Ira “Bob” Born, known as the “Father of Peeps,” died on Sunday. He was 98.
Just Born Quality Confections, the Pennsylvania-based company that makes various candies, including the chick-shaped marshmallows, confirmed Born’s death in a statement. The company said that Born will be “remembered as a tireless and passionate advocate for the candy industry and a wonderful supporter of our community.”
Born was part of the second generation in the family business that his father, Sam Born, founded in 1923. His son, Ross, retired as CEO in 2021.
“We extend our deepest sympathy to his son, Ross, and the entire family,” said David Shaffer, board chair and co-CEO of Just Born.
Bob joined the company in 1945 after graduating from Lehigh University with a degree in engineering physics, and service in the US Navy. Just Born said in the statement that he “devoted his life to Just Born and the science and process of candy making,” adding that he was an “inventor whose amazing intellect allowed him to see solutions to almost any situation.”
Peeps have been around since the early 1950s when Just Born bought a smaller candy company that had been making the marshmallow candy by hand. Born used his engineering skills to “mechanize the marshmallow-forming process,” reducing the time it took to make a Peeps package from 27 hours to just 6 minutes,” according to the company’s website. That helped him earn the nickname “Father of Peeps.”
Originally created for Easter, Peeps makes themed candy for other holidays, too, including Valentine’s Day and Halloween. However, Easter accounts for about 75% of Peeps sales each year.
Born also created new machinery to boost the production speed of some of its other products, including Hot Tamales and Mike and Ike candies.
He was born in New York City in 1924. His father, Sam, a Russian immigrant, founded Just Born a year prior. The family relocated to Bethlehem a few years later, where the company still operates.
Ross Born told the Lehigh Valley News said his father was a “real mensch,” adding that he was a “kind person, he was generous with his talents, sharing his abilities.”
“The candy business was kind of catchy … it was interesting to him,” Ross Born told the newspaper. “He enjoyed the science, the technology, the processing, he was very much into the equipment.”