Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Candy Through the Ages: A Brief History of Your Favorite Treat

Now that we’re celebrating a brand new year, it’s an appropriate time to take a look back and see how we got to this point in time. The candy world has a long, long history, so let’s take a look back at the state of popular candy over the last 100 years.

If you remember a specific candy memory, be sure to let us know on our Facebook page.

Early 1900s

The early 1900s were the advent of what we know as modern, mass-produced candy and sweets. Starting in 1900, Milton Hershey developed an early version of the their now famous milk chocolate bar and it quickly took over the country. Over the decade they put out the Hershey’s Kiss, and a Hershey’s Bar with Almonds, all of which are now classics.

Along with the establishment of the Hershey empire, a few other now famous candy companies were born. Toblerone, Brach’s Candy, and Chiclets were all started making candy in the 1900s and they’re still making candy today.

Later in the 1910s, with the Hershey brand well-established, a litany of other famous candy companies were born, including the Mars Candy Company, Life Savers candy, the Heath bar was introduced by L.S. Heath & Sons, and a candy-maker named George DeMet introduces the world to the chocolate turtle candy, a mix of caramel, chocolate and nuts.


If the early 1900s were an indication of the potential growth of classic candy companies, the 20s brought many of today’s classic brands to life. Williamson Candy Company bought the rights to the Tom Henry candy bar and renamed it Oh! Henry. In 1922, H.B. Reese made a peanut butter candy coated in Hershey’s Chocolate and called it the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.

Hershey’s didn’t stop progress either. By the 20s they had fully automated the production of their Kisses candy and their iconic silver wrapper with a bow on top.

Somewhere along the way, Baby Ruth, Mounds, Milky Way, Charleston Chew, Bit-O-Honey, Milk Duds, Dum Dums, Mr. Good Bar, and more were all debuted in the American market.


Throughout the 1930s and the Great Depression, more and more candy companies were born with now classic treats. M&M Mars debuted the Snickers Bar in 1930. It was named after the Mars family’s favorite horse. Later that decade, they also started selling 3 Musketeers, an all chocolate candy bar.

Tootsie Roll pop came out as the first candy to combine hard candy and chocolate chewy candy, a ground-breaking confectionery innovation at the time. Other people were starting to notice that the candy industry was a lucrative market and began making their own versions of popular candy bars. William Luden, a cough drop manufacturer put out the 5th Avenue Candy Bar around this time.


The 40s saw some consolidation among the chocolate giants in the industry. Notably, the then-president of Hershey Chocolate, Bruce Murrie, teamed up with Forrest Mars of Mars bar fame and named their new company, simply, M&M. Shortly thereafter, they put out the first plain chocolate M&M’s with the candy coating that melts in your mouth and not in your hand to give people a treat they could eat in the summer without melting chocolate getting everywhere.

We also saw candy companies getting involved in the war effort with Whitman’s Candy Company and Hershey developing candy specifically to be used by soldiers in combat situations. They were different than normal milk chocolate with high melting points and dense calories.

The classics just kept rolling out too. Junior Mints, Dots, Mounds, Whoppers, and Bubble Gum Cigars all enter the market.


In terms of new competitors on the market, the 1950s weren’t as remarkable as the previous 40 years. However, some off-beat faves were developed and marketed, including Pixy Stix, Candy Necklaces, Marshmallow Peeps, and the flavor Rocky Road.


While the rest of the country was undergoing a social awakening, the candy industry started getting a little bit more psychedelic as well. Veering away from chocolate as the main candy ingredient, companies began to diversify into more colorful and flavorful concoctions. M&M put out Starburst Fruit Chews. Now & Laters, Sweetarts, and Lemonheads all entered the market by smaller candy companies.

As for industry news, Hershey's acquired the H.B. Reese company, Campbell Soup bought Godiva, and more.


With competition heating up and further consolidation going on in the industry, candy companies start to look at their marketing and packaging as a way to bring in customers to new candies. Nestle put out Laffy Taffy, which famously contained a joke inside every single wrapper. General Mills put out a wild candy sugar candy that popped when it hit your tongue and called it Pop Rocks. Chuckles candy even ended up sponsoring a daredevil named Evel Knievel in an attempt to broaden their market. And new candies kept coming out, including Jelly Beans, Ring Pop, Twix, and Reese’s Pieces.


Things start to get weird in the 80s. More and more gummy-based candy targeted directly to a young audience start to dominate the market. Gummi Bears and Gummi Worms make their way the U.S. from Europe. Big League Chew, a pack of shredded bubble gum that mimics a bag of tobacco chew is createad by Wrigley gum and quickly becomes a summertime favorite. Nerds, Sour Patch Kids, and Skittles all come on the market.

On the bizarre side of things - and what ended up being great marketing for M&M’s - 80s rock group Van Halen infamously added a clause to their concert riders saying that they did not want any “brown" M&Ms backstage.


Chocolate starts to get sexy in the 90s. Mars debuts the Dove Chocolate bar which is a more adult take on milk chocolate, caramel, nuts, and other ingredients like sea salt. And they began to approach their marketing in a more mature way as well, calling their chocolate "silky smooth." Reese’s even took the opportunity to improve upon their world-renowned recipe by adding 3x the peanuts into their original recipe.

In continuation with the gimmicky marketing schemes of the 80s, the 90s saw the debut of Fruit Stripes gum and other candy monstrosities like Nerds Rope, Push Pops, Airheads, Warheads, and Bubble Tape.


While traditional candy remained a mainstay, popular sweets took a turn with the rise of cable network cooking shows and product placement in scripted TV shows. Cupcakes became the sweet of the decade thanks in part to a particular show called Sex and the City. In it, Carrie visits a now famous NYC bakery called Magnolia Bakery for a cupcake.

Along with the rest of American food culture, candy/sweets/desserts have seen a return to their roots with the rehashing of traditional home cooked recipes and regional fare.

Over the last 100 years, the world of candy has grown from local stores into worldwide brands. We’re excited to see where the next 100 years takes us.