9 Sweet Facts About Marshmallow Fluff
Fluff. It’s sticky and gooey, yet soft and easy to spread. The perfect complement to peanut butter and bread, it’s a favorite snack across much of the United States—particularly in New England, where the word Fluffernutter is nearly synonymous with childhood. But Fluff is more than just marshmallow crème. It is a living relic of the early 20th century, and it is in no danger of losing steam as its 100th birthday approaches. Read on to learn more about Fluff—and the company that's been producing it since 1917.
1. WORLD WAR I KILLED THE CREATOR'S DOOR-TO-DOOR BUSINESS.
Although marshmallow crème products have existed since at least the 1890s—one enterprising company even marketed it as a wrinkle treatment—a Somerville, Massachusetts-based confectioner by the name of Archibald Query created the version most people know today. Query sold the sweet condiment, which he first whipped up in his kitchen in 1917, door-to-door, until a sugar shortage during WWI put a damper on his enterprise. With his business faltering, Query decided to sell his recipe to two veterans, H. Allen Durkee and Fred Mower, for $500. At the time, Fluff was selling for $1 a gallon. Today, you can get 16 oz. for $2.
2. THE RECIPE USED TODAY IS THE SAME ONE DEVELOPED 99 YEARS AGO.
Fluff has always been made from just four ingredients: sugar, dried egg whites, corn syrup and vanilla. (Today, the manufacturer uses liquid sugar instead of granulated, and vanillin, an artificial flavoring, instead of vanilla.) Corn syrup and sugar are melted together, then poured into 6-foot-tall mixing bowls, after which workers measure the egg whites and vanilla for each batch by hand. The only part of the recipe that remains a secret is how long they whip the Fluff.
Fluff's packaging, design, factory, and production process haven't changed much since the 1950s, either. Much of the equipment used by the manufacturers is original, which the company admits can make upkeep and maintenance difficult.
3. FLUFF HAS STAYED IN THE FAMILY.
Durkee and Mower started producing and selling Fluff—which they first called Toot Sweet Marshmallow Fluff—in 1920. In 1929, they bought a factory in Lynn, Mass., but had to move to a bigger building just five years later in order to accommodate their growing business. In the 1950s they moved for the final time into a factory they designed expressly for the manufacturing of marshmallow crème, increasing the speed of production from 80 jars per minute to 125 jars per minute. They've been there ever since.
H. Allen passed the reins onto his son Don, who then passed them to his son Jon. Jon Durkee says he hopes one day one of his children will take over for him.
4. DURKEE-MOWER MAKES FLUFF, AND ONLY FLUFF.
Even as other food corporations continue to diversify (or are absorbed by giant conglomerates), Durkee-Mower stands by their commitment to Fluff. Starting in 1929, the company also sold Sweeco, an instant hot chocolate powder mix, but they abandoned the product in 1962 and never branched out again.
5. NEW ENGLANDERS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR HALF OF THE WORLD'S FLUFF SALES.
While Fluff is marketed and sold around the world—including in Japan, Canada, Israel, Russia, Germany, and many other parts of Europe—Fluff still isn't available everywhere in the United States, and most of its sales take place in New England. Durkee-Mower manages to sell nearly 7 million pounds of the sweet stuff a year; 50 percent of those sales occur in New England and upstate New York.
6. THE FLUFFERNUTTER IS AS AMERICAN AS IT GETS.
Paul Revere's great-great-great granddaughter Emma Curtis—who, along with her brother, sold a Fluff-like product they called Snowflake Marshmallow Crème—was reportedly the first to slap together two slices of bread with layers of peanut butter and marshmallow between them. She published her recipe during World War I, calling her delicious (and thrifty) invention the "Liberty Sandwich." An ad agency coined the term "Fluffernutter" for Durkee-Mower in the '60s.
Legend erroneously has it that Elvis Presley’s favorite sandwich was a Fluffernutter fried with lots of butter. In fact, it was actually a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich. But just because Fluffernutter has been slighted by the king doesn’t mean it doesn’t reign supreme, particularly in Massachusetts.
7. FLUFF HAS ITS OWN FESTIVAL.
The “What the Fluff?” Fluff Festival just celebrated its 10th year in Fluff's hometown of Somerville. It takes place every September, drawing more than 10,000 visitors each year. Surprisingly, Durkee-Mower had nothing to do with the festival's formation—they've never even attended.
“I think it’s done very well, but we pretty much just stay out of the way,” Jon Durkee said in a 2014 interview for Boston magazine. “We donate product, but we don’t get involved other than that. One of these days we’ll have to go down there, but we’ll do it incognito.”
8. IT CAUSED A "KERFLUFFLE" IN THE MASSACHUSETTS LEGISLATURE.
In 2006, State Senator Jarrett Barrios was appalled to learn his son's elementary school cafeteria offered Fluffernutter sandwiches as a menu option. The politician announced his intention to add an amendment to a school nutrition bill, banning Fluff from Massachusetts schools.
One state representative, Kathi-Anne Reinstein, decided to fight back, proposing that the snack be named Massachusetts' official state sandwich. "We grew up on Fluff," Reinstein declared, accusing Barrios of "attacking a local business."
The battle—or "Fluffgate," as Reinstein called it—tied up the legislature for a week. Barrios eventually backed down, as did the pro-Fluff politicians, allowing officials to return to slightly more pressing matters. Like, you know, the state budget.
9. IT'S BEEN TO THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION.
Sunita Williams, former commander of the International Space Station, made sure a container of Fluff (or three) accompanied her during her 322-day journey. "We take things to remind us of home," she told the BBC in 2013. "I was sent marshmallow crème to make my childhood favorite 'Fluffernutter' sandwiches on a tortilla with peanut butter." She showed off her stash in a 2012 YouTube tour of the ISS: