Thursday, June 9, 2005

Candy is Dandy...

Like most kids growing up, I enjoyed candy. In fact, some of my fondest memories are when we would go grocery shopping each week, always on Friday evening after my brother and I got out of school. We would always buy at least two packages of candy. Sometimes it might be candy bars, sometimes licorice, sometimes something entirely different. Regardless of what candy we bought, I always looked forward to it.

Most of the brands of candy I enjoyed as a child are still around. In fact, most of the brands of candy I enjoyed as a child had been around for years before I was born. Indeed, Milton S. Hershey invented the milk chocolate bar in 1900. In other words, the Hershey's Chocolate Bar had been around for 63 years before I was even alive. Hershey's invention proved to be a success and it would not be long before competitors would enter the field. The Hershey's Chocolate Bar with Almonds was introduced in 1908. In 1927 Mr. Goodbar was added to the Hershey line. Here I must digress to explain the complex history of the Kit Kat bar. While manufactured by Hershey, the Kit Kat bar is not exactly a Hershey product. It was introduced in 1931 by Rowntree in the United Kingdom. In 1969, Rowntree licensed Hershey to make Kit Kat bars in the United States. In 1988 Nestlé bought Rowntree. Hershey is then licensed by its chief competitor, Nestlé, to make Kit Kat bars! Regardless, it has always been my favourite candy bar made by Hershey. When it came to Hershey's products, it seemed that we rarely bought the original milk chocolate bar introduced in 1900. Usually, we either bought Mr. Goodbar or Kit Kat. Less often we bought Hershey's Chocolate Bar with Almonds.

Indeed, if we bought a standard chocolate bar, it was usually those made by Nestlé. Nestlé was founded by Swiss pharmacist Henri Nestlé. Nestlé had developed the first instant formula for infants in 1867. The company would not enter the chocolate market until 1904, when Peter & Kohler Swiss General Chocolate Company developed a process for creating milk chocolate for Nestlé. The Nestlé chocolate bar came to the United States in 1919. One of their most popular products, the Nestlé Crunch bar, was introduced in 1938. I have fond memories of Nestlé Crunch bars from when I was very young. For some reason, whenever my father had to go to the farm equipment dealership in Cairo, he always bought my brother and I Nestlé Crunch bars. Nestlé also made one of my other favourite candy bars as a child, the $100,000 Bar (now known as the $100 Grand Bar). It was first introduced in 1966. It is basically a combination of chocalate, caramel nugat, and crisped rice. It was also the gooiest candy bar I have ever eaten.

As fond as I was of Nestlé products, I think my favourite candy bars were made by Mars, Incorporated. Frank C. Mars founded the company in 1911 when he went into the candy business. The company's success was guaranteed when, in 1923, Frank C. Mars invented the Milky Way bar. For those of you who have had the misfortune of never having eaten one, Milky Way bars are chocolate bars with nugat in the middle. This success was followed by the introduction of the Snickers Bar in 1929 (currently the best selling candy bar in the Unitd States). It was supposedly named for Frank C. Mars's favourite horse. It is a combination of chocolate, peanuts, and caramel. Mars introduced 3 Musketeers in 1932. Originally it contained three different flavours of candy in one package: chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. Eventually 3 Musketeers would become a chocolate bar with fluffy chocolate nougat in the middle. Of course, not every Mars candy bar has been a success. In 1973 the company introduced the Marathon bar. The Marathon bar was a braided, chocolate bar with caramel in the middle. It was a full eight inches long, although because of the braiding it weighed no more than other candy bars. A ruler on the back of the wrapper showed the length of the bar. I loved Marathon bars as a kid; they were among my favourite candies. Unfortunately, the Marathon bar did not sell as well as Mars had expected it to. They were discontinued in 1981.

Of course, Mars's most famous product is not even a candy bar. M&M's Chocolate Candies allegedly developed out of a trip Forrest Mars Sr. (son of Frank C. Mars) took to Spain. Supossedly, he encountered soldiers in the Spanish Civil War eating chocolate candies which had a hard sugary coating. M&M's Chocolate Candies were first sold in 1941 Curiously, they were originally packaged in cardboard tubes--they would not be sold in the familiar bags until 1948. They proved popular with soldiers in World War II as they would not melt as candy bars would. They also proved popular on the homefront as well. In 1954 M&M's Peanut Chocolate Candies were introduced. Originally, M&M's only came in earth tones. This changed in 1960 when red, green, and yellow were added. M&M's have always been among my favourite candies. I ate a ton of them as a child and I must confess that I still eat them frequently.

Here I must mention Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. This was a candy I loved as a child and still love. In fact, I think I prefer the miniatures to the full size version It was introduced in 1923 by the H. B. Reese Company. He had started out operating one of Hershey's dairy farms before striking out on his own in the candy business. The H. B. Reese Company would be bought in 1963 by Hershey itself. Hershey has admittedly done a lot with the brand. I believe it was they who introduced the miniature peanut butter cups. And, of course, they also introduced Reese's Pieces in 1978 (popularised by the movie E.T. in 1982).

Another candy I loved as a child and still love is the Tootsie Roll. Leo Hirshfield had brought the recipe for the candy with him from his native Austria. He began sellling them in the United States in 1896, the name "Tootsie" coming from his five-year old daughter's nickname. A single Tootsie Roll then only cost one penny, making it very popular with children. Like M&M's they proved to be popular with soldiers as they would not melt as candy bars would. The Tootsie Roll proved successful enough that in 1931 a new product was introduced, the Tootsie Pop. The Tootsie Pop was revolutionary in being the first sucker with a soft, chocolate centre. Like the Tootsie Roll, it proved immensely popular.

Of course, among the most legendary candies made in America was the Baby Ruth bar. The Baby Ruth bar was a product of the Curtiss Candy Company, founded in 1916 by Otto Schnering in Chicago. In 1921, Scnering introduced a chocolate bar containing peanuts and caramel. He named the candy bar "Baby Ruth." There has always been a controversy over the name of the candy bar. Otto Schnering always claimed that it had been named for Ruth Cleveland, daughter of President Grover Cleveland. Some have been suspicious of this idea, as Ruth Cleveland died a full 17 years before the candy bar was introduced. Many believe that it was named for the homerun king, Babe Ruth, who was already somewhat famous in 1921. Regardless of the truth behind the name, it proved very successful. In the years prior to World War II it was the most popular candy bar in the United States (this is perhaps why in the movie Hellboy it is established as that character's favourite candy bar....). The Curtiss Candy Company followed the success of the Baby Ruth with the Butterfinger bar in 1928. Butterfinger bars consist of chocolate covering a crispy, peanut butter filling. Like the Baby Ruth bar, there is an interesting story behind the Butterfinger bar's name. It was chosen through a public contest. The phrase "butter fingers" was used, then as now, of baseball players who dropped the ball. Despite their success, the Curtiss Candy Company would be bought by Standard Brands in 1963. Standard Brands itself would be purchased by Nabisco in 1981. In 1990 Nabisco would sell the various Curtiss brands to Nestlé

Another candy I enjoyed as a kid were Sugar Babies. For those of you unfamiliar with them, they are bite sized, chewy, caramel candies. The candy was introduced in 1935 by the James O. Welch Company. They took their name from a product introduced by the company in 1925, the Sugar Daddy, which is pretty much milk caramel on a stick. It was orignally called the "Papa," but the name was changed to the Sugar Daddy in 1932. There was also a "Sugar Mama," essentially a chocolate covered Sugar Daddy. It was introduced in 1965, but although they stopped making them in the Eighties. The James O. Welch Company also made Junior Mints, introduced in 1949. They are still one of my favourite candies. Unfortunately, the James O. Welch Company would face the same fate as other confectioners in the 20th century. Eventually it would be bought by drug company Warner-Lambert, who would in turn sell it to Tootsie Roll.

Beyond the well known candies, there were others that I enjoyed as a child. I don't suppose very many remember the little wax bottles which contained syrup that came in different flavours. I think they were called Nik-L-Nips. And then there were those candies that were absolutely politically incorrect: candy cigarettes, sold in boxes that sometimes bore the names of actual cigarettes or at least close facscimiles thereof; and bubblegum cigars. Today it must seem amazing that candy in the shape of nicotine products were sold to kids, but they were. And they tasted good, too.

It seems to me that the candy industry went the way that many industries did here in the United States. The late 19th century into the 20th century saw the rise of many such companies. Hershey, Mars, Peter Paul, Curtiss, and James O. Welch all came to prominence in the period from 1900 to 1930. As the 20th century passed, however, many of the companies were either bought by conglomerates or the candy bar giants (Hershey, Nestlé, and so on). Curtiss's products are now made by Nestlé The James O. Welch products are owned by Tootsie Roll. Like many industries, the candy industry which once saw the existence of many companies is now dominated by a few large coporations.

I could probably go on reminiscing about candies I had as a child, such things as Clark bars, Zero bars, Mounds, and Almond Joy. But I suspect I have talked enough about candy for one day. Many of the brands I enjoyed as a child are still around, although, sadly, so many are also now gone.

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