The Reason Why We Ask 'How Many Licks' Does It Take To Get To The Center Of A Tootsie Pop

If you've ever pondered the question, "How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?" you're in good company. For over 50 years, this has been one of the greatest mysteries of our time. It was first posed by Tootsie Roll Industries' advertising agency, Doner, back in 1968 and has baffled minds ever since.

This phrase originated as the tagline of an animated commercial — very retro, complete with an ambiguously naked child and groovy swirling colors — where the question is asked to a cow, a fox, a turtle, and finally, an owl. All of the animals, in turn, admit that they bite into the pop, except for the owl, who proceeds to conduct his own experiment. He counts to three licks, then crunches into it! The answer, he says, is three, prompting the kid to joke, "If there's anything I can't stand, it's a smart owl." The commercial voice-over concludes by predicting that "the world may never know" the answer to the Tootsie Pop conundrum, thus ensuring generations of future candy eaters would rise to the challenge of proving it wrong.

Science has (sort of) answered the Tootsie Pop question

In 2015, a team of researchers from both Florida State University and NYU worked together to come up with a figure that was a bit closer to the mark than the response given by Mr. Owl. By their calculations, approximately 1,000 licks can penetrate a Tootsie Pop's outer candy shell and reveal the chewy Tootsie Roll filling within. Other university-conducted studies have gotten answers ranging from 252 to 411, although junior high students who staged a similar experiment only averaged 144 licks.

Even these scientific results haven't precluded others from conducting their own experiments, as candy connoisseurs have been doing with greater or lesser degrees of success for the better part of a century. According to a 2019 Reddit thread, one person made it to 843 licks, while two other people claim to have beaten the scientists by achieving lick counts of 1,100 and 1,200, respectively. Such self-control! We've never met anyone who made it past 20 licks. Still, the real reason people are still asking the question — and still licking away at Tootsie Pops — after all these years can be boiled down to two words: marketing genius. Any commercial that sticks in our heads for multiple generations is, indeed, a remarkable achievement.