- Historic Sites
Land Of The Candy Bar
It was born in America, it came of age in America, and in an era when foreign competition threatens so many of our industries, it still sweetens our balance of trade
October/November 1986 | Volume 37, Issue 6
Another candy-bar magnate, Frank Mars, made it big when he seized upon the possibilities that lay in a soft, fluffy nougat center discovered by accident by the Pendergast Candy Company, in Minneapolis. He copied it for his Milky Way bar, born in 1923, and then for others, including Snickers and the Mars Bar.
The first synthetic coating that would stay hard in hot weather was invented in the 1930s by a Minneapolitan named Frank Martoccio. He had been a macaroni maker until one of his factory engines burned out; he found a replacement in a defunct candy factory and was talked into buying the whole plant, and before long he was one of the biggest candy moguls, offering brands like Zero and Milk Shake.
There probably have been a hundred thousand different brands.
The Depression brought lean times to the candy-bar business, and not until the late 1930s did the industry begin to recover. When war struck again, the makers of candy bars once more were pressed into service supplying the troops. Hershey made “field ration D,” a refined chocolate that didn’t melt at high temperatures, and it was packed in kits for soldiers, sailors, and Marines. On the home front, as the supply of chocolate dwindled, manufacturers struggled to concoct new bars from ingredients such as peanuts and marshmallows and gave them patriotic names like Torpedo.
If World War I made candy bars a major industry, World War II made them a worldwide symbol of America. The GI handing out candy bars to children came to stand for liberation everywhere. Hershey bars became an international wartime currency for barter.
After the war candy bars became bigger business than ever. National brands began to predominate, with fewer companies commanding more and more of the market. The golden age of profuse and colorful local brands drew to a close. Foreign countries began for the first time to get into the act, making American-style candy bars of their own. Lately some foreign manufacturers have even begun to market their products in the United States, either buying American companies or selling their native brands. Except in the area of pure chocolate, however, they haven’t made many inroads, and it will probably be a very long time before France’s La Nougat and Japan’s Lotte Ghana Black displace Baby Ruth and the 3 Musketeers in the hearts and on the candy racks of America.