With Easter just around the corner, one might start to wonder why the Easter Bunny is the one who delivers the eggs and candy to children. This question definitely popped up in my mind.
The first time a story about a rabbit hiding eggs in a garden was published in 1680. Later, the rabbit was called the Easter Bunny, to make it more appealing to children. The story, however, raises a lot of questions. Who is the Easter Bunny’s egg supplier? Was that the first time the eggs were hidden by a bunny, or was it just the first time it was caught? Due to the lack of information available, it is safe to say that the Easter Bunny’s supply chain might not be the most transparent one.
Nowadays, the Easter Bunny is faced with very different customer preferences, compared to 1680. Children are not only expecting to find colored eggs in their Easter baskets, but also toys and candy. Actually, the most popular Easter gifts are chocolate eggs or bunnies, Peeps and jelly beans. Let’s have a look at some of the supply chain processes and fun facts behind the Easter holiday.
The origin of Easter and Easter candy
The name Easter comes from a goddess Eostre (also known as Ostara, Estre or Oesrtre), who was first mentioned by a scholar named Bede. In the book ‘De Temporum Ratione’, the author wrote that the month of April was known as Eostremonth to Anglo-Saxons, named after the aforementioned goddess. In the Pagan calendar, April was a celebration of the High Feast of Ostara. Eostre was known to be a symbol of hare and egg. It is believed that this is where the Easter Bunny tradition originates. Moreover, eggs were always an integral part of pagan celebrations and they were given as a symbol of rebirth in many cultures.
The first chocolate Easter egg was made in Europe in the early 19th century. France and Germany took the lead in making this new type of artistic confectionary. At first, the chocolate eggs were solid, as the technology for mass-produced molded chocolate had not been invented yet. Modern chocolate eggs were made possible by two inventions: the press for separating cocoa butter from the cocoa bean, invented in 1828 by the Dutch, and the introduction of a pure cocoa by Cadbury Brothers in 1866 in the UK.
Interesting Easter supply chain facts
Easter is the second biggest candy eating occasion in the USA. According to the National Confectioner’s Association, about 7 billion pounds of candy, worth over $2.1 billion, were consumed in 2011. Here are 10 interesting facts about Easter candy:
- Around 70% of candy bought for Easter is chocolate.
- 90 million chocolate Easter bunnies are produced annually in the USA.
- 76% of Americans believe that the ears of the chocolate bunny should be eaten first.
- 4 billion chocolate eggs are produced in the US annually.
- The largest Easter egg made out of chocolate and marshmallows was over 25ft high and weighed 8,968 lbs.
- In the US, about 16 billion jelly beans are consumed over Easter. If all the jellybeans would be lined up end to end, they could circle the world almost three times.
- 700 million Peeps are made in the US every year, which makes them the most popular non-chocolate Easter candy.
- 5 million Marshmallow bunnies, Peeps, and other shapes are produced every day in preparation for Easter.
- In just one year, Just Born (the producer of Peeps) produces enough Marshmallow Peeps to circle the globe twice.
- In 1953, it took 27 hours to produce one Marshmallow Peep. Due to improved production technologies, today it takes only 6 minutes.
The most popular non-chocolate Easter candy is Peeps, produced by Just Born. Peeps were first made by the Rodda Candy Company which was bought by Sam Born in 1953. Production of one marshmallow chick used to take 27 hours, as they were individually hand-squeezed through pastry tubes. A revolution took place after Sam’s son, Bob Born, invented a machine which was able to mass produce the marshmallow chicks, which he named Peeps. The new machine cut the production time to 6 minutes per Peep, which allowed the factory to produce more than 3.8 million marshmallow treats per day. Since then, Peeps not only are the most popular non-chocolate Easter candy, but they also became an interesting phenomenon, as people not only eat Peeps, but also create art from them, including historically accurate Peeps dioramas, pop art or Peeps topiary.
Pool Points of Peeps
Delivering 700 million Peeps every year is definitely not an easy task. Just Born chose a unique supply chain strategy to overcome the challenge. The company is using ‘pool points’ to distribute Peeps and other candy across the US. Before implementing this strategy, the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania based candy maker used to transport their products to two warehouses 75 miles away. However, since March 2010, the candy only has to travel 5 miles to a distribution center operated by a third party logistics (3PL) provider. According to Alan Sargent, the director of logistics for Just Born, more than 500,000 shuttle miles were eliminated, which meant that about 1,000 tons of carbon dioxide were taken out of the atmosphere.
Just Born uses less-than-truckload (LTL) and truckload (TL) shipping methods to deliver their goods to the ‘pool point’, where they are separated into smaller loads by 3PL firms and delivered to retailers all over the US. Just Born shares the distribution centers and warehouses with other confectionary manufacturers, which helps reduce costs as products from different companies are delivered to the same retailer on one truck. This innovative logistics solution is called collaborative transportation.
According to Michele Feutsch, this method has the potential to eliminate the distribution centers and warehouses leased or owned by manufacturers, as well as eliminate LTL shipments to retailers. In addition, it helps Just Born reduce their inventory as it is planned better, at the same time providing retailers and their customers with a better on-time performance (from the time the order is placed to the time of delivery).
The Peeps story represents an excellent example of how innovation and collaboration can improve supply chain operations. The supply shortage of Peeps would have been enormous had Bob Born not found a way to get production time down from 27 hours to six minutes. So when you bite into your first Peep or tear open your first chocolate egg this Easter, don’t forget to think about the journey these delicious treats made before landing in your Easter basket, especially that final magical delivery by the Easter Bunny.