name or in what manner he sold or marketed Turkish Taffy.
Several years later, Herman’s business was bought out by M. Schwarz & Sons and Herman went to work for them perfecting his Turkish Taffy. M. Schwarz & Sons renamed the product to Turkish Chewing Taffy. It was sold with miniature elf figures wearing chef hats and cooking Turkish Chewing Taffy over fire-heated open kettles.
The Bonomo's Big Break
In 1936, Schwartz and sons sold the business to the Bonomo family of Coney Island, New York. The Bonomos made the decision to drop the word “Chewing” and referred to the candy as “Turkish Taffy”. Eventually Turkish Taffy and Bonomo’s became synonymous that most people referred to it as Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy. After a battle in the U.S. Court of Customs & Patents, the Bonomo Family trade-marked the terms “Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy” and “Turkish Taffy” starting in 1946.
Herman Herer circa 1912
At first, Turkish Taffy was only sold to concessionaires on the Coney Island boardwalk. Joe Bonomo was responsible for making a deal for F.W. Woolworth Company (Woolworth’s 5 & 10 ¢ stores) to sell Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy. It was sold in mass quantities featuring large rectangular blocks from which pieces were broken off by a small hammer known as a ball-peen, and whack the large taffy sheets, breaking off shards that were sold by the pound.
During WW2, Victor renamed Bonomo and Sons to Gold Medal Candy Corporation. After the sugar rationing in the late 1940s, Gold Medal Candy Corp. formed and
Joe Bonomo cut the blocks into large size candy bars wrapped in wax paper, using similar figures and images from their predecessor, M. Schwarz & Sons. The bars sold for 5¢ and came in vanilla only. The use of a wrapped bar allowed customers to break up Turkish Taffy on their own terms and “Crack It Up” became a popular tag line.
Sales for the new bar were high, except in the summer. Because the taffy got soft and pliable by higher temperatures, the customers were confused and annoyed because it wasn't what they expected. These problems were cured by the innovative use of a foil wrapper, which came with specific eating instructions, “CRACK IT UP! - HOLD BAR IN PALM OF HAND - STRIKE AGAINST FLAT SURFACE - LET IT MELT IN YOUR MOUTH”. Sometime thereafter, Gold Medal expanded the flavor line to include peanut butter, chocolate, strawberry and banana flavors. Easy to eat bite-size pieces, wrapped in the wax paper twists, were also added to the Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy line.
Joe Bonomo was also a body builder and played professional football.
In 1972, Tootsie Roll Industries bought the rights to Bonomo’s Turkish Taffy. Tootsie made a big mistake and changed the sixty-year-old tried and true smack-it crack-it formula to a soft taffy. They dropped the name “Turkish Taffy”, changed the ingredients, packaging, and shape. Eventually, the product was named Soft and Chewy Tootsie Taffy, which never gained much popularity and was later discontinued.
The Fans Cry Out!
The demand for Turkish Taffy never ended. Fans got together to petition the return of Bonomo Turkish Taffy. On the world wide web, blogs and discussion groups were formed to talk about the taffy and complain about its unavailability. After many years of trying, Kenny Wiesen and Jerry Sweeney were finally successful in acquiring Bonomo Turkish Taffy in 2002.
Kenny and Jerry spent a considerable amount of time and effort to get the formula back to its original smack-it crack-it consistency. Bonomo Turkish Taffy, LLC relaunched Turkish Taffy in the summer of 2010 - introducing it at the largest candy show in the world, The NCA (National Confectionery Association) Sweets and Snack show held in Chicago. Bonomo Turkish Taffy is now produced in York, Pennsylvania exactly the way it was between the 1940’s and 1972. Yeah!
Where can you buy Bonomo's Turkish Taffy?
At Bulk Candy Store, of course. We've got all your favorite flavors like vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and banana, so grab some of your favorite taffy today!