Ribbon candy is a traditional Christmas candy that goes back for centuries in Europe, though it is unclear exactly where the candy was first created.
Confectioners developed the candy as a Christmas decoration for their shops, modeling the wavy form around the candy maker’s thumb. In the 1800s mechanical crimpers were invented to shape the ribbons. Finger-like crimpers simulated the curl originally put into the candy by hand. A candy maker made the candy, another spun off a ribbon and fed it into a crimper which was then turned by hand. Finally, the curly ribbon was cut with scissors as it came down a small conveyor.
Mechanical crimpers worked well, but the process was slow and very labor-intensive. As demand increased for ribbon candy, it became clear that another way to make the candy had to be found. Until the 1940s ribbon candy was never made on a large scale, because more sophisticated equipment was needed. A single spinning roll was developed and it was found that by very careful tending of the candy batch, the hand spinner could be eliminated and the automated machine could run faster. The big bottleneck was in having to cut the candy with scissors. An air activated automatic cutter was invented by Sevigny Candy and is still in use today by F.B. Washburn Candy, which purchased Sevigny Candy in June 1986. The Brockton, Massachusetts-based F.B. Washburn Candy company is now the primary source for ribbon candy in the US and Canada.
Ribbon Candy became a Christmas tradition all over the New England area and has now spread throughout the country.