The first candy bar

One hundred and seventeen years after it created what is perhaps the world’s most iconic (if basic) candy bar, Hershey’s has…adapted. The candy company has announced a new candy bar to its lineup, a gilded treat called “Hershey’s Gold.” Somewhere deep within the White House, Trump feels a tingling in his loins.

The company describes the new bar as a “caramelized crème bar…with crushed peanuts and pretzels to give you a very fine crunch, indeed.” Hershey’s market researchers apparently noted the “rising popularity of crunchy multi-textured candy.”

For those keeping track, this is the company’s first “new” candy bar in over two decades, when in 1995 it debuted the Cookies ‘n Creme bar (still the most loathsome of the Hershey bars, though I haven’t yet tried this new one). Apparently, it only counts as “new” if the base is new, i.e. not made from milk, “special dark” creme (ugh) or, now, caramel. Sorry Krackel, you were just not innovative enough for this world.

The most superior of all Hershey bar creations is, of course, Hershey’s Milk Chocolate with Almonds. I will hear no arguments on the subject. Good day to you.

The 25 Most Influential American Candy Bars of All Time

Abby Hocking

Chocolate has been around for 3,000 years (Mayan temple paintings depict their kings and gods drinking ancient hot cocoa), but it wasn’t until 1900 when Milton Hershey—a caramel manufacturer at the time—hit upon a successful formula for milk chocolate (then a popular treat in Europe, although most Americans had never tried it), pressed it into bars, and sold them for a nickel. Once the Hershey’s bar took off, the race was on as smaller candy manufacturers scrambled to outdo each other with increasingly inventive fillings (nougat! pretzels! caramel! marshmallows!).

RELATED: How the All-American Candy Bar Quietly Thrives in the Age of Gold Leaf Unicorn Avocado Mylk Soft Serve

While lots of candy bars came and went, the ones with staying power proved to be real game-changers. (Would there be any Justin’s Almond Butter Cups without Reese’s? Any Clif bars or Kind bars without protein-packed Snickers and Baby Ruth?) Read on for our list of the 25 most influential candy bars in American history (most invented here, others sold here for decades)—you can still buy all of them today!

1900: Hershey’s Bar

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The bar that started it all, although the (slightly sour) taste is still somewhat…controversial. Some attribute Hershey bars’ unique flavor (which has remained unchanged since 1900) to spoiled milk, though the company vehemently denies it.

1909: Oh Henry!

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One of the first “combination candy bars,” the Oh Henry!—named for a dude who was constantly flirting with the women who worked in the factory where it was produced and wouldn’t, just, let them do their jobs—was a mix of peanuts, caramel, and fudge coated in chocolate.

1914: Heath Bar

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Made of toffee, almonds, and milk chocolate, the Heath Bar was originally marketed as a health bar. The tagline? “Heath for better health!”

1917: Clark Bar

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Similar to the Butterfinger, the Clark Bar has a crispy peanut butter and spun taffy core. After the Necco factory shuttered earlier this year, the Boyer Candy Company in Altoona, Pennsylvania—located about 100 miles east of Pittsburgh—purchased the rights to produce Clark Bars (they should be back on store shelves within a few months).

1920: Mounds

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One of the simpler (and more enduring) candy bars out there, this shredded coconut and dark chocolate confection remains a favorite to this day.

1921: Baby Ruth

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The Baby Ruth bar—which is supposedly named for President Grover Cleveland’s eldest daughter and not the famous baseball player—was originally marketed as an “energy bar” and a “complete luncheon for 5c.”

1923: Butterfinger

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In an early marketing campaign, the Curtiss Candy Company dropped Butterfingers with tiny parachutes from airplanes, which is very adorable (also, mildy dangerous).

1923: Milky Way

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Made of chocolate malt nougat topped with caramel and covered in milk chocolate, the Milky Way bar was modeled after a popular milkshake at the time.

1925: Charleston Chew

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Featuring nougat in a chocolate coating, this classic candy bar—named after the Charleston, a popular dance in the 1920’s—originally came in four flavors: chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and banana (that one was eventually phased out).

1928: Reese’s Cups

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This iconic sweet was originally developed by H.B. Reese, a former shipping foreman for candy magnate Milton S. Hershey. When Reese left his job to start his own company, it caused quite the scandal in the candy world (Hershey eventually bought Reese’s in 1963, bringing things full circle).

1930: Snickers

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If Snickers is your favorite chocolate bar, you’re not alone. It’s nabbed the top spot in lists of America’s best-selling candies for years.

1932: 3 Musketeers

Image zoom Mars Wrigley Confectionery

Similar to the Milky Way, the 3 Musketeers bar is made of fluffy, whipped nougat covered in chocolate. It originally came with three flavors in one pack—chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry—hence the name.

1932: PayDay

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One of the few chocolate-free candy bars, PayDays consist of salted peanuts rolled in caramel, surrounding a nougat-like center. During the Depression, candy bars were often marketed as meal replacements, and the PayDay, with its peanut-dense outer layer, was one of the more filling options out there.

1935: Kit Kat

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OK, this one isn’t technically American—it was invented by Rowntree’s, a confectionery company based in York—but Hershey acquired a license to produce Kit Kats in the U.S. in the 1970’s, and they’ve been a top-selling candy bar here ever since. The original four-finger design was developed after a worker at Rowntree’s factory put a suggestion in a recommendation box for a snack that “a man could take to work in his pack.”

1938: Crunch Bar

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One of the original crisped rice milk chocolate bars, the Crunch’s direct competitor is the Krackel, introduced by Hershey that same year.

1946: Almond Joy

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It took the makers of Mounds 26 years to realize that sometimes you feel like a nut. (And sometimes you don’t! It’s OK. Live your truth.)

1966: 100 Grand

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This candy bar—whose slogan is, aptly, “That’s Rich!”—was originally called The $100,000 Bar (spoken as, “the hundred thousand dollar bar”), which is kind of a mouthful. For a while, inviting listeners to call in for the chance to win “100 Grand”—and mailing the winner a candy bar instead of a check—was a popular radio DJ prank.

1967: Twix

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Toeing the line between cookie and candy bar, Twix is a portmanteau derived from “twin biscuit sticks.”

1968: Caramello

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Hands down, one of the messiest candy bars you can eat. (Also: one of the best to blend into a milkshake.)

1978: Whatchamacallit

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Another crisped rice bar—this one with a layer of peanut butter between the crunchy bits and the chocolate coating—the Whatchamacallit briefly had an all-chocolate companion called the Thingamajig. (R.I.P. Thingamajig: 2009—2012)

1981: Skor

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1992: Dove Silk Chocolate

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One of the first mass chocolate bars marketed as luxury, the Dove Silk Chocolate bar paved the way for the artisanal chocolate movement that took place in later years.

1994: Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Creme

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One of the few Hershey’s bars sold in the United Kingdom (Europeans often find Hershey’s chocolate to be sour), the Cookies ‘n’ Creme is similar in taste to an Oreo (and is one of the few white chocolate candy bar success stories).

2004: Take 5

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With pretzels, caramel, peanuts, peanut butter, and milk chocolate, the Take 5 was one of the first candy bars to contain All the Stuff.

2017: Hershey’s Gold

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Only the fourth candy bar to carry the Hershey’s name, the Gold is another chocolate-free treat, with peanuts and pretzels baked into “caramelized creme.”

The oldest mass-produced candy product that has been continually produced in an unchanged form is probably the NECCO wafer. This does not mean, however that the New England Confectionary Company (NECCO), is the oldest candy company, although they may be the oldest mass producer of candy. This distinction is always important!

The company is responsible for such old fashioned candy classics as Sweethearts, those little candy hearts with romantic messages on them, and the once famous and still sought NECCO wafer. Other favorites include Clark Bars, Mary Janes, Candy Buttons, and Squirrel Nut Zippers. NECCO formed from the merging of several companies in 1901, but the company traces its roots to the original founding of the Chase and Company of Boston, founded by Oliver Chase in 1847 and run by him and his brother, Silas Edwin Chase.

Sweethearts first appeared in 1902 and were originally called Conversation Hearts. They are still the best-selling valentine’s day candy. NECCO Wafers, which are disks of various flavors, such as peppermint, wintergreen, cinnamon, and chocolate, of different colors, that came packaged in rolls. These came in 1912 and were originally called Peerless Wafers. Both wafers and Sweethearts are made from the same basic recipe.

The company also sold, for some curious reason, the same NECCO wafers under a different name, called “Hub Wafers.” These were the same product except wrapped in a transparent paper wrapper instead of a glazed one, like the NECCO wafers. At this time the company sold over three hundred sweets, many of them chocolates or hard candies, what was in those days called “penny candies.”

Very old NECCO Wafers Magazine Ad

Early advertising for NECCO focused on popularizing the trademark, as applied to all their products in general, but focusing on the NECCO brand as a guarantee of quality, and the “NECCO seal,” which appeared on packages. Few individual products were advertised, except for the wafers. Although this may seem like a strange strategy by today’s standards, it makes sense if you know that most of the company’s products were packaged in bulks and did not reach the customer in its original package. Only a few products, where candies were packaged in convenient multi-packs of some kind, were appropriate for individual advertising, and among these, the NECCO wafers were the most appropriate.

In 1937 the company rolled out the Sky Bar, with an over-the-top air-writing campaign. The candy bar came in four different sections, each with a different flavor, and was called the “Candy Box in a Bar.” The flavors were caramel, vanilla, peanut, and fudge. The company also produced the Bolster Bar, a peanut crunch bar covered in chocolate.

The company’s Mary Jane products were the result of its acquisition of Stark Candy Company in 1990. NECCO bought the Clark Bar in 1999. Several other important acquisitions have been made, and today the company consists of three divisions: NECCO Candy, Stark Candy, and Haviland Candy.

If you have fond memories of these NECCO products, but can’t find them where you live, don’t worry, you can still order NECCO candies online.

NECCO Products (Original and Acquired)

  • Banana Splits

Banana Splits

  • Canada Peppermints
  • Canada Wintergreen
  • Candy Buttons
  • Clark Bar:
    • Milk Chocolate Clark Bar
    • Dark Chocolate Clark Bar

Clark Bar


  • Original Thin Mints
  • Double Chocolate Thin Mints
  • Orange Thin Mints
  • Raspberry Thin Mints
  • Bridge Mix
  • Chocolate-Covered Raisins
  • Double Dipped Peanuts
  • Nonpareils
  • Haviland Wintergreen Patties

Mary Jane candies

  • Mighty Malts
  • Sky Bar

Sky Bar

  • Slap Stix
  • Squirrel Nut Zippers

Squirrel Nut Zippers

  • Sweethearts:
    • Sweethearts
    • Dazzled Tart Sweethearts
    • Chocolate Sweethearts
    • Sugar Free Sweethearts
    • En Español Sweethearts
  • Wafers:
    • NECCO Original Wafers
    • NECCO Chocolate Wafers
    • NECCO Tropical Wafers

The Oldest Candy Company

While NECCO wafers may be the oldest recognized candy product in the United States, NECCO itself is clearly not the oldest candy company, as some sources attest. It is hard to be sure of the oldest company! After all, the oldest “candy company” may well have been operating quietly on some unknown street in an unknown city without ever calling enough attention to itself to get in the history books, or to be nationally recognized.

One company that claims to be the oldest, and may well be, is Ye Old Pepper Candy Companie, operating continually in Salem Massachusetts since 1806. Notice the archaic spelling of the word company! You can read the company’s history on it’s website. According to Food Lover’s Guide to Massachussets, from 2003, it is claimed that their signature product, the Gibralter, never spoils. The authors say there was a jar of the candies on the counter that were made in 1830.2 The Gibralter, according to the company, is the first commercially made candy in the United States. Black Straps, the first candy made from Blackstrap Molasses (according to the co.) is also one of their original products. I highly doubt this statement to be true. Making candy with molasses is not exactly an original idea. Today, the Ye Old Pepper Candy Companie has branched out and sells many other products such as chocolates, fudge, brittle, hard candy, and taffy.

Do you have memories of these iconic NECCO candies? I remember candy buttons, Clark Bars, and Mary Jane’s, but, sadly, I never had Squirrel Nut Zippers until I grew up.

Image credits: Many thanks to Evan Amos for providing these great candy images, and much more. Visit Evan’s wikimedia page for free public domain images and also his Flickr page, chocked full of candy package images.

References 1. Kimmerle, Beth. Candy: The Sweet History. Portland, OR: Collectors, 2003. 132-135. 2. Harris, Patricia, and David Lyon. Food Lovers’ Guide to Massachusetts: Best Local Specialties, Markets, Recipes, Restaurants and Events. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot, 2010. 133. 3. Smith, Andrew F. The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. 4. “Necco – An American Classic.” NECCO®. Web. 19 Sept. 2012. <>. 5. “Ye Olde Pepper Candy Companie.” Web. 19 Sept. 2012. <>.

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The original 3 Musketeers candy bar was much different than it is today | Belleville News-Democrat

Q: Yesterday, I bought some 3 Musketeers candy bars, which prompted me to tell a friend that I thought I remembered in the olden days when I was young that 3 Musketeers came in three different flavors in one bar. Do you remember that? I sure hope I’m right, but a lot of times I’m not.

Charlsie Vunovic, of Granite City

A: Looks like you’ve always had a sweet spot in your memory for this still popular confection — perhaps because it once boosted your popularity with classmates.

In fact, that was a major selling point when Mars Inc. introduced 3 Musketeers in 1932, its third major product after Milky Way in 1923 (“chocolate malted milk in a candy bar”) and Snickers in 1930. It did indeed come in three pieces — vanilla, chocolate and strawberry — which allowed you to treat your friends to a piece or two. “All for one or one for a couple of others,” as the famous trio might have said during a commercial break in Alexandre Dumas’ classic novel, for which the candy was named.

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So even during the Depression, you could splurge with others by scrounging up just an extra nickel every now and then. But as the United States entered World War II, the government began rationing sugar in 1942, making it too expensive for the candy company to continue producing all three varieties. Instead, it dropped the vanilla and strawberry and sold the most popular flavor — nougat covered by milk chocolate — as a single bar. (Sorry, I’m not quite old enough to remember the change.)

Perhaps, however, you were able relive some of your childhood memories in the past decade. To celebrate the candy’s 75th anniversary in 2007, Mars introduced a limited-edition Autumn Minis Mix with French vanilla, mocha cappuccino and strawberry. The diamond anniversary also saw the introduction of 3 Musketeers Mint, which proved a huge hit. Since then, the company has tempted candy lovers with cherry and raspberry (both coated with dark chocolate) and orange surrounded by milk chocolate as well as S’mores, truffle crisp, coconut and others. Of course, if you were in France 40 years ago, you would have found Cadbury marketing its Curly Wurly bar as the 3 Musketeers, too.

Dear Emma,

For most of human history, people have enjoyed chocolate in a spicy, bitter drink. But when people discovered how to turn chocolate into a solid, it opened up a whole new world of possibilities.

That’s what I found out from my friend Omar Cornejo, a scientist at Washington State University who is very curious about the history and life of the cacao tree. Chocolate comes from the seeds of leathery fruits that grow on the tree.

If we cut open the fruit, we would find about 20 to 60 seeds on the inside. In ancient times, people would grind up the seeds and use them in a drink.

“When Europeans arrived to the Americas they found the indigenous people who were drinking this delicious thing,” Cornejo said. “It was bitter and interesting. They didn’t use sugar.”

It wasn’t until Europeans returned home that they added sugar to make it more drinkable. The drink was very popular among royalty. But engineers and scientists who lived during the Industrial Revolution in the late 1700s and early 1800s helped find new ways to produce it so it could be enjoyed by everyone.

A cacao seed can give us a few things. One of them is cocoa powder, which is the dry part of the seed. Then there is the cocoa butter, which is the wet part of the seed.

The chemist Coenraad van Houten had the idea to make a cocoa press. His press took a lot of fat out of cocoa beans and created a paste like cake batter that could then be made into cocoa powder.

This press also made it possible to remix the powder with cocoa butter. When the powder is processed, heat and friction can activate the cocoa butter and help produce chocolate liquor, a thick, chocolatey liquid.

In 1847, Joseph Fry figured out how to use these different ingredients to create a chocolate paste that he could mold into a rectangle. He produced the world’s first chocolate bar.

After Fry figured out how to make a chocolate bar, he made a treat called Fry’s chocolate cream. You can still buy it today. It is a dark chocolate candy bar with a creamy mint filling.

Now we have all kinds of solid chocolate. We have chocolate chips for our cookies. We can make delicious truffles. We can also make chocolate bonbons with different fillings like nuts, caramel and even more chocolate. One of Cornejo’s favorite chocolates is a black pepper bonbon.

Just as the first chocolate bar came from Britain, so did the world’s biggest chocolate bar. It weighed 12,000 pounds—that’s more than twice as heavy as a rhino. The chocolate bar was 13-by-13 feet.

Just imagine what it would have been like to create the first chocolate bar. People are coming up with new ideas all the time—who knows, maybe you, yes, you reading this very sentence, will come up a great invention for our future.

Dr. Universe

History of Candy Bars

by Jon Prince

For a while, the Maya and the Aztecs were the only ones enjoying the fruit of the cacao tree, something they had done for thousands of years. In the 16th Century, Spanish explorer Hernan Cortez paid a visit to the Aztecs and when he met their leader, Montezuma, he got a taste of the spicy, chocolate drink that was a local treasure.

Cortez returned to Spain with the recipe (we like to imagine it scribbled on a Post-it note) and a stash of cacao beans and the chocolate drink quickly became a favorite delicacy in the aristocratic circle.

For a while, the rich Europeans had all the fun, but over the next couple of centuries, cacoa and sugar became widely traded in Europe and North America, filling the growing demand for the chocolate drink among all the classes. In 1847, Englishman Joseph Fry figured out a way to create a chocolate paste to press into a mold, thus creating the candy bar. Nice going, Mr. Fry.

In 1875, Henry Nestle realized that adding milk to the chocolate mixture makes it less bitter, another major milestone in the world of chocolate, soon followed by an even bigger one.

The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair featured chocolate making machines that caught Milton Hershey’s eye (he was already rich from making caramel, but saw even more opportunity in chocolate, smart man). One year later, the world got the first chocolate bar from Hershey, marking the beginning of the mass-produced American candy bar.

With mechanized candy bar production that began in the 40’s, the market became flooded with new and inventive candy bar creations, to the tune of 40,000 over the years. We don’t have quite that many candy bars on our site, but we do have a lot, and surely there are some you haven’t tried. Call it a history lesson and dive into our Candy Bar selection and fill in those gaps.

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