Pez (trademarked PEZ, in capitals) is the brand name of an Austrian confectionery and the mechanical pocket dispensers for the same. The confectionery itself takes the shape of pressed, dry, straight-edged blocks (15 mm (5/8 inch) long, 8 mm wide and 5 mm high), with Pez dispensers holding 12 Pez pieces.
The name Pez was derived from the letters at the start, the middle and the end of the German word for peppermint, Pfefferminz, the first Pez flavor. Pez was originally introduced in Austria, later exported, notably to the U.S., and eventually became available worldwide. The all-uppercase spelling of the logo echoes the trademark’s style on the packaging and the dispensers themselves, with the logo drawn in perspective and giving the appearance that the letters are built out of 44 brick-like Pez confectioneries (14 bricks in the P and 15 in each of the E and Z).
Despite the widespread recognition of the Pez dispenser, the company considers itself to be primarily a confectionery company, and says over 3 billion confectionery bricks are consumed each year in the U.S. alone. Pez Dispensers are part of popular culture in many nations. Because of the large number of dispenser designs over the years, Pez dispensers are collected by enthusiasts.
Pez was first marketed as a compressed peppermint sweet or candy in Vienna, Austria. It was invented in 1927 in Vienna by a confectioner named Eduard Haas III. Haas invented peppermints using family owned baking powders, and decided to serve the mints in small, hand-size containers. He manufactured a small tin to hold the mints, similar to the modern Altoids tins. The first Pez mint dispensers, known as “regulars,” were similar in shape to a cigarette lighter, and dispensed an adult breath mint marketed as an alternative to smoking. They were invented by Oscar Uxa. Haas Food Manufacturing Corporation of Vienna, Austria, was the first to sell Pez products.
World War II slowed marketing and production. In 1945, manufacturers devised and promoted the Pez Box Regular. In 1952 Eduard Haas introduced his product to the United States, and Curtis Allina headed Pez’s U.S. business. In 1955, the Pez company placed heads on the dispensers and marketed them for children. Santa Claus and Mickey Mouse were among the first character dispensers. Since 1950, over 1500 Pez dispensers, including the original character dispensers have been created.
In 1973, Pez built their factory in Orange, Connecticut. In 1983, Scott McWhinnie became the president of the Pez company. He retired in 2003. Joe Vittoria became President of the company in 2004. Around 2005 the size of the original factory was doubled and the Pez dispenser line was expanded. In the mid-1990s peppermint flavored Pez candies were reintroduced along with remakes of the ‘regulars’.
In early 2006 the family of the original founder of the company bought back 32.5% of the stock from investment company PGH for €18M. They now own 67.5% of the company. The headquarters are in Traun, Austria. The Pez candies are produced in Traun and Orange, Connecticut, while the dispensers are produced in Hungary and China.