At a recent Mariners' game, I began wondering why ballparks don't peddle cotton candy in team colors. After all, all cotton candy is artificially colored, and it's no harder to spin floss from green sugar crystals than from pink sugar crystals.
According to Steve Dominguez, general manager for Centerplate at Safeco Field, cotton-candy consumers wouldn't stand for the switch. Concessionaires who experiment with nontraditional colors always revert to proven best-sellers, he reports.
"We have tried team-specific colors, but the guest always prefers the pink and blue," Dominguez e-mails. "I think people identify those colors for cotton candy."
The 1890 Caramel Corn Co. in Bellingham offers cotton candy in a range of colors, including yellow, green, and purple. If customers want a specific color that's not on the standard list, the 1890 Caramel Corn Co. can manufacture it for them. But owner Perry Neumann says few customers request that service.
"Oh, pink and blue are the most popular," he confirms.
Neumann has no idea why eaters have rejected cotton candy in other colors.
"You know, it's hard to say," he says. "We've tried to figure out the whys of it."
Spun sugar likely dates back centuries, but the treat didn't take off until a pair of Nashville inventors electrified the production process, introducing a machine that forced sugar crystals onto a heated spinning plate. William Morrison and John C. Wharton brought their contraption to the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, selling 68,655 boxes of "fairy floss" for a quarter apiece, the same price as admission to the fair's notorious premature baby sideshow.
None of the resources I consulted revealed whether Morrison and Wharton served pink cotton candy (which wasn't so named until the 1920s), but the color's popularity may have predated their arrival on the cotton-candy scene. According to a late 19th-century British confectioners' instruction manual quoted at The Food Timeline, colored sugar candy was widely available in contemporary London.
"The pink and white candy . . . generally command a remunerative figure, besides being attractive as a window decoration," Skuse's Complete Confectioner advised readers. Dark brown and pale yellow candies weren't as profitable, the book warned.
At some point over the last century, the association between pink and cotton candy was cemented.
"People are generally used to pink," Neumann says.