Candy is a generic term for sugar-based confections. European candy makers immigrated to America in colonial times and set up shop. Early American candies included comfits, which were nuts or dried fruit coated with honey, sorghum, or molasses, an inexpensive by-product made in the conversion of sugarcane into sugar. Sugar was expensive in colonial times and only became widely accessible during the 19th century, when sugar prices sharply declined. Hard candies, such as barley candy, jawbreakers, lollipops, and lemon drops, were sold generically by grocers as penny candy. As the century progressed, additional candies became common, such as licorice and taffy.
One of the first large commercial candies was caramels. They consisted of sugar, cream, butter, and flavorings heated to the melting stage, just before it begins to burn. Caramels became famous in America in the late 19th century.
During the 19th century, there were more than 300 candy manufacturers in America. Many more companies were launched during the 20th century. In Chicago, for instance, Emil J. Brach opened a candy store in 1904. Brach began manufacturing inexpensive caramels and later expanded to include peanut and hard candies. By the 1930s, Brach's was one of America's leading bulk candy manufacturers. In the same city, the Ferrara Pan Candy Company started in 1908. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Trigg Candy Company was launched by William E. Brock in 1906. The company produced bulk penny candies as well as peanut brittle and fudge and later expanded its line to include marshmallow and jelly candies. The Trigg Candy Company changed its name to the Brock Candy Company and claims to have been the first American manufacturer of gummi candies. In Tacoma, Washington, Harry L. Brown, owner of a small candy store, went into business with J. C. Haley in 1912 to manufacture candy. Their signature product, Almond Roca, was invented in 1923. Today, Brown & Haley is one of America's largest wholesalers of boxed chocolates.
Several chocolate makers began operations in America in the 18th century, including one company begun by James Baker that initially produced chocolate for drinking. During the 19th century, European confectioners determined how to convert chocolate, previously served mainly as a beverage, into a confection. Companies that specialized in making chocolate were launched, such as Cadbury and Rowntree's of York in England and Nestlé and Tobler in Switzerland. American chocolate makers learned from Europeans how to make milk chocolate and convert it into candy.
The Stephen F. Whitman Company, founded in Philadelphia in 1842, created America's first packaged confection, Choice Mixed Sugar Plums. The company produced its Whitman Sampler, consisting of chocolate-coated candies, around 1912. The inside lid of the candy box included a chart for identifying each chocolate. Many chocolate companies were launched during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Ghirardelli's, founded in 1852 in San Francisco, began producing handmade chocolates. In 1921, Charles See opened up a candy shop in Los Angeles. See used the image of his wife, Mary See, to serve as his store's icon. See's Candies expanded throughout California. Candy salesman Russell C. Stover went into business with Christian Nelson to franchise the making of Eskimo Pies in 1921. The ice cream bar was a tremendous success, but the franchise business was not, and Stover left the partnership and moved to Denver, where he opened a candy store. Stover began manufacturing candy and slowly expanded his operation. In 1931 the headquarters was moved to Kansas City, Missouri. Today, Russell Stover candies are sold through 40,000 retail stores throughout all 50 states.
Chocolates were made by hand until Milton S. Hershey, a caramel maker in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, began producing chocolate candies in 1894. During the next six years, he experimented with making milk chocolate, which he used to produce the Hershey Chocolate Bar in about 1900. The Hershey Company dominated chocolate candy production in the United States for the next 50 years and remains the largest American chocolate producer today.
Despite the low cost of the Hershey's Milk Chocolate bar (five cents), it was not immediately consumed by many Americans. Chocolate makers learned from Hershey and began producing chocolate bars. The Standard Candy Company of Nashville, Tennessee, produced the first combination candy, called the Goo Goo Cluster (1912), which contains caramel, marshmallow, roasted peanuts, and milk chocolate. The Clark Bar, which consists of ground roasted peanuts covered with milk chocolate, was the first nationally marketed combination candy bar. Its success induced numerous others to produce comparable products. The Butterfinger candy bar was released in 1926. Mars, Inc., released many candies, including the Milky Way bar followed by Snickers, 3 Musketeers, and M&M's. Thousands of candy bars have been manufactured since then.
In 1945, an estimated 6,000 companies manufactured candy in the United States. Today, this number is greatly reduced. Many companies could not compete with the large conglomerates; other companies were acquired. For example, the Hershey Company acquired the H. B. Reese Candy Company, maker of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, in 1963. In 1977 Hershey acquired Y & S Candies, makers of Twizzlers. In 1988 Hershey purchased Peter Paul brands, and in 1996 Hershey bought Leaf North America, maker of Good & Plenty, Jolly Rancher, Whoppers, Milk Duds, and PayDay. In 2000 Hershey acquired the Bubble Yum brand.
In 1972 See's Candies was sold to Warren E. Buffett's investment group, Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., which also owns International Dairy Queen and many other companies. In 1993 Russell Stover Candies, Inc., bought out Whitman Chocolates. In 1972 the Brock Candy Company purchased Schuler Chocolates of Winona, Minnesota, and in 1990 acquired Shelly Brothers of Souderton, Pennsylvania. In 1993 the Brock Candy Company was acquired by the E. J. Brach Corporation, its biggest competitor. Brach's is owned by the Farley's & Sathers Candy Company. In 1990 the New England Confectionery Company (NECCO) purchased the Stark Candy Company, which made Mary Jane Candies. NECCO acquired the Clark Bar in 1999. The Nestlé Food Corporation acquired Butterfinger and Baby Ruth in 1990 and today owns many other candy brands worldwide.
Despite concern with obesity in America, confection sales have soared. In 2013 the United States expended $40 billion on candy, gum, and chocolate.
See also Caramels; Chocolate; Christmas Food; Easter Food; Fourth of July Food; Molasses; Sugar; Valentine's Day Candy
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