A Peek At Peeps

Marshmallow Peeps at the Just Born factory in Bethlehem, Pa., April 2. Just Born Inc. is celebrating its 50th year of adorning Easter baskets and satisfying sweet tooths with the colorful confections. AP

Peeps -- those sweet, enduring and ubiquitous little sugarcoated chicks and bunnies -- have been gracing Easter baskets for over 50 years.

In that time, reports Correspondent Rita Braver on CBS News Sunday Morning, they've evolved beyond an Easter tradition into the subject of an astonishing, almost cult-like following.

Go on the Web, notes Braver, and you'll find hundreds of sites devoted to Peeps.

She tracked down the people behind three of them: an artist who creates his art using only Peeps; two librarians who explored Peeps' "research abilities"; and a filmmaker putting together a documentary about Peeps.

Braver also touches on a site with a budding, tongue-in-cheek feature film/novel about Peeps.

She offers a small sampling of the true affection this confection has attracted on the Web.

Peeps have been made since 1953 by Just Born, Inc., of Bethlehem, Pa.. The company says it produces more than 1 billion peeps a year, and as many as 4.2 million a day. It adds that more than 700 million will be gobbled up worldwide this Easter season.

Just Born says it's America's largest manufacturer of seasonal marshmallow confections, with Peeps "hailing as the top selling non-chocolate Easter candy brand for the last decade. Peeps marshmallow candies even outsell jellybeans."

People like to do curious things with Peeps, according to the company: eat them stale, microwave them, freeze them, roast them, and use them as a pizza topping.

Peeps chicks and bunnies come in 5 colors. Yellow chicks are the most popular, followed by pink, lavender, blue, and white.

For anyone who bothers to worry about his or her weight when tossing down Peeps, each has 32 calories –- or 160 calories per "five-chick serving," Just Born notes – but zero grams of fat.

Incidentally, it would take approximately 8,000 vertical Peeps to equal the height of the tallest building in North America, Sears Tower in Chicago.

For more fun facts about Peeps, click here.

But sheer numbers don't begin to tell Peeps' story, Braver points out.

They've garnered almost unparalleled devotion, as witnessed by a plethora of Web sites devoted to them.

Like David Ottogalli's.

He showcases art on Peepsshow.com that he makes with one vehicle and one vehicle only. You guessed it – Peeps.

Ottogalli's site is, it says, "where Peeps reign supreme!"

"The following pages are just a taste of the types of peepy colors I've done," the site says. "I love mixing and contrasting colors. You should see them glow under a black light!

"I've created works in sizes ranging from 3"x5" to 24"x48". I've done all color combinations -- on black as well as colored backgrounds: rows and rows and rows and rows of peeps, circular patterns, an American flag, Peeps in a coop, Peeps in a shrine.
The possibilities are endless!"

Naturally, the site is chock full of photos of Ottogalli's peeped creations.

Then there's Power of the Peep.com, carrying the name of a documentary on the fine candied friends being made by Matthew Beals. He says the film should be ready for next Easter.

Peeps are a big draw on college campuses: witness a site devoted to "Peeps research."

There, Susan Avery and Jennifer Masciadrelli of Millikin University in Decatur, Ill. Observe that, "Although scientific and health research has been conducted on Peeps, most notably that appearing on the Peep Research website (see ), we have noted an absence of research focusing on the ability of Peeps themselves to actually do research. To address this lack, we invited a small group of Peeps to visit Staley Library at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois during the week of March 17-21, 2003 so that we could more closely observe their research practices. This was determined to be an ideal week for the Peeps to visit the library, as Millikin University students were on spring break. The research that follows documents their visit to the library and provides some evaluative commentary on our assessment of Peeps and library usage."

The tale is told in word and picture. Lots and lots and lots of pictures, of Peeps at the library.

Peeps are also the stuff of novels. Online novels, to be exact.

The Lord of the Peeps is the title of an ongoing tome, being written chapter by chapter, with a parody of the movie "Lord of the Rings" also mentioned: "Entropy House Productions brings to the big screen epic adventure as it has never been presented before. Come with us on a quest to defeat darkness, to save the world from the menace of unsleeping evil.

"The Dark Lord Sauron needs but a trifle, a golden ring, to fold Middle-Earth into eternal night. It is given to one small person, Frodo of the Shire, to carry the Ring through many perils to destroy it in the fires of Mount Doom."

But it isn't telling tales out of school to reveal that Frodo, that most unlikely ring bearer is -- a Peep.
  • Brian Dakss

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