A world history, told with chocolate.
by Ronnie Watchorn
Whether your go to is something with caramel and peanuts, or something with nougat and honey, chances are you have a favorite candy bar. Everyone does, I mean there’s such a variety of them available that they’re able to meet any and every sweet tooth. Whether it’s dark and bitter or sweet and crunchy, I’m willing to bet your mouth is already watering just thinking about your personal favorite. So as a company that specializes in candy bars, it only made sense for our first confectionery expedition to be a deep dive into where they come from.
There are hundreds of candy bars on the market today, maybe even thousands. But it shouldn’t surprise anyone when I tell you that according to askmen.com, snickers ranked number one, followed closely by Reese’s, Kit-Kat, and butterfingers. Most bars on the market will having their shiny moment in history and hit a sales slump, as most products tend to do, but some of them prove immortal. Hershey’s graces the top ten list to this day, even if it is coming in in tenth. (that’s a 113-year run I do want to point out. Nothing to shake a stick at.)
But where do these bars come from? Would you believe me if I told you it took 63 years for someone to look at a candy bar and decide it needed peanuts and caramel? Or what if I told you that the government horded large 20-40lbs chunks of chocolates in WWI?
But before we get all to that, lets start at the beginning. 1847 to be exact, in Britain, when one Mr. Joseph Fry and his son molded a paste made from cocoa and sugar into the very first candy bar. No peanuts. No caramel. No nougat. Cocoa and sugar. This bad boy was on the market for two years without a single competitor when suddenly in 1849, a guy you might have heard of, John Cadbury first introduced his own version of the bar. It didn’t take long for the two men to join forces and become what’s thought to be some of the very first modern-confectioners the world had every seen. All of that said, milk chocolate candy bars wouldn’t be available until Henry Nestle and Daniel Peter decided to add milk to the existing recipe to achieve a creamier taste and smoother texture.
Interesting bit of confectionery history, Hershey’s didn’t enter the candy bar market until 1900. Roughly 53 years after Fry and his son created the first bar. Goo-Goo Clusters (the first bar to ever combine peanuts, caramel, marshmallow, and chocolate) debuted in 1913.
Then something interesting happened in 1914. World War One broke out. This is when the government started buying up 20-40 pound blocks of chocolate in huge quantities. They were making chocolate bars and sending them to the troops overseas. But this is where things get really neat. The troops came home and the demand for the bars remained at an all time high. By the end of the war there were over 40,000 varieties of candy bars on the market trying to meet that demand.
Some of the bars that made their debut during that time have stood the test of time and remain in production today, their recipe may have changed a little over the years, but the name plate has remained successful. Just to name a few, in 1923 we saw Milky Way come onto the scene introducing us to its portable malted milk flavor. In 1928, a former employee of the now established Hershey’s Diary Co left and launched his own confectionery endeavor (sound familiar?). The result was the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. But the hallmark of confections, the one candy bar to rule them all, Snicker’s (named after the family horse) was introduced in 1930 and hasn’t slowed up since.
Various other bars showed up over the years, some won our hearts, some not so much. Some live on to this day and others only in our childhood memories. But as you can see, the history of candy bars isn’t what you’d assume. I assume they would have originated in Belgium, or Switzerland. Somewhere in Europe at least, but no. They originated in Britain, and with the help of a world war, they won the heart of the American people.
People cook with them, create bouquets out of them, sneak them into movies, and hide in the pantry to sneak a bite where their toddlers won’t see. But one thing hasn’t changed, we sure do love the damn things.
Now with this history lesson behind us we’ve only hit on the origins of one bar’s name. Surely these weren’t all random made up words or phrases, right? They had to have come from somewhere. Whether its from the kiss-like-sound the machine at Hershey’s made while they were being produced or banking in on the fame of a famous baseball player, there’s always a reason. (That said, interesting tid bit for ya, Babe Ruth would have had to pay a fortune in royalties if they admitted the bar was named in likeness of the star player, so they insisted it was named after President Cleveland’s daughter, Ruth.) Although I think my favorite name origin I’ve found has to be the “Oh Henry” bar. Who on earth was Henry? Well. He was a boy who would stop in and flirt with the girls making all the candy in the factory. He became so notorious, and the factory owner heard the phrase “oh henry” so many times, he decided to keep it on as the name. How’s that for an origin story?All and all, candy bars have survived it all. From world wars (both) to fad diets and a suddenly health conscious world, they’ve stood the test of time and don’t show signs of going anywhere anytime soon. And it’s on that heritage that we want to build our company. Crafting hand blended chocolate recipes into decadent bars you’ll want to enjoy again and again. Our approach takes things back to a simpler time with natural flavors and the freshest ingredients. From our Raspberry and Sel Noir to Hazelnuts, Pecans, and Toffee, and more flavors on the way, we’re sure we can satisfy your sweet tooth with one or another. We’re just proud to be able to put our mark on this time-honored tradition, and hope you enjoy our iterations as we go. Thank you for reading, we'll have more blogs released a couple times a month as we research and discover more of these stories, in the mean time enter the code oh-henry at checkout for 10% off your total purchase today!