The History of Life Savers Candy

Rolls of LifeSavers Candy
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In 1912, chocolate manufacturer Clarence Crane of Cleveland, Ohio invented Life Savers. They were conceived as a “summer candy” that could withstand heat better than chocolate.

Since the mints looked like miniature life preservers, Crane called them Life Savers. He did not have space or machinery to make them, however, so he contracted with a pill manufacturer to have the mints pressed into shape.

Edward Noble

After registering the trademark in 1913, Crane sold the rights to the peppermint candy to Edward Noble of New York for $2,900.

From there, Noble started his own candy company. The first official Life Savor flavor was Pep-O-Mint, though options soon expanded. By 1919, six other flavors (Wint-O-Green, Cl-O-ve, Lic-O-Rice, Cinn-O-Mon, Vi-O-Let, and Choc-O-Late) had been created, and these remained the standard flavors until the late 1920s. In 1920, a new flavor called Malt-O-Milk was introduced, but it was not received well by the public and was discontinued after only a few years.

Notably, Noble created tin-foil wrappers to keep the mints fresh instead of cardboard rolls. The wrapping process was completed by hand for six years until machinery was developed by Noble's brother, Robert Peckham Noble, to streamline the process. A Purdue-educated engineer, Robert took his younger brother's entrepreneurial vision and designed and built the manufacturing facilities needed to expand the company. He then led the company as its chief executive officer and primary shareholder for more than 40 years until selling the company in the late 1950s.

Fruit Drops

In 1921, the company built on mints and began to produce solid fruit drops, and by 1925, technology improved to allow for a hole in the center of the fruity Life Saver. These were introduced as the "fruit drop with the hole" and came in three fruit flavors, each packaged in their own separate rolls. These new flavors quickly became popular with the public, and, like the mints, more flavors were quickly introduced.

In 1935, the classic "Five-Flavor" rolls were introduced, offering a selection of five different flavors (pineapple, lime, orange, cherry, and lemon) in each roll. This flavor lineup was unchanged for nearly 70 years—in 2003, three of the flavors were replaced in the United States, making the new lineup pineapple, cherry, raspberry, watermelon, and blackberry. However, blackberry was eventually dropped and the company reintroduced orange to the rolls. The original five-flavor lineup is still sold in Canada. 

Nabisco

In 1981, Nabisco Brands Inc. acquired Life Savers. Nabisco introduced a new cinnamon flavor ("Hot Cin-O-Mon") as a clear fruit drop-type candy. In 2004, the U.S. Life Savers business was acquired by Wrigley's which, in 2006, introduced two new mint flavors for the first time in more than 60 years: Orange Mint and Sweet Mint. They also revived some of the early mint flavors, like Wint-O-Green.

Life Savers production was based in Holland, Michigan, until 2002 when it was relocated to Montreal, Québec, Canada.