The Untold Truth Of Affy Tapples

The caramel apple is the ultimate dental paradox. Delta Dental observes that "an apple a day may keep the dentist away" by reducing consumption of refined sugars, as in the kind your mouth encounters when you eat caramel. What diabolical mastermind thought up this mishmash of oral health and cavity fodder? If the Affy Tapple tagline is to be believed, it was "The Original Caramel Apple." According to the Affy Tapple website, Mrs. Edna Kastrup invented the confection-fruit hybrid in 1948, and the Kastrup family founded the first Affy Tapple store four years later in Chicago.

The brand was evidently hellbent on being first, not only chronologically but alphabetically. Its name was designed to make it the first entry in the phone book. However, while its website alleges that Edna Kastrup made "the first caramel apple created in the United States," in 2014, Affy Tapple marketing manager Jenny Cueva told ABC 7 Chicago, "It's actually the first commercially made caramel apple." Meanwhile, My Recipes credits Kraft Foods employee Dan Walker with creating the first caramel apple. Walker allegedly dipped the fruit into melted caramels after one fateful Halloween in the 1950s.

Was Affy Tapple as creative with its chronology as it was with its spelling? Wherever the truth lies, Affy Tapple forged its own story, becoming a Chicago icon, a friend to sweet teeth everywhere, and a tricky treat that probably haunts the thoughts of dentists on Halloween.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree of knowledge

With a name that reads like a scrambled game of Scrabble or the world's most embarrassingly bungled Wheel of Fortune answer, Affy Tapple doesn't exactly scream education. But as marketing manager Jenny Cueva explained, the caramel apples "started as a fundraising tradition, selling it to local schools." The Affy Tapple website writes that The Original Caramel Apple put the "fun" in "fundraising" and continues to do so to this day, assisting sports teams, and student clubs in Chicago. 

Per the Digital Research Library of Illinois History Journal, throughout the 1960s and '70s "Affy Tapple Day" became a cherished tradition at Chicago schools. Fundraising events procured caramel apples with broken sticks and chocolate-covered bananas for five cents a pop. But Affy Tapples didn't just sell like hotcakes at learning institutions. By the 1980s, they had made their way into Walgreens, Jewel-Osco, and other local grocery stores. By 1995, would-be buyers were bobbing for Affy Tapple. According to company president Stuart Sorkin, "Everybody and their grandmother wanted to buy it." In 1995, private investors – and presumably their grandmothers – sealed the deal, purchasing the company from the Kastrup family. In 2000, the company relocated from its Chicago headquarters to a swanky facility in Niles, Illinois. The company's expansion would continue with the 2001 acquisition of the Mrs. Prindables company. In 2013, Affy Tapple rolled out a new line of delights, including Pretzel Bites, Homemade Caramels, and Mini Chocolate Covered Sandwich Cookies.

The fate of iffy Affy Tapples

In 2017, Insider reported that Affy Tapple manufactures 10 million caramel apples a year, which works out to seven every second. At the time it was producing 20 tons of caramel to coat its seemingly bottomless barrel of apples. The company's marketing manager said in 2014, "We'll get two truckloads of apples a day – Empires or Jonathans – from either Michigan or Washington." Each undergoes a size test, and those that make the grade get a stick shoved through them before being cloaked in caramel and rolled in peanuts. But what happens to Affy Tapples that aren't up to snuff?

Everyone knows that one bad caramel apple spoils the bunch. But in 1988, the Chicago Tribune described how the brand managed to sell a bunch of iffy Affy Tapples without spoiling the good batches. Apples with broken sticks or that weren't perfectly coated in caramel were sold for 25 cents. Taking that tack not only helped recoup the loss of the rejected product but also drew in prospective employees.

Affy tap ale

The name "Affy Tapples" evokes images of a person drunkenly slurring the words "affable tadpoles" at a bar. So it might seem natural, maybe even inevitable, that this fruity dessert would come in alcoholic form one day. That day came in 2020. As detailed by FOX 32 Chicago, Affy Tapple and Phase Three Brewing joined forces to produce a caramel-apple-flavored beer. Per a press release, the drink combines a blonde ale, apple juice, peanuts, and Affy Tapple's trademark caramel to "to create the unmistakable aroma and flavor of an Affy Tapple Caramel Apple."

Admittedly, that bit about the peanuts makes the drink sound a bit like a choking hazard, but in fantastic news, it received pretty good reviews from folks who hope you'll buy it. While the beer comes in a can, Phase Three Brewing's head brewer, Shaun Berns, makes the taste sound uncanny: "It really kind of delivers that Affy Tapple flavor profile, from tartness to the sweet caramel flavors and the peanuts. It's everything. Everything's all there. It's cool." Affy Tapple CEO Brandon Beavers lauded the beer as "fun" and punnily remarked that "it taps into a different crowd." And since it's booze, even if it strikes you as an acquired taste, you might acquire it once your BAC reaches a certain tipping point.