Chocolate War Rations, Round One
In my previous post, I shared some war-themed ads for children’s candy from the WWI era. It’s not surprising that candy makers would jump on the war bandwagon by using war imagery and themes to attract attention. But at the same time, the candy trade was also working very hard to position its product as an essential support for the war effort.
Everyone expected that war would bring rationing and scarcity. The economic viability of the candy business depended on defining candy as food, as a necessity for every day life. Candy makers used every means they could to bring this message to their customers. Here’s the copy from another ad for Zatek Eatmors, this one from 1917:
Show the children how to make an Eatmor Cannon. Zatek Milk Chocolate Eatmors will feed a whole army of hungry soldiers. Appoint one child “Quartermaster” and let him issue the “rations.” [image of chocolate stars flying out of tube/cannon, children playing with cannon and soldiers on the floor indoors, girl and boy]. The sealed Eatmor tube makes sure that each soldier receives his portion clean and fresh. The 28 or more sweet-milk-chocolate-stars are ample to go around. Their wholesome nourishment provides the necessary ’pep’ for long marches and trench warfare.
The message is cleverly double: the children are playing soldier, and the chocolate will give them “pep” for their play. But also we are meant to read this ad literally: chocolate provides real nourishment for real soldiers. Real cannons kill the enemy, of course. But chocolate cannons keep the troops going and, perhaps, win the war.
Candy, and chocolate in particular, was increasingly seen as the ideal ration under the dangers of war. As early as 1914, when the war broke out in Europe, U.S. candy makers took note of the popularity of chocolate among European armies as “a favorite emergency ration on account of its small bulk and the large amount of nutriment it contains.”
And then on in 1917 the life saving virtues of chocolate made the headlines. On June 1, two British aviators who had been shot down over the North Sea were finally rescued. They had been floating on wreckage for five days, sustained only by a small piece of chocolate which they shared. The U.S. Navy took note. In July, they announced “a new emergency ration, for issuance to the marines and sailors who may be ordered into action under circumstances which may result in their being separated for more than a day from their base of supplies. The ration will consist of biscuit and either a highly nutritious form of chocolate or peanut butter.”
By the time World War II came around, chocolate manufacturers were ready with U.S. military-approved field ration chocolate bars. But that’s another story.
Sources: “Troops and Chocolate,” International Confectioner November 1914, p. 42; “Aviators 5 Days on Wreckage Lived on a Piece of Chocolate,” New York Times, 2 June 1917; (No title: comment on Navy rations) International Confectioner August 1917, p. 57.