Yao about that! NBAer makes big impression

Former Houston Rocket star Yao Ming sits head and shoulders above the rest of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a high-profile government advisory committee.

The retired 7-foot-6 NBA center — who played for eight seasons with the Rockets — joined his comrades on March 3rd at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.


20,000 Pages of Obamacare Regulations in One Picture

The Department of Health and Human Services recently released an additional 828 pages of ObamaCare regulations on Monday, bringing the total Obamacare regulations written so far to 20,000 pages. Sen. Mitch McConnell has produced a picture of what those pages look like stacked in one pile:


What’s she going to do now, backpack through Europe?

image769A Columbus, Ohio, resident finally got her high-school diploma at age 106.

Reba Williams worked most of her life as a cook after flunking out in 1925 for refusing to read a book she didn’t care for.

School-board members this year agreed to award her the sheepskin for her life experience.

Has this guy ever heard of airplanes?

image770A 31-year-old man made a 4,000-mile journey north to south across the United States entirely by kayak.

Daniel Alvarez paddled the 17-foot boat from northern Minnesota, down the Mississippi River to Key West, Fla. in about nine months, at a rate of about 20 miles per day.

At 60, Peeps more popular than ever

Ross Born, third-generation operator of Just Born Inc. said his grandfather, Russian immigrant Sam Born, started the candy company out of a Brooklyn storefront 90 years ago. He advertised the freshness of his product with a sign that said “Just Born.” The name stuck.


The burgeoning business moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 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, employing dozens of women who hand-squeezed them out of pastry bags. “It was really very difficult, and these women were strong,” said David Shaffer, Sam Born’s nephew and co-CEO along with Ross Born.

Ross’s father, Bob Born — a physicist and engineer by training — automated the process in the mid-1950s, and a version of the machine he invented is still in use today, extruding millions of those familiar shapes on peak-Peep production days.

The company, whose other brands are Hot Tamales, Mike and Ike, and Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews, has never suffered an unprofitable year. But its growth has always been relatively slow, steady and controlled, and a few years ago, Born and Shaffer decided they wanted to accelerate it.

With the storied candy brand celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, a quirky new TV ad campaign was launched.

The longtime partners brought in a new management team, spent heavily on marketing and broke back into the chocolate business, introducing chocolate-dipped Peeps as well as Peepsters, small chocolate candies filled with marshmallow-flavored cream. (New for this year is a yellow chick nestled in a hollow chocolate egg.) They also focused on holiday seasons other than Easter, particularly Christmas.

The result: Shaffer says last year was “off the charts.” While Just Born is privately held and does not disclose revenue, he says it posted double-digit growth across all brands. And Shaffer sees more growth potential as the confectioner works to position its products in warehouse clubs and convenience stores.

Just Born certainly benefits from being part of a $33 billion candy industry that is seen as basically recession-proof, offering an inexpensive indulgence during tough economic times.

“Candy did not seem to take the hit that some other industries faced in recent years. We think a big reason for that is candy’s place in our hearts and minds,” says Susan Whiteside of the National Confectioners Association, a trade group.

Long associated with Easter, Peeps have penetrated the pop-culture consciousness in a way that other candy brands have not.

While the company churns out more than 1 billion Peeps this Easter season — a record — it sees the 60th anniversary as another marketing opportunity and a chance to connect with its fans.


From The NY Daily News and The NY Post.