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After 60 years, Peeps chicks are still a hot candy

Peeps are ready to be purchased in their little yellow box at the Peeps & Company store in Bethlehem, Pa.

Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Peeps are ready to be purchased in their little yellow box at the Peeps & Company store in Bethlehem, Pa.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — It’s Easter morning. A boy rouses his younger brother, and they run to the living room to find their baskets filled with — what else? — Peeps.

‘‘Peeps are THE candy of Easter,’’ the excited boy tells his wide-eyed sibling. ‘‘You can eat ‘em, smash ‘em, microwave ‘em, deep fry ‘em, roast ‘em on a stick,’’ the boy explains. That’s not all. You can make ‘‘Peeps pop art . . . hide-and-go Peeps . . . Peepshi — that’s sushi made out of Peeps.’’

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As the storied candy brand celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, Peeps’ first television advertisement in a decade captures an essential truth about the spongy confection made of sugar, corn syrup and gelatin: Love them or hate them, people do all sorts of things with Peeps, only some of which involve giving them to kids at Easter or eating them straight from the box.

‘‘Everyone seems to have a Peeps story,’’ said Ross Born, third-generation operator of Just Born Inc., which hatches 5 million Peeps a day at its plant 60 miles north of Philadelphia. ‘‘And they are free and willing to talk about how they eat their Peeps, how they cure them, how they store them, how they decorate with them. And these are adults!’’

Just Born calls it the ‘‘Peepsonality’’ of consumers who buy Peeps not only to eat, but also to play around with.

Not that he’s complaining. Just Born had its best year financially in 2012.

His grandfather, Russian immigrant Sam Born, started the candy company out of a Brooklyn storefront 90 years ago. Born advertised the freshness of his product with a sign that said ‘‘Just Born.’’ The name stuck.

The business moved to Bethlehem and acquired the Peeps brand with its 1953 purchase of Rodda Candy Co. of Lancaster. Best known for its jelly beans, Rodda had also introduced a small line of marshmallow chicks and bunnies.

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