November 16, 2020
One of the most interesting histories (or the best history, if you’re a chocolate fanatic) is the history of the candy bar. Candy bars are ubiquitous, and there are hundreds of varieties. We take our instant access to candy bars for granted, but where did they all come from? What’s their story?
We wanted to find out, so we dug deep into candy bar history and built a timeline starting with the much-loved 1900 flagship Hershey’s Bar and arriving a century later with Cookies ’n’ Creme. Finally, some history you’ll want to read about!
1900: Hershey’s Milk Chocolate
The OG of the bunch, the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar (a.k.a. “The Great American Chocolate Bar”) was released for the first time in 1900.
This turn-of-the-century treat was the first mass-produced chocolate bar in the United States. Pioneered by Milton Hershey using his Hershey Process, the first bars blended in fresh milk from local farms—but the rest of the recipe is a closely guarded trade secret that gives these milk chocolate bars their unique, creamy and delicious flavor. Ol’ Milton was right when he said, “There’s a smile in every Hershey Bar.”
Another classic now owned by the Hershey Company, Mounds bars are packed with sweetened and shredded coconut and then coated in rich chocolate. This sugary 1920 invention came from West Haven, Connecticut, candy maker Vincent Nitido, and originally sold for just 5 cents a piece. In 1929, the Peter Paul Manufacturing Company purchased rights to the treat, and large-scale production began. Mounds bars stayed in production throughout World War II, despite shortages of sugar and compromised supply lines. That’s how much America treasures its sweets.
1920: Baby Ruth
In 1920, the Curtiss Candy Company redesigned its Kandy Kake confectionery and rebranded it as the Baby Ruth bar, apparently taking a break from alliteration. A wise decision, as the Baby Ruth hit it big, becoming the single best-selling 5-cent candy bar of the Roaring Twenties.
You can file the Baby Ruth story under controversy, because the big to-do of the era was whether or not the Curtiss Company used Babe Ruth’s name without providing royalties, or if, as the company claimed, it was named in honor of President Grover Cleveland’s daughter, Ruth Cleveland. Gasp! We may never know.
The buttery, sweet and crunchy Butterfinger chocolate bar, like the Baby Ruth, is also an invention of the Curtiss Candy Company. Founder Otto Schnering came up with this masterpiece in 1923 after the company ran a naming contest in 1922.
The Butterfinger is one of the first candies to have been widely promoted. This included very traditional ad campaigns—like a product placement in the 1934 Shirley Temple film Baby Take a Bow, and the literal airdropping of Butterfingers on cities across the country.
1924: Milky Way
This chocolate-covered, caramel-topped nougat bar created by candy great Frank C. Mars in 1922 became nationally available in 1924, originally produced in Minneapolis. Upon its 1924 release, Mars Inc. brought in a staggering $800,000 in revenue by year’s end—well over $10 million in today’s dollars. Needless to say, the “three great tastes in a Milky Way” came together to become one of the most popular chocolate bars of all time.
Another classic chocolate with Hershey, Pennsylvania, roots, the Reese’s Cup was invented in 1928 by H.B Reese, whose humble beginnings as a dairy farmer and Hershey Company employee led him to start his own candy company out of his basement. Reese left Hershey in 1923 and built the H.B. Reese Candy Company.
He always used Hershey’s chocolate in his creations, but it was Reese’s peanut butter cup that really took off. The name “Reese” became and remains synonymous with this chocolatey, peanut butter-filled delicacy. Today, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are among the most purchased candy products ever.
Yet another iconic chocolate bar invented by the legendary Franklin Mars and Mars Inc. was released in 1930. This iconic candy bar is named after the Mars family’s favorite horse, Snickers. Until 1990, there was even a U.K. version of this classic, known as the “Marathon.”
1932: 3 Musketeers
Introduced by Mars in 1932, the Alexandre Dumas-inspired 3 Musketeers bar marked the company’s third product release. Back then, the 3 Musketeers bar came in three pieces of three flavors—vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. Once World War II began, shortages and rationing meant dropping the three-flavor version to a single bar stuffed with whipped chocolate nougat. It remains that way to this day.
1935: Kit Kat
With the American love of sweets at an all-time high in the 1930s, you’d expect Kit Kat to be from the States. Not the case. The Kit Kat bar was invented by Rowntree’s, a York, United Kingdom-based candy company established in 1862.
Initially named Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp, the original four-finger candy bar became the “Kit Kat Chocolate Crisp” in 1937, with its title shortening to just “Kit Kat” in the post-war era.
1939: Dove Milk Chocolate
The Dove chocolate bar actually began its life as a chocolate-coated ice cream bar in Chicago. In 1939, Leo Stefanos, a Greek-American candy and ice cream shop owner, invented the original and styled it as “DOVEBAR.”
Stefanos’ Dove Candies & Ice Cream became a powerhouse, selling 1 million bars annually by the 1970s. The non-ice cream Dove bar was marketed first in the U.K. in the 1960s as the “Galaxy.” In 1986, Mars Inc. purchased Dove Candies & Ice Cream, and the modern Dove chocolate bar became a household name.
1948: Almond Joy
Like Mounds, Almond Joy is a treat created by the Peter Paul Manufacturing Company. The brand found success with Mounds during World War II, and in 1948, in response to consumer demand, released the Almond Joy as a replacement for the Dreams bar.
In 1950, Peter Paul launched its first TV commercial; in 1970, the iconic catchphrase, “Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t,” showed up in a jingle by Leon Carr. Hershey purchased Peter Paul in 1988, bringing Almond Joy, York Peppermint Patties and Mounds onboard.
1960s: 100 Grand
The “Hundred Thousand Dollar Bar,” as it was originally known, is a child of the 60s. While this favorite bar’s exact launch date is unclear, Nestle patents suggest around 1964. This bar is a little different from the others, blending in crunchy crisped rice for a light and airy bite backed up by caramel and milk chocolate.
As people began referring to it as “100 grand,” jokes and pranks soon followed. Radio programs telling content winners, “You just won 100 Grand!” didn’t always go over well when the lucky winner got candy instead of cash.
The Twix bar is another U.K. exclusive that later entered the U.S. market. Mars Inc. created the “Raider” in a Slough, England, factory in 1967.. The butter cookie, caramel and milk chocolate confection entered the U.S. in 1979.
After some initial hiccups in the market and rebranding efforts, Mars launched the Peanut Butter Twix in 1983, captivating its audience. Through the 1990s and today, Mars has rolled out new flavors like coffee, cookies & creme and more.
1994: Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme
Hershey’s Cookies ’n’ Creme launched in 1994 and saw major success with 90s kids. It’s the ultimate nostalgia candy that combines chocolate cookie pieces and cream (the most iconic duo), with a taste just like the iconic Oreo.
Cookies ’n’ Creme proved so popular that Hershey’s went on to use the ingredients in other products, like Hershey’s Drops in 2010 and even Cookies ’n’ Creme Cereal in 2013. Who says you can’t have candy for breakfast? We don’t judge.