A colorful visit to the Peeps factory

Returning each year like spring, brightly colored marshmallow Peeps have been the foundation of Easter baskets everywhere. For the past two decades, Peeps have topped the list of Americans’ favorite, nonchocolate Easter treat.

Yahoo News got a behind-the-scenes look at the Bethlehem, Pa., factory, where more than 5 million of these marshmallow delights are “born” each day.

Entering the world of Peeps is like visiting Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Three shifts a day are needed to satisfy the world’s love for these 28-calorie treats.

The manufacturing process starts with a marshmallow recipe that combines sugar, corn syrup, gelatin and vanilla extract. The ingredients are extruded using a secret process that company minders zealously guard.

Workers wearing lab coats and hair nets combine color with sugar in gigantic mixing vats, spinning the sweet coating to keep the colors consistent.

Most of the “naked” chicks and bunnies get that colored coating, although white Peeps are making a comeback this year, after a 10-year absence.

Yellow is the best-selling color of Peeps, followed by pink and then blue. While one line turns out the popular chicks, another turns out bunnies. Four out of five Peeps purchased are chicks — either original, flavored, dipped in chocolate or covered in chocolate.

The Peeps race around the factory on 4-foot wide conveyor belts, which are cheerfully stained with bright stripes in the color of the treat being produced.

Eagle-eyed workers check the treats for imperfections several times on their journey, and six minutes after “birth,” their trip concludes with a pass under a machine that gives them little black dots. Chicks get two dots for eyes, and the bunnies get two eyes and a nose.

At the last stop in the factory, Peeps are loaded into their packaging for shipping to consumers around the country. With more than 1.5 billion Peeps consumed each year, nothing says spring like Peeps’ yellow chicks or pink bunnies. (David Handschuh/Yahoo News)

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