With Easter right around the corner, store shelves are packed with Peeps, the colorful marshmallow chicks that have been synonymous with springtime for decades.

Handcrafted marshmallows given gourmet touches, unusual flavors by bakers, confectioners

While you may know that Peeps are made by the Just Born candy company of Bethlehem, you might not know that the Peep was first hatched in Lancaster, before they migrated northeast.

Here are five quick facts about the history of the humble Peep:

1. Peeps were made in Lancaster until 1953

Peeps were first made by the R.E. Rodda Candy Co., located at 347 Church St., Lancaster. Founded in 1908, the company was known for its jelly beans, jelly eggs and sugar-coated almonds, according to historical records. While those records don't tell us when the first Peep was made, we do know the company - and its now-famous marshmallow chicks - were bought by Just Born in 1953.

Peeps flavors

Three new Peeps flavors, Blue Raspberry, Party Cake and Sour Watermelon, are available in area stores.

2. Peeps were extremely labor-intensive.

Before Just Born developed an automated process to make Peeps assembly-line style, the treats were made entirely by hand - the little birds were squeezed out of giant pastry tubes, one at a time. They had to be conditioned for 24 hours so the marshmallow mixture could firm up. And yes, someone applied the little black eyes to every Peep by hand, one at a time. 

3. They're not labor-intensive anymore.

Including the conditioning time, Peeps took about 27 hours to make at the Rodda company. Now, Just Born cranks out about 3,600 Peeps per minute, producing a half-billion of them each year.

Sweet sensation in your Easter basket

Sugar-free Peeps Chicks debuted in 2007. (JUST BORN)

4. The recipe is essentially the same.

Despite all the changes in production, the Peep itself is the same as it ever was. The recipe is "pretty much the same" as it was when Rodda made Peeps, according to Just Born. 

5. Peeps are healthy, maybe?

With no fat at all, almost no sodium and only 160 calories for a five-Peep serving, Peeps are pretty good for you. As long as you don't think about the quantity of sugar.

Microwave fun: before and after Peeps

The Peep on the left is fresh out of the box. The Peep on the right has been microwaved.

Microwave your Peeps, have them do battle or create a work of art
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For more LancLife food, click here. 

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