“Two countries separated by a common language” is an expression widely attributed to the author, George Bernard Shaw sometime in the 1940’s. This is applicable to many elements of US/UK life, none more so than in the area of confectionary.
Whilst many people raised in the UK at any point in the last fifty year will have a more than a passing familiarity with the English sweets featured in our previous post – see our previous post here – Iconic English Sweets – Part 1 I suspect that there may only be a few Brits who will have any emotional bond to those iconic candies (obviously not “sweets”) hailing from the US including Hersey Bars, Tootsie Rolls, Life Savers or Milk Duds.
I recently saw a store on London’s Oxford Street – the Tottenham Court Road end – that sells nothing but US candy and US versions of known and lesser known cereals like Golden Grahams, Fruit Loops and Lucky Charms. We are familiar with these brands from their presence, to some extent, on our supermarket shelves but also from holidays to the US and strategic product placement in, particularly Hollywood-made films.
Why not try a pack of Lucky Charms or Fruit Loops by clicking the following AMAZON links
I wanted to major on a few iconic US candy brands to tug at a nostalgic sweet teeth of our US readers but I also wanted to help raise the profile of certain iconic US brands to a wider international audience.
Like many slightly cockeyed views of those products that made the US great, in Europe we have an embedded view of Hershey as having gained prominence from the kitbag of US Military GI’s.
The success story – and there were previous failures – goes back to 1886 when Milton Snavely Hershey founded a successful caramel making business, Lancaster Caramel, in rural Pennsylvania. The business grew rapidly and exported, particularly to the UK, where an early connection with a British importer had proved fruitful.
The World Columbian Exhibition of 1893 had sparked in Hershey a desire to make chocolate and in 1894 the first product bearing the Hershey name – Hershey’s Cocoa – was launched.
In 1900 Milton sold the Lancaster Caramel business – for $1m – in order to concentrate on chocolate production, launching Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars the same year. A year previous he’d developed the Hershey process that made excellent milk chocolate economically from the excellent raw materials – particularly local milk – available in their rural setting. In 1907 he introduced the small foiled wrapped cones of chocolate “Hershey’s Kisses” – a staple for US Valentine’s Day.
Hershey was raised a Pennsylvanian Mennonite (whose Protestant forbears had hailed from Friesland in the Netherlands) and was a noted philanthropist. In the early 1900’s Milton starting building model towns, schools and leisure amenities for his workers and the local community. Even during the Great Depression, Hershey commissioned substantial building projects in the company town of Hershey, PA.
By the late 1920’s a US staple “S’mores” – a combination of biscuit, Hershey’s chocolate and marsh mallow – became increasingly popular.
The majority of chocolate used in Military rations are made by the Hershey Company. Between 1940 and 1945, over 3 billion of the D ration (that includes six squares of chocolate) and Tropical Bars were produced and distributed to the military. By the end of hostilities the Hershey Company were producing 24m ration bars a week.
Milton died on 13th October 1945. He and wife, Kitty, were childless so their efforts in establishing schools and assisting local families were their lasting legacies. In 1918, three years after his wife’s death, Hershey transferred all of his shares in the Hershey Company – then thought to be then worth around $60m and now valued at around $12bn – to the Milton Hershey School Trust fund, the school that he and Kitty had established in 1909 primarily for local children in need. The school continues to be one of the best funded secondary schools in the US.
The Hershey Company produced Rolo and Kit Kat for Nestle in the US as a result of perpetuity agreements entered into with Rowntree’s in 1978.
Milton and Kitty had spent the winter of 1911 in Nice (France) and Milton needed to return to the US. The Titanic was to sail on 10th April 1911 on its maiden voyage and a cheque bearing Hershey’s signature for $300 payable to the Titanic’s operator, the White Star Line, drawn on the Hershey Trust Company demonstates Milton’s intention to travel aboard. For some reason he elected to return earlier to the US and sailed on 6th April 1912 aboard the SS Amerika.
Try the iconic Hershey Milk Chocolate Bar By clicking the following AMAZON link
You may also like to try Hershey’s Kisses – they are delicious – Valentine’s Day anyone?
Tootsie Roll are a sort of cross between toffee (or taffy in US) and chocolate that were first patented in the US in 1907 and launched in September of 1908.
In 1896, founder and inventor, Leo Hirschfield, who named his iconic product after his daughter Clara’s nickname, had established for his employers, Stern & Staalberg, a small New York City based candy store. Leaving the business in unexplained circumstances in 1920 and later in 1922, sadly, committed suicide.
The company was acquired in 1935 by Bernard D Rubin – of Joseph Rubin and Sons Tootsie Rolls packaging supplier. Rubin moved the company to larger premises in Hoboken (New Jersey). He died in 1948 having hugely increased the businesses value. His brother, William, succeeded him as President until 1962 when his daughter Ellen Gordon took over. Her late husband Melvin was Chairman and CEO for many years. The business became Tootsie Roll Industries in 1966 and has a world-wide market with around 64m Tootsie Rolls being made daily.
Why not enjoy some classic candy for your family – see the following AMAZON links
Life Savers are an iconic US brand of circular hard candy – deriving their name from the life-belts used on boats – and are available in, primarily, mint and fruit flavours that are wrapped in waxed paper and aluminum foil rolls. The product was invented in 1912 by Clarence Crane of Cleveland (Ohio) and was intended as an alternative to chocolate, in that they would not melt.
Crane sold his “Pep-O-Mint” trademark and formula to Edward Noble in 1913 for $2,900 who established the Life Savers and Candy Company. In 1919, Noble’s brother developed machinery to mass produce the candies that had previously been made by hand. He sold the tubes of Pep-O-Mint Life Savers for a nickel – 5 cents. Tinfoil rolls were replaced by aluminum rolls in 1925. By the same year, as a result of progress in manufacturing technology the “whole in the middle” first appeared in the fruit candy.
Production was moved to Port Chester (New York) and a custom designed and dressed building with Life Saver images was constructed. Production took place at Port Chester between 1920 and 1984.
The first five-flavours roll was launched in 1935. Edward Noble ran the business for more than forty years until the late 1950’s when he sold it to the Squibb Corporation. In 1981, Nabisco Brands Inc. acquired Life Savers from the E.R. Squibb Corporation and in 2004, the US Life Savers business was acquired by Wrigley’s a division of Mars from 2008.
In 1947 Rowntree’s (Nestle) in the UK, a former licensed manufacturer of Life Savers, launched a similar product, the “Polo” mint resulting in an ongoing trade mark dispute.
Try some iconic US candies here by clicking the following AMAZON links
An advert for a business in the 1990’s – I think it was Hanson Trust – had the tag line was “a Company From Here Doing Rather Well Over There”. The same could be said for the London based 1780’s creation of Altoids made by Smith & Company – later to become the famed toffee brand of Callard and Bowser – now part of Mars – in the 19th century. Altoids are still one of the top selling mint brands in the US market.
The Altoid slogan “The Original Celebrated Curiously Strong Mints”, referencing the strength of peppermint oil used in the original lozenge is still displayed prominently on its packaging tins.
In the 1920’s the now iconic Altoid tin replaced previous cardboard packaging. The tins have become highly collectible and have – aside from the obvious hobby uses for storing screws and nails – doubled as survival tins, been the customs hoe for small personal computers and even emergency cooking pots for those stranded in snow.
Production was moved from Bridgend in South Wales to Chattanooga Tennessee to be closer to its prime market.
Try Altoids – they are really very good – by clicking the following AMAZON link
It appears that the entire US candy market – and now a word from our sponsor – is “Brought to you in Association with Hershey”! Milk Duds are a chocolate-covered caramel drop and another Hershey product.
The perhaps unusual name comes the large amount of milk used in their production and the word “dud” apparently came as a result of employee’s reactions to the original aim of having a perfectly round chocolate-covered product that was proving impossible to create.
Milk Duds were first created in 1926 by Sean le Noble of Chicago. In 1928, Holloway took over production from Le Noble & Company. In 1960, Beatrice Foods acquire Holloway and in 1986 Leaf purchased Milk Duds which in turn was acquired in 1996 by Hershey Foods Corporation.
Yet another Hershey brand which was acquired in 1963 following the death of founder Henry Burnett Reese in 1956, the businesses was founded in 1923. Reese who’s signature “Peanut Butter Cups” are a favourite in the US was inspired when he worked for Milton Hershey as a shipping forman to start out on his own. The stock-for-stock merger now values the Reese family interest in Hershey as worth $1.8bn which in 2017 delivered an annual dividend of $42m.
I had a business colleague in the mid-1980 who loved Reese’s Pieces and her luck was in as we had frequent US visitors who would be greeted with a cheery “Got any Reese’s Pieces?” on their arrival in London. For the sanity of all they would often dig deep into huge JFK Duty Free carrier bags and off load onto my colleagues desk!
If you ask an English child to combine Peanut Butter and Chocolate their grimace may suggest that their response is confused. Why would you do that? In the US – and increasingly the UK – everything from a Kit Kat, Twix and Snicker’s bars are now available in Peanut Butter flavour. Even bespoke chocolatiers now cover nuts and toffee with “salted caramel” – after all that’s the core connection between the Peatnut Butter and the Chocolate is saltiness.
Reese’s Pieces and their many variants of this now classic combination are highly successful. Why not satiete your curiosity with a bumper box from Reese’s click this AMAZON link:
If you liked this post please “Like” and share it with your friends. We’d really like to hear your experiences of the subject(s) featured in this post. Please share them below in the “Leave a Reply” section. Thanks
Image Credits – The Hershey Company, Tootsie Roll Industries, Mars and Kellogg’s