How Many Licks to the Center of a Tootsie Pop?

There is a lot we need to figure out in this life. But, finding the answer to the famous 1970s Tootsie Pop candy commercial is the most important of them all. Read this fun article for some laughs!


“How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?”

There is a lot we need to figure out in this life. But, finding the answer to the famous 1970s Tootsie Pop candy commercial is the most important of them all!

For the unaware, Tootsie Pop is the classic American lollipop. In the 1930s, it changed the confectionery industry forever.

What made them so different? Well, it looked just like a regular lollipop with a hard outer shell. But, the candy had a chewy chocolate placed at the center of the lollipop!

A revolutionary candy idea for the 1930s! Moreover, its ad campaigns are a case-study for marketing enthusiasts. 

If there’s any candy that has had an impact on pop culture, it’s the Tootsie Pop. You’ll find the candy mentioned in movies, T.V series, and suggestive hip-hop songs. 

the simpsons tootsie pop giphy
Source: Giphy – The Simpsons

How Many Licks Does It Take To Get To The Center of a Tootsie Pop?

It’s time to put on our thinking hats! Let’s figure out the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. Hopefully, we will assuage the curiosity of candy lovers.

Surprisingly, there’s ample amount of research available on these candies. From Purdue University to New York University, everybody has a take on the topic!

In fact, even Tootsie Roll Industries couldn’t help but be a part of the research. In 2008, the company hosted a contest to find the answer to the question. 

The Tootsie Roll website mentions four scientific studies that were undertaken at educational institutes. This includes – Purdue University, Michigan University, Bellarmine University, and Swarthmore Junior High School.

You wouldn’t believe it but some institutes invented a licking machine to find an answer to the Tootsie Pop question. That’s some serious effort! Here’s a list of the various Tootsie Lick experiments conducted over the years:

1. Purdue University – 364 licks

According to Purdue University, the average number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop is around 364. For this experiment, a group of engineering students invented a licking machine modeled after a human tongue.

Then, 20 volunteers took up the experiment to test the number of licks it takes for humans to get to the center of the candy. Without any assistance from machines, the University said that it took volunteers an average of 252 licks.

2. Michigan University – 411 licks

One thing we need to know about universities is that they are very competitive, especially when it comes to rival institutes. After Purdue, Michigan University took up the challenge to find out the answer to the question. 

At Michigan, a chemical engineering doctorate student invented a customized licking machine. He stated that it took the machine an average of 411 licks to get to the center of the candy.

3. Swarthmore Junior High School – 144 licks

Even high schools wanted in on the experiment. Swarthmore Junior High School students enlisted the help of a group of student volunteers. According to them, it took volunteers 144 licks to get to the center!

4. Bellarmine University – 148 licks

Moving on, Bellarmine University conducted their own study. The University had over 130 participants! The study was quite extensive and divided the results in many categories: gender, flavors and the amount of time taken. 

The University reported that orange flavored Tootsie Pops took around 148 licks while grape flavored averaged at 198 licks.

5. New York University – 1,000 licks

The most recent study is from New York University. NYU states that it takes a whopping 1000 licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.

The NYU graduate student, Jinzi Mac Huang, said that it would take 1,000 licks to complete one centimeter of the candy. How did the University reach this conclusion? 

Firstly, the University conducted intensive research. However, the aim of their research was not the experiment. Their main focus was to see how materials dissolve in fluids. So, the University tested materials like rocks, pills, and finally, added the candy to the mix!

Read more: 18+ movies about the life of Princess Diana

For the experiment, researchers made their own candy spheres and cylinders. Then they watched how dropping the solid (candy) in fluid disrupted the flow of water. After some time, we see that the flow starts to dissolve the candy.

Over time, they discovered that the candy became half-sphere shaped. Moreover, the researchers did not buy the actual candy for the experiment. Prof. Ristroph said that commercial candies are filled with tiny bubbles.

These tiny bubbles could mess up with the experiment. So, they had to create bubble-free candies! 

They even went ahead and created a mathematical formula to see how fast the candy could dissolve. Assuming constant external conditions, NYU researchers concluded that it can take 1000 licks to get to the center.

Speaking about the experiment, Professor Leif Ristroph said, “We can take an object of any size and kind of a typical flow speed – that would be determined by how fast you lick candy, and then determine how long it would take for that to dissolve all the material away.”

When Tootsie Roll Industries became aware of the research, they sent Prof. Ristroph boxes of Tootsies for research. However, the researchers used their model and a homemade Tootsie Pop to test how long it takes to dissolve it. 

When asked why they didn’t lick the candy for the test, Prof Ristroph said that “they tried.” 

However, he added that it was very difficult to resist the temptation to bite the candy. Evidently, the study was published in the Journal of Fluid Mechanics (2015). Also, the University used time-lapse photography to see the candy dissolution over several hours.

If we compare this result to all the previous studies, the difference in the number of licks seem huge. However, due to the intensive nature and mathematical model used, NYU’s number might be just right. Mr. Owl’s three lick conclusion doesn’t seem that bad now! Does it?

Tootsie Pop owl
Source: Tenor

History of Tootsie Pops

In 2018, LyricFind released a list of the ‘Most-Mentioned Candies in Music Lyrics.’ Evidently, toffee candy, Tootsie Roll had over 38 mentions in hip-hop songs.

lyricfinder tootsie roll music lyrics mention
   Source: LyricFind Report 2018

If you were a kid in the 1970s, you’ve probably seen the Tootsie Pop Commercial. If you haven’t, here’s a quick recap of the ad:

In the ad, we see a young boy asking the classic question to a bunch of animals – How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?  

When other animals are unable to give him an answer, he approaches the Wise Mr. Owl. This is how their conversation goes: 

Young Boy: “Mr. Owl, how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?”

Mr. Owl: “Let’s find out. A one…two-hoo…a three…” (Mr. Owl is not able to resist biting into the candy and gives in) 

Announcer : “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? The world may never know.”

And the announcer was right! The world is still figuring out the answer. If you want to indulge your nostalgia a bit more, here’s the original commercial on YouTube.

Who knew this question would be a subject of research in universities! But, it was. In fact, not only universities but ordinary folks have attempted to answer the question.

After releasing the ad, Tootsie Rolls received a lot of letters from kids. Evidently, on the official website, the company mentions receiving more than 20,000 letters from kids. 

Enthusiastic kids wrote to them stating the number of licks it took to reach the center. The answers ranged from 100 to 5,800 licks. In fact, the company encourages kids to write to them. 

They say that they respond to every letter. Additionally, when kids answer the ‘How Many Licks?’ question, the company sends them The Clean Stick Award Certificate.

Tootsie Roll Industries say that they love receiving responses from kids and enjoy hearing about their experience.

Tootsie Pops trick or treat
Source: Giphy – Halloween is incomplete without Tootsie Pops 

Over the years, the company has promoted their candies in different formats.  However, the 1969 ad is what it is remembered for. The ad not only propelled the brand but it also marked the debut of its mascot.

The wise-cracking bird, Mr. Owl went on to become the face of Tootsie Pops. In fact, Mr.Owl now has his own Twitter Account. In his bio, the owl states “The official spokesperson of Tootsie Roll Pop. The question remains…how many licks does it REALLY take? #TheWorldMayNeverKnow.”

If there’s one thing we love doing, it is taking a trip down memory lane. So, whether you are looking for a nostalgia fix, wanting to explore the world of candy mysteries, or learning about the enigma surrounding the Tootsie Roll Industries, this post is for you!

What Are Tootsie Pops?

Tootsie Pops are just like your regular lollipops – they have a hard candy coating. What sets them apart is the chewy chocolate at the center of the lollipop.

This chewy chocolate is the company’s other candy called Tootsie Roll. Originally, they came in five different flavors. These flavors were – Chocolate, Orange, Grape, Raspberry, and Cherry.

If you are a certified candy lover, you might be well aware of Tootsie Pops. However, if you were a 70’s kid, you practically grew up watching Tootsie Pops commercials. 

You might’ve even conducted experiments to answer the question ‘How many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?’.

Tootsie Pop Commercial (1969) giphy
Source: Giphy – Tootsie Pop Commercial (1969)

In our present world, their creation might not seem like a big deal. However, back in the day, the nature of the candy seemed iconic.

But, who Invented Tootsie Pops?

Now, we are onto the right question. Let’s rewind back to 1931. 

In those days, the Sweets Company of America (Now: Tootsie Roll Industries) had an employee named Luke Weisgram. For an upcoming meeting, Weisgram and his colleague had to come up with new candy ideas.

Apparently, just before the meeting, Weisgram had a light-bulb moment. As he was eating a Tootsie Roll, he also had his daughter’s lollipop in his hand.To his surprise, the combination of the Tootsie Roll and the lollipop was quite tasty.

it's just like candy giphy
Source: Giphy

Soon after, Weisgram pitched the idea to the Company Board. They loved it! In fact, they started the candy production immediately.

Why the Name ‘Tootsie’?

Well, that’s another story. 

It all began in the West Side of Manhattan. In 1896, an Austrian immigrant, Leo Hirshfield, opened a small store in New York. Hirshfield introduced a chewy chocolate recipe to America called Tootsie Rolls.

In the 1890s, there were no refrigerators. So, chocolates would melt in the heat. But Hirshfield’s Tootsie Rolls invented a new chocolate baking method. It allowed the chocolate to stay solid in the heat. 

This idea changed the candy industry forever. It put Tootsie Roll way ahead of candy competitors. Moreover, retailers ended up saving time because Tootsie Rolls did not stick together. So, they didn’t have trouble scooping the chocolate out of bulk containers.

Tootsie Roll Ad from the 1950s
Image Source: Pinterest – Tootsie Roll Ad from the 1950s

Thanks to the chocolate’s consistency, Tootsie Rolls became popular among customers. This small store in New York soon became a multi-million dollar manufacturer called Tootsie Roll Industries. 

So, why the name Tootsie? Just like Luke Weisgram, Leo Hirshfield, too, found his inspiration in his daughter. Hirshfield’s then 5-year-old daughter’s nickname was Tootsie.

However, there are many mysteries surrounding the Tootsie Roll Industries. Not everybody buys this origin story. Professor Samira Kawash, from Rutgers University, says that Hirshfield used to work for another candy manufacturer called Stern and Staalberg.

Prof. Kawash says that Hirshfield had moved to Manhattan in the 1890s to work for Stern and Staalberg. Moreover, she says that official records show the name of a ‘Leo Hirschfeld’ not ‘Leo Hirshfield’. 

1913 Pittsburgh Press Interview

Also, she claims that the origin story of Tootsie Rolls is a myth. Kawash says the start of Tootsie Roll as a small candy store in New York in 1896 is simply not true. Officially, all the patents and trademarks related to the company started in the year 1907, not 1896.

Finally, Kawash opined that the story behind the name of the candy could also be fictitious. Evidently, Stern and Staalberg had invented a fruity gelatin candy. The name of the child spokesperson for this candy was Tootsie.

According to skeptics, Tootsie Roll made-up the origin story to give it a wholesome vibe. The number of licks it takes to get to the center of the candymight be a mystery. However, the origin and operation of the Tootsie Roll Industries is an eternal mystery.

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Tootsie pop story and history

If you look at the launch year of Tootsie Pops, you might think that the company got it all wrong. Surprisingly, the timing worked in their favor.

The Great Depression 

Tootsie Pops hit the shelves in 1931. This was just two years into the Great Depression. The Great Depression was a severe economic crisis that started after the U.S stock market crash.

However, this did not deter their sales . In fact, it had the opposite effect. The candy became an instant hit. When people were experiencing economic hardships, they were still purchasing the candy. The reason was that they were cheap and tasty. 

Additionally, candies are said to conjure up memories of childhood. During the 2008 Global Recession, candy makers reported a rise in sales. In fact, even in 2008, Tootsie Rolls was one of the top candy choices for customers. When economic downturns take place, people find “comfort” in sugar.

The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Line (Washington, DC): Sculptures depicting a line of men waiting outside a shop to get free bread during the Great Depression.
Image Source: Unsplash
The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Line (Washington, DC): Sculptures depicting a line of men waiting outside a shop to get free bread during the Great Depression.

World War II

Moreover, World War II ballooned the popularity of the candy manufacturer. During WWII, Americans began consuming more processed food. Tootsie Roll benefited from this as their long-lasting candy weathered through seasons. Even American troops received Tootsie Rolls in their military rations.

Tootsie Pop Ad 1942
 Image Source: Medium – Tootsie Pop Ad 1942

Classic Tootsie Pop Commercial

In the 1950s, Tootsie Roll Industries was on a literal roll. The company started airing newspaper and television advertisements to promote their candies. 

By the 1970s, we saw the company release, perhaps, its most popular ad for Tootsie Pops called – How Many Licks

How Many Licks? (1969 Tootsie Pop Commercial)
Source: Giphy
How Many Licks? (1969 Tootsie Pop Commercial)

How old is the commercial today? Well, this year the commercial will mark its 52nd Birthday!

In the ad, we see a child posing the classic question (that we are still asking) – “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?”

The child approaches a bunch of animals in the hope of getting an answer. This group includes a cow, a fox, a turtle, and a “wise-owl.” 

Every animal is unable to answer the question and tells him to ask someone else. Finally, when the kid approaches the owl, the nocturnal bird decides to conduct an experiment. He grabs the candy from the kid and licks it thrice before taking a bite. 

Then, he concludes and says “it takes three licks”. The child, disappointed after being outsmarted by the bird, says, “If there is anything that I can’t stand, it is a smart owl!”

The commercial ends with the announcer saying that the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop is something that “the world may never know.”

But, whose idea was it? 

The company had approached an ad agency to promote the candy. This ad agency based in Detroit was called Doner

The creative team at Doner decided to play on the very thing that made the candy unique i.e., its chewy chocolate.

So, Doner decided that the main theme of the ad will be to make people want to get to the center of the Tootsie Pop as quickly as possible. Well, they were quite successful!

Even today, the ad lives in the hearts of American consumers. The ACE Metrix company, which measures the impact of video advertising, reported in 2014 that people still think highly of the ad.  

On a scale of 1-950, the ‘How Many Licks?’ advertisement had an overall score of 655. In fact, when the company asked the 500 surveyors, ‘How well does this ad represent the brand as you see it today?’Over 94% said that the ad still embodied the brand!

Read more: A Dummies Guide to Using Chopsticks Like a Pro

The Myth of The Indian Wrapper

Finally, there is an interesting urban legend associated with Tootsie Pop. If you were a 70s or 80s child, you’ve probably heard of it.

It is the myth of the Indian Shooting Star. So, the urban legend says that if you find an American Indian shooting a star with a bow and arrow on the wrapper, you can get a free Tootsie Pop!

The Legend of the Indian Wrapper Tootsie Pop
Source: Reddit – The Legend of the Indian Wrapper

Stoked kids would buy the candy and carefully unwrap it. Then, they would look closely at the wrapper to find a little American Indian with a bow and arrow. If they found the Indian Star, they would keep the wrapper aside for their next visit to the candy shop!

The company has clarified this myth on their official website. The note says “Unfortunately, we do not know how this rumor started and Tootsie Roll Industries has never actually honored this promotion.” 

Moreover, the company mentions that the symbol appears on 1 in every 4 or 6 candy wrappers. So, it is actually a common phenomenon. However, Tootsie Roll adds that they believe the Tootsie Pop Indian shooting star symbol is a sign of good luck coming your way!

The story of Tootsie Pops

How Are Tootsie Pops Made? 

If there’s something you must know about Tootsie Roll Industries, it is that they are a very guarded company. Evidently, the company is also hush-hush about their finances. 

The company does not hold quarterly earning calls, refuses to talk to journalists nor do they entertain public interviews. In fact, a securities industry analyst, who tried to cover the company, said, “I think the only way you can get a tour is by jumping over the fence (of the factory) and sneaking in.”

In their article, ‘Tootsie Roll’s Secret Empire’, The Wall Street Journal, writes that the company’s Chicago headquarters is a “modern-day Willy Wonka factory” with “massive puffs of steam billow out of humming machines on the roofs.” 

Apart from one or two YouTube videos, we don’t really know how the company makes Tootsie Pops. Apparently, their recipe is top-secret. However, we did check the wrapper, and noted down the ingredients used to make the candy.  

secret recipe spongebob squarepants giphy
Source: Giphy – Spongebob Squarepants

The ingredients list of candy contains – Sugar, Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Condensed Skim Milk, Cocoa, Whey, Artificial and Natural Flavors, Soy Lecithin, Artificial Colors, Strawberry Powder, and Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil.

tootsie pop ingredient list
Source: Ubuy Online Shopping Store

Apart from the ingredient list, we’ve tried to deduce how Tootsie Pops are made from the company’s YouTube video.

As per the video, they start off as a hot strip of sugar and water. Once it cools down, the strip is placed around a cone. Then, the Tootsie Roll (the center of the lollipop) mix is fed into the center of the cone.

Using their confectionary machine, a sugar candy ball is formed over the Tootsie. Finally, it is placed over a stick. As the years have gone by, they have reduced the thickness of the outer candy. 

The reason for this, the company says, is that candy lovers want to get to and chew the Tootsie Roll as fast as possible. Here’s an old YouTube video that gives a glimpse of how Tootsie Pops are made.

What Were the Original Flavors of Tootsie Pops?

The first flavor launched was chocolate. So, the outer candy was chocolate flavored and the center of the lollipop consisted of the chewy chocolate – Tootsie Rolls. 

Soon after, the company launched five other flavors. They were Raspberry, Lemon Orange, Grape, and Cherry. However, the Lemon flavor was taken off the shelf in the 1980s only to be added back in 2016. 

Over the years, the company has released Tootsie Pop assortments of different flavors. Moreover, the sixth flavor of the candy is usually a random selection.

How To Make Tootsie Pops At Home? 

Are you up for a Tootsie Challenge? A trip to the kitchen is not all that bad. Here’s how you can make this classic lollipop at home!

Tootsie pop at home recipe
       Source: Gfycat

First of all, to make a Tootsie Pop, you need to stock up some ingredients. Here’s the list of all that you need to get started.

  1. Tootsie Roll candy for the center
Tootsie roll with wrapper
Image Source: Amazon Online Shopping

  1. Any hard candy that you like (Jolly Ranchers, Werther’s Original, Charms Blow Pop, etc)
Jolly rancher candy different flavours
 Image Source: Pinterest


  1. An ice cube tray
heart shaped ice cube tray
                             Image Source: Unsplash

  1. Lollipop sticks
lollipops with wrappers on a white surface
Image Source: Unsplash

Now that we have our ingredients in order, let’s make our very own!

Step 1: Take the Tootsie Roll and Make It Ball-Shaped

So, we first start our recipe by making the inner chewy chocolate of Tootsie Pop. You need to unwrap a few Tootsie Rolls and shape them in the form of a ball. If you are making more than one, you’ll need more Tootsie Rolls for every candy. Once you are done, set it aside for some time

rolling a tootsie roll into a ball
Source: Tenor

Step 2: Microwave the Hard Candy

Next, unwrap the hard-candies that you bought. Remember, you can use any hard candy that you like – Werther’s Originals, Jolly Ranchers, Charms Blow Pop, etc. Don’t forget to use candies of the same flavor. 

Once you’ve unwrapped the candies, it’s time to microwave. You need to heat the candies until they’ve melted. Also, don’t microwave for too long or you might burn it!

opening the microwave door
Source: Giphy

Step 3: Pour the Melted Candy And The Tootsie Roll in the Ice Cube Tray

Now that you’ve successfully melted the hard candy, it is time to take out two ice cube trays. If you can, use a round shaped ice cube tray. Next, pour some of the melted candy in one of the trays. Then, drop and press the Tootsie Roll into the melted candy.

Similarly, pour the remaining candy in the second tray. Then, flip the first tray and place it over the second one. Make sure that both the trays are properly aligned.  

Finally, if you’ve round-shaped ice cube tray, place the lollipop stick into the mold opening of the ice cube tray. Remember not to hit the other end of the mold- it should be placed halfway into the opening so that it sticks to the Tootsie Pop.

ice cube mould tray for lollipops
Source: Amazon Online Shopping

Step 4: Let the Tootsie Pop Cool 

We’ve reached the final step! Now you need to place the Tootsie Pop tray in your refrigerator. Once it cools, take it out and carefully remove the flipped ice cube tray. Your homemade Tootsie Roll Pop is ready! 

opening the fridge giphy
Source: Giphy

Don’t want to read through the whole recipe? No problem. Here’s a quick visual recap for the recipe!

tootsie pops recipe to make at home
Tootsie Pop Recipe


The Classic American Candy – Tootsie Pops has come a long way. It has seen the Great Depression, World War II, Global Recession, and now, the Pandemic. The ‘How Many Licks?’ ad is a part of the candy’s appeal. 

We can say that the ad stirred our childlike wonderment and curiosity. Also, kids who grew up in simpler times see the candy as a part of their childhood. 

When ACE Metrix company asked 500 surveyors about the ad, most of them said that they loved the ‘vintage’ feel of it. Moreover, surveyors said that it was the simplicity of the message and visuals that made the ad more dear to them.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Tootsie Pops

How many calories does Tootsie Pop have?

According to the Nutrition Facts Table mentioned on the candy cover, calories are said to be around 60 calories per candy.

How are tootsie pops made?

Tootsie Pop starts off as a hot strip of sugar and water. Once it cools down, the strip is placed around a cone. Then, the Tootsie Roll mix is fed into the center of the cone. Finally, using the confectionary machine, a sugar candy ball is formed over the Tootsie. 

When were tootsie pops invented?

Tootsie Pops were invented in the year 1931.  The man behind the invention was Luke Weisgram. He was an employee at the Sweet Company of America (now called Tootsie Roll Industries).

How many tootsie pop flavors are there?

Originally, the company had only 6 flavors. This included Chocolate, Raspberry, Lemon, Orange, Grape, and Lemon, and Cherry. Over the years, Tootsie Rolls has released various assortments like -Tropical Stormz, Wild Berry Assortment, Sweet and Sour Bunch Pops, Tootsie Bunch Pops, Tootsie Fruit Chew Pops, etc.

Are tootsie pops dairy free?

No, they are not dairy free. All candies made by Tootsie Roll Industries contain condensed skim milk and whey.

Are tootsie pops peanut free?

According to the official website of Tootsie Roll Industries, all their candies are peanut, tree nut, and nut product free.

How long do tootsie pops last?

Tootsie Pop can last and are safe to consume upto one year from the manufactured date. When dealing with hard candies, a good rule of thumb is to restrict eating candies that are over a year old. Hard candies could contain microbes that can make you sick.

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