The Surprising Origin Of Pop Rocks

Pop Rocks are at the epicenter of one of the most widely circulated urban legends of all time; at least, in the world of artificially flavored popping candy. You know the one: If you consume Pop Rocks and a can of soda at the same time, your stomach will explode. It's not true, according to Pop Rocks (and science), but the rumor certainly rocked (pardon the pun) everyone's world in the 1970s. So much so, in fact, that in 1979, People reported that General Foods, the company behind Pop Rocks, had spent a small fortune on advertising and letters to school principals to quash the scuttlebutt at its source: dramatic children and their nervous parents. The explosive candy was even discontinued for a short time, while everyone calmed down a bit (via Science World).

But before the madness, Pop Rocks candy was simply an innovative way to experience a sugar rush. Every disruptor has a cool, explosive garage site origin story, and Pop Rocks is no different. According to the Pop Rocks website, the popping powerhouse was the brainchild of William A. Mitchell, a chemist employed by General Foods, who invented "Carbonated Candy" in 1956. Mitchell had been injecting hard candy with carbon dioxide — as one does — in an effort to create "instant soda."

The exploding candy more delicious than dangerous

Though instant soda never really caught on, Mitchell's recipe was found and tweaked nearly 20 years later, becoming the Pop Rocks we all know, love, and have a healthy fear of today. Apparently, the daring danger of Pop Rocks was present at a molecular level from the candy's start, too: "It became a game — who could swallow the biggest chunk," Mitchell told People, about how General Foods scientists poured into his office to check out the carbonated candy pieces.

Before long, tiny scientists in schoolyards across the country would be testing their own Pop Rocks mettle. Even America's rumor mill turned out to be no match for the exploding sweet, and, according to their website, Pop Rocks is the leading popping candy brand worldwide today. The unique confection has sparked (sorry, last one) cocktails, unusual food dishes, and science fair volcanos ever since. Hat tip, Mr. Mitchell, and thanks for abandoning the whole "instant soda" thing.