The 25 Most Influential American Candy Bars of All Time
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!).
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
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!
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
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
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).
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
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.”
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
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
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
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).
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
Toeing the line between cookie and candy bar, Twix is a portmanteau derived from "twin biscuit sticks."
Hands down, one of the messiest candy bars you can eat. (Also: one of the best to blend into a milkshake.)
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)
The word "Skör" (with umlauts) is Swedish for "brickle." The word "Skor," which is what's printed on these candy bars' wrappers, is Swedish for "shoes."
1992: Dove Silk Chocolate
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
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
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
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."