Life Savers candy history (plus see a list of 30+ classic flavors)

Dozens of old Life Savers candy flavors

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There can be no denying that the Life Savers candy brand has one of the greatest lifespans in the world of sweets.

Those little hole-in-the-middle Life Savers were invented in 1912 by a confectionery manufacturer named Clarence Crane. His thought was that a heat-resistant product would sell better than chocolate in the summer months, which would often melt and get all gooey in the days before air conditioning.

1927- Life Savers - Peppermint

In Port Chester, New York — where there was a Life Savers manufacturing plant — the local Daily Item newspaper wrote this about the company’s history back in 1977:

During the first few years of making Life Savers, Crane was not particularly successful. In fact, when a salesman from New York City,  Edward Noble, called on him to offer some suggestions about how the product could be better marketed and advertised, Crane offered to sell the product, name and all, for $5,000.

Noble was able to raise $3,800, and Crane ultimately sold him the business for $2,900, which left Noble and a partner, Roy Allen, $900 in working capital.

Noble moved the business to New York City, where he began marketing the peppermint candies. But his success was seriously impaired by major problems. The mints were packaged in cardboard tubes. Not only did the tubes allow flavor to escape, the glue used in making them transferred to the Life Savers.

Down, but not out, Noble went to work developing a new package. He came up with a tin-foil wrapper and an outer cover of paper, and with it what he needed to keep the candy tasting fresh. 

Vintage Life Savers candy packaging (1951)

The candy roll was priced at just a nickel until 1969, when it went up to seven cents, and raised again in 1972 to 10 cents.

Life Savers are one of the few sweets you could find by the cash register in both the 1910s and the 2020s! It’s a pocket-candy icon spanning more than a century.

And what a life Life Savers have had! Not only is it interesting to see the various candy flavors over the years, the history of Life Savers candy ads is pretty fascinating, too — their marketing choices really reflect the changes in society from the 20s to the 80s (even though the packaging has changed very little in over 100 years).

Why is it called a Life Saver?

If you’ve wondered if the obvious answer is the actual answer, we can confirm! Life Savers are named after the fact that they look like an old-fashioned white shipboard life preserver flotation device ring. The inventor hired a pill-maker to produce the round candies in a shape that was unique at the time.

Crane's Peppermint Life Savers package

The company’s first candy packages featured a picture of a sailor tossing a life ring to a sinking swimmer, along with the slogan, “Crane’s Peppermint Life Savers – For That Stormy Breath.”

Life Savers candy flavor list

Classic Life Savers flavors over the years include

  1. Anise
  2. Apple
  3. Black Raspberry
  4. Blackberry
  5. Butter Rum
  6. Butter Scotch
  7. Cherry
  8. Choc-O-Late (chocolate)
  9. Choc-O-Mint
  10. Cin-O-Mon (cinnamon)
  11. Cl-O-Ve (clove)
  12. Cola
  13. Cryst-O-Mint
  14. Grape
  15. Lemon
  16. Lic-O-Rice (licorice)
  17. Lime
  18. Malt-O-Milk
  19. Molas-O-Mint
  20. Orange Mint
  21. Orange
  22. Pear
  23. Pep-O-Mint
  24. Pineapple
  25. Pink Grapefruit
  26. Raspberry
  27. Root Beer
  28. Spear-O-Mint
  29. Stik-O-Pep
  30. Sweet Mint
  31. Vi-O-Let (Violet)
  32. Watermelon
  33. Wild Cherry
  34. Wint-O-Green

Classic Life Savers candy roll - 1950s

“No ring? Here’s your Life Saver” (1919)

The man who can hand out Life Savers is the best man to go to for holesome candy. Eat one of these little pure-sugar rings and you will be wedded for life to the dainty, delicate quartet…

Each of the Life Saver flavors is as sweet as a June bride. PEP-O-MINT is full of delicious pep. CL-O-VE is warm with the spice o’ life. WINT-O-GREEN is cool and refreshing. LIC-O-RICE will make every moon a honeymoon.

When you buy substitutes, you take a chance for better or worse. You pay the Life Saver price and look in vain for Life Saver quality — this is breach-of-promise. Once you know these pure sugar-and-spice tidbits, nothing can alienate your affections.

Life Savers - The candy mint with the hole - Wedding (1919)

Life Savers for kids: Boy with a jam jar (1925)

Caught in the act! Do you know why children loot the jam jar?

Don’t be too hard on him. You did it yourself when you were a kid. If he didn’t do it — or want to do it — he wouldn’t be the kind of a youngster you’d be proud of — and show snapshot pictures of to your friends.

Life Savers, the little candy mints with the hole (life saver shape), answer this problem in just the right way. They are china-hard and deliciously flavored. This means that Life Savers are eaten slowly. Children suck them to make those wonderful flavors last longer. Little tummies are not upset. And Life Savers are kind to tiny teeth.

Life Savers for kids antique ad - Boy with a jelly jar (April 1925)

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Life Savers Violet (Vi-O-let) flavor (1927)

Life Savers Violet flavor (1927)

Life Savers Pep-o-Mint (1928)

Life Savers Pep-o-Mint (1928)

Classic citrus Life Savers flavors (1931)

Overnight …a SUCCESS!

Orange Life Savers… cooling … refreshing … brimming with delightful, juicy flavor… like the fruit itself. Their excellence and quality have made them a sales sensation … the overwhelming choice of millions — overnight.

On Everybody’s Tongue: Lemon Life Savers … tangy … thirst-quenching … piquant to the taste … rare … golden-clear … these delectable drops … in the famous Life Saver shape … fairly melt the instant they touch the tongue.

Lime Life Savers … clear as emerald … the flavor actually flows from these delicious fruit rings. Buy Lime, Lemon, Orange…and the increasingly popular grape Life Savers.

All candy products having the distinctive shape of Life Savers are manufactured by Life Saver, Inc.

ALSO SEE: Necco Wafers history: How the round, colorful candy became so popular

Classic citrus Life Savers flavors (1931)

Life Savers candy – Love story of a bashful boy (1938)

1. I wanted a date every time I passed Margie on the campus. But, she’s the prettiest and most popular girl in school, and I never dared ask her. She’s so lovely that every time she smiled at me, I got tongue-tied and couldn’t say a word.

2. Finally I got a break. I woe on a crowded bus when Margie got on. She didn’t recognize me at first. But I jumped tip like the seat was on fire, and offered her my place. “Oh, hello!” she said, smiling very sweetly, “Thank you!”

3. She fished around in her purse, and n package of Life Savers fell out. I picked it up and said: see you’re a Life Saver fan, too!” She said: “Oh, yes, I’ve always been. Don’t you love ’em? These Wint-O-Greens taste extra good!”

Life Savers candy - Love story of a bashful boy (1938)

4. “They’re refreshing, too,” I added: “they make your mouth feel so clean and grand!” So that started us, munching Life Savers and talking so friendly-like, Iforgot to be embarrassed. When she got off the bus, I got off, too.

5. “Do you live around here?” she asked. “No,” I told her. “I’m just tagging along to get some more of those Life Savers. Besides, when you smile that way, I forget where I live!” “Then I promise not to smile at you any more!” she laughed.

6. But she broke her promise. And later she broke her date for the Junior Prom … so she could go with me! Funny, isn’t it, how a little thing like our both being so fond of Wint-O-Green Life Savers gave me my big chance.

Insist on genuine Life Savers … it hasn’t a hole, it isn’t a Life Saver

“Life Savers candy – The girl I love (1938)
Life Savers candy - The girl I love (1938)

Did you know?

Life Savers were so popular — not to mention relatively non-perishable and pocket-portable — that they were said to have contributed greatly to US soldier morale during World War II:

During WWII, other candy manufacturers donated their sugar rations to keep Life Savers in production so the candies could be shared with Armed Forces as a tasty reminder of life at home. – Wm. Wrigley, Jr. press release

Life Savers vintage armed forces WWII ad from 1943

TODAY our armed forces are ordering and more LIFE SAVERS hard candy for shipment out to censored, censored and censored.

So … if you have trouble getting some favorite flavor … you will know that some soldier, sailor, or marine is enjoying it somewhere, someplace.

Life Savers vintage armed forces WWII ad from 1943

Walt Disney’s Life Savers candy Gremlins ad (1943)

You’ve heard of the Gremlins, pesky little troublemakers that hang around air fields, army camps, ports of call, and battle stations.

One good antidote for Gremlins is Life Savers… they cheer a fellow up when the Gremlins get him down. Maybe that’s why our armed forces are ordering so many of them… so… if you have trouble getting some favorite flavor… blame it on the Gremlins.

Wint-O-Green, Spear-O-Mint and Pep-O-Mint – Still only 5 cents (Walt Disney – Walt Disney Productions)

walt disney for lifesavers candy 05 31 1943

Life Savers – Child’s garden of day dreams (1945)

Life Savers - Child's garden of day dreams (1945)

Life Savers mints may lead to marriage (1945)

Life Savers mints may lead to marriage (1945)

ALSO SEE: Offensive ads: These 12 ridiculously mean vintage advertisements would give anyone a complex

Old Life Savers Pep-O-Mint candy being shared at school (1949)

Life Savers candy - Schoolroom 1949

Life Savers marketing in the 1940s and 1950s

THE PACKAGE-CONSCIOUS company for years sent its army of salesmen out in trucks built to look like Life Saver packages.

The 8-ft. tube for a sandwich man was a short-lived publicity experiment; some playful Columbia University Student tipped the man over and rolled him down a hill. – From Modern Packaging magazine (December 25, 1951)

Life Savers marketing in the 1940s and 1950s

Know your onions: Cartoon rabbit (1953)

Life Savers candy 1953

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Life Savers factory with candy on a conveyor belt (1951)

Life Savers factory with candy on a conveyor belt (1951)

Cute path of a boy with a roll of classic Life Savers candy (1951)

Five Flavors fruit roll of Life Savers had cherry, orange, lemon, lime and pineapple-flavored candies

Cute path of a boy with a roll of classic Life Savers candy (1951)

Choc-O-Mint Life Savers mint-chocolate candy rolls (1956)

Choc-O-Mint Life Savers candy from 1956

Life Savers in five flavor fruit rolls (1962)

ALSO SEE: The best vintage gum brands from the 20th century

Life Savers candy 1962

Old Life Savers candy flavors from 1964

Classic sixties flavors shown: Clove, Stik-O-Pep, Wild Cherry, Butter Scotch, Five Flavor, Life, Grape, Assort-O-Mint, Cin-O-Mon, Orange, Pep-O-Mint, Spear-O-Mint, Lemon, Choc-O-Mint, Butter Rum, Wint-O-Green, Cryst-O-Mint

Old Life Savers candy flavors from 1964

Fancy Fruits flavors from Life Savers candy (1965)

Life Savers candy 1965

Vintage Life Savers Christmas stocking stuffer candy (1972)

Give the book that’s good enough to eat. Give a Life Savers Sweet Story Book.

It’s more than readable. It’s eatable. Because it’s rolls and rolls of Life Savers in everybody’s favorite flavors, all wrapped up in a shiny Christmas book. (See modern versions here!)

Santa with Vintage Life Savers Christmas stocking stuffer candy from 1972

MORE: 1970s candy: Remember these deliciously unforgettable sweets?

80s girl with a roll of Life Savers candy (1983)

80s girl with a roll of Life Savers candy (1983)

Life Savers lollipops – Candy stocking fundraiser (1984)

What a holiday combination! Delicious Life Savers Lollipops in a transparent fun Christmas Stocking. This great money-maker will sell fast ’cause it makes a wonderful family gift anyone can use. Plus — it’s a real buy.

Containing twenty-five full-size red and green lollipops, the LIFE SAVERS LOLLIPOPS CHRISTMAS STOCKING, a $2.50 retail value, is especially priced for fund raising groups like yours to sell for only $2.00 each.

ALSO SEE: Fundraisers, vintage style: See some of the stuff kids used to sell to earn money for scouts & schools

Life Savers lollipops - Candy stocking fundraiser 1984

MORE! 80s candy: See 35 most excellent retro favorites, including chocolate & fruity sweets

Low-calorie mint Life Savers candy (1986)

Low-calorie mint Life Savers candy (1986)

Life Savers candy for Christmas (1980s)

Give the new Life Savers Holiday Keepsake Tin or Sweet Story Book this season.

Life Savers candy for Christmas

Life Savers candy factory – Hershey’s photo from 1987

Life Savers candy factory - Hershey's photo from 1987

NOW SEE THIS: 90s candy: 35+ popular and totally fly sweet treats to remember

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Comments on this story

4 Responses

  1. Wonderful article! Some of these flavors bring back memories. I remember Stick O Pep and Chryst O Mint and loved those. I would love to try some of the old flavors such as Choc O Mint.
    I also remember the original five flavor with the lime instead of apple flavor.

  2. I loved the Butter Rum flavor! My grandmother would get me the Storybook each Christmas and that was the only time I got it. Such great memories! Thank you.

  3. My favorites are Pineapple, Tangerine and Raspberry. I remember getting the books for Christmas almost every year.

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