Chocolate has been around for over 3000 years, but it didn’t gain popularity in America until the 1900s, when Milton Hershey found a way to perfect the milk chocolate recipe. Since then, chocolate has grown to be one of the most popular candies around. While many chocolate bars faded out of existence, some of them have been around for so long that they’re borderline historic. Let’s take a stroll with Willy Wonka through his famous chocolate factory and break down the 10 Most Influential American Candy Bars of All Time.
10. Charleston Chew Bars
Named after a popular dance from the 1920s, the Charleston Chew has been around for a long time. Tootsie, famous for their pops and rolls and the current producer of the Charleston Chew, claims that this bar, which features chewy, flavored nougat wrapped in a rich, chocolaty coating, is a true American snack. The Charleston Chew bar originally came in four flavors: chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, and banana. While the banana flavor eventually phased out, the other three are still available to buy in stores. They’re frequently enjoyed frozen, offering the classic “Charleston Chew crack” as folks love to break them into small pieces prior to eating. These were created all the way back in 1925, and they’ve managed to stand the test of time. While the original packaging for Charleston Chews was a grey box that had the brand name in a small red font at the bottom, they eventually switched over to the bright yellow packaging that we’re currently familiar with. These iconic candies are even being mentioned frequently in popular media. For example, in the sci-fi cartoon Futurama, Charleston Chew bars are often mentioned by Richard Nixon’s head, who is the President of Earth. They’ve also been used to teach rheology (the study of the flow of matter) to university students in their geology labs! So while they may not be the most influential candy bar of all time, they definitely earn a spot on the list.
9. Dove Chocolate
Dove, also known as Galaxy, is an American brand of chocolate sold and produced by Mars. As a brand, Dove has a great reputation, and their products are nearly everywhere. Not only do they sell a wide range of chocolate candy, they also produce other chocolate confections such as cakes, milks, and ice cream. Originally from a chocolate and ice-cream shop, Dove was owned by a Greek-American man named Leo Stefanos in 1939. Stefanos moved to Chicago in order to settle down and start a family, and according to Dove Chocolate company lore, he was frightened when his young son, Michael, raced recklessly down the street in pursuit of the neighborhood ice cream truck and decided to make his own ice cream bar in hopes of keeping little Michael and his brother and sister closer to home. In 1977, Micheal took over his father’s business. He then expanded the company and sold it to Mars in 1986. The reason Dove is on this list is because, in 1992, they released Dove Silk Chocolate, which was one of the first mass produced chocolate bars marketed as a luxury. While it may not be on everyone’s favorite chocolate list, Dove Silk Chocolate helped pave the way for the artisanal chocolate movement (think Ferrero Rocher, Cadbury, Godiva) that took place a few years later.
8. Almond Joy
Introduced in 1946 and manufactured by Hershey’s, this bar consists of whole almonds, and sweetened, shredded coconut covered in milk chocolate. This is a favorite amongst retro-candy lovers, which seems to be basically everybody. You can find these candy bars in nearly every gas station, dollar store, or grocery store, and it doesn’t look like they’re going anywhere anytime soon. Packaged in a soothing blue wrapper with tiny little coconuts adorning it, Almond Joy calls to you from its place on the shelf. This chocolate bar is well-known in American culture and it has the television credits to prove it. For example, in Weeds, Almond Joy was the favorite candy of one of the character’s late husband. In an episode of Better Call Saul, a witness claims that the defendant ordered an Almond Joy before committing a robbery. And supposedly one of the Allman Brother’s early band names was the Allman Joy’s. from 2003-2006, Hershey’s actually experimented with various limited-edition flavors such as pina colada, white key lime, passion fruit, and toasted coconut. And while those were fun and creative, the original is the one that just seems to stick. Almond Joy is very similar to Mounds, which is also produced by Hershey’s, except Mounds has dark chocolate, and omits the almonds. As the commercial once told us, sometimes you feel like a nut – sometimes you don’t.
7. Milky Way Bar
You don’t have to be an astronaut to have an out-of-world experience. Modelled after a popular milkshake at the time, the Milky Way bar was introduced by the Mars company in 1923. The American version and the global version have a few deviations. The global Milky Way bar, which is sold as the 3 Muskateers in North America contains only nougat and chocolate. The US version of the Milky Way, which is made of nougat topped with caramel and covered with milk chocolate, is sold as the Mars Bar in the rest of the world. Since the version of the bar sold outside the United States has no caramel topping, it is considerably lighter than that of the Mars bar. Because of its light filling, the global version floats in milk, which is a feature that’s highlighted heavily in advertising campaigns in places such as Germany, France, Belgium, and the UK. The one thing both versions can agree on is that this chocolate bar made up of a chocolate-malt nougat center with or without a layer of caramel is one scrumptious chocolate bar. This is a standout bar that gets top sales in American grocery stores, and the caramel is perfect for indulging in your stickiest cravings.
6. PayDay Bar
Named after the day we all look forward to the most, PayDay bars have been around since 1932. This bar is a rule breaker as PayDay is one of the only chocolate-free candy bars out there. This candy bar is actually very similar to an Oh Henry, except it doesn’t have the chocolate coating. Produced by Hershey’s, the PayDay bar consists of a nougat center covered in caramel, which is then rolled in fresh peanuts that entirely cover the candy bar. During the Depression, candy bars were often advertised as replacements for full meals, and the protein-rich PayDay was one of the most filling options out there. In 1980, a fire destroyed the production plant, but the L.S. Heath and Sons Company (the makers of the Heath bar) stepped in to help out until a new facility could be made. In 1989, as part of an advertisement campaign, PayDay bars cleverly contained an individually wrapped nickel. Several variations of PayDay include a Honey-Roasted limited edition in 2003, the PAYDAY PRO, a high protein energy bar in 2005, and the PayDay Chocolatey Avalanche in 2007, a chocolate-covered version (adhering to social norms and playing by the rules). The reason PayDay is on this list is because it shows the world that you don’t need to be covered in chocolate in order to be successful. Go PayDay, the rebel candy bar.
5. Kit Kat
Give yourself a break with a tasty Kit Kat bar. While Kit Kat isn’t technically American (it was invented by Rowntree, a company based in England), Hershey’s acquired the license to start producing these in the US in the 1970s. Since then, this chocolate-covered wafer bar has grown immensely popular, and they’ve become one of the highest-selling candies in the US. Packaged in a recognizable red wrapper, Kit Kats are so popular it would be a miracle to find anyone who hasn’t tried one. The original four-finger design was developed and then launched in 1935 under the name ‘Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp’. It was renamed Kit Kat Chocolate Crisp in 1937, and then was finally renamed to Kit Kat just after World War II. Everyone knows the catchy Kit Kat jingle, and recently, customers haven’t been able to get enough of the weird flavors that they’ve been coming up with. Grilled Potato, Matcha Milk, Brandy and Orange, you name it, they’ve got it. Well, whether you want something super wacky or just want to stick to the original, Kit Kat has got you, and all your future breaks, covered.
Ah, Twix. Forever a battle between cookie and chocolate bar, left side versus right side. What would we do without you? Like the Kit Kat, this one was first introduced in the UK, and then eventually brought over to the US. This cookie-meets-candy confection is a chocolate bar made by Mars Inc., consisting of a cookie biscuit, caramel and covered in chocolate. Twix are traditionally come with two bars in a wrapper, and their newest slogan is “Chew It Over With Twix.” The Twix bar has also had its share of the spotlight. In Orange is the New Black, a Twix bar is used as a reward in prison for correctly guessing when a pregnant woman will deliver her baby. In the Seinfeld episode ‘The Dealership’, Twix becomes a plot line for Geoge when he accuses a mechanic of stealing his candy bar. The left Twix vs right Twix debate takes the cake for the longest-running gag in their commercials, pitting both sides against each other. It’s silly, but fun and creative, and it makes the customers interact with the brand in a way they wouldn’t have before. Have you ever wondered what the real difference between the sides are? Well, the left twix uses cookie, caramel, and chocolate, while the right side uses chocolate, caramel, and cookie. A small distinction, sure, but enough to be noticeable. So, left or right side? It’s your choice.
3. Snickers Bar
Nabbing top spot of American’s favorite candies for years, Snickers tells us that you really aren’t yourself if you’re hungry. This yummy treat consists of delicious nougat topped with caramel and peanuts, which is then enrobed in chocolate. While this was originally introduced in 1930, this confectionary comes with multiple names. In places like the UK, it was sold under the name ‘Marathon’ until 1990, when it was finally changed to Snickers. Fun fact: the name for Snickers comes directly from the Mars family. Snickers was the name of their favorite horse. Nowadays, there are plenty of Snickers spinoffs – Snickers cakes, Snickers peanut bars, Snickers ice cream bars – but there’s no way to go wrong with the original. Why do we love this candy bar so much? Well, aside from the downright satisfaction that we get from eating these, the thing we love most about this candy bar is the wacky commercials that they make. Some of the most notable ads include celebrities such as Betty White, Mr. T, and sharks? Yes, sharks. While these commercials range from lighthearted to insanely absurd, the one thing they have in common is their good humor and surprising take on life. That’s something that everyone can endorse.
You can never go wrong with a little Hershey’s. While it may not be at the top of your list, you can’t deny that Hershey’s has been there when no other chocolate has. From Christmas stocking fillers to an essential part of cookie and s’mores recipes, Hershey’s has had a reoccurring role in our lives. One of the largest chocolate manufacturers in the world, Hershey’s also manufactures baked products, such as cookies and cakes, milkshakes, drinks and many other products that are produced globally. Hershey’s is quite literally the chocolate that started it all, and for that, we thank them. Because of them, the path was paved for all of our other favorite chocolate bars. Things that have brought joy to us on sad days, have brought comfort when we most needed it, and, most importantly, brought us a full stomach when we were hungry. Hershey’s is so influential that they renamed the town where the company was founded to Hershey, Pennsylvania. There’s even a Hersheypark, which was founded by Milton S. Hershey as a leisure park for his employee, and a Hershey’s Chocolate World, which, you guessed it, specializes in selling Hershey’s only-products. While the slightly sour taste of the chocolate itself remains a point of contention for some customers, we can still be grateful for the game-changing influence that Hershey’s had in the chocolate world.
1. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup
According to multiple sources, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are the best-selling chocolate in the US. While it’s not exactly a candy bar, its chocolatey outside and smooth peanut butter inside definitely count as candy, so who cares if it’s bar-shaped? These cups are universally loved, and that’s what really matters. With an unmistakeable orange-and-yellow packaging, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups knows exactly just what you want. This snack is perfect for things like Halloween, going to the movies, or just hanging out with friends. The mixture of chocolate and peanut butter in each round cup will leave you wanting more, so be grateful that there are multiples in each package. These were introduced in 1928, and were created by one H. B. Reese, a former dairy farmer and shipping foreman for Milton S. Hershey. H. B. Reese actually left his position at the Hershey company to start the H. B. Reese Candy Company, using Hershey’s chocolate in all of his confections. His peanut butter cups were his best-seller, so eventually he discontinued all other lines of treats and focused on perfecting his recipe. H. B. Reese died in 1956, passing the company onto his six sons, who then merged the company with Hershey’s. Only six years after this merger, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups became The Hershey Company’s best-seller, ensuring that H. B. Reese’s legacy lives on.