The First Milky Way Bar: Way Ugly

May 16, 2011 at 11:52 am Leave a comment

Milky Way Bar, live and in color, 1924.

Frank Mars introduced this one in 1923. It has been a hit ever since, although you can see that our current version has evolved a bit from these rustic beginnings.As you can see in the vintage image, the Milky Way was originally all about the nougat. And in the early days, the nougat was packed with sliced almonds–later, the almond, caramel and nougat would be reworked into a different candy bar. The caramel, which now shares top billing, was at first just a drizzle. And size mattered: note the repeated references in this ad to “actual size,” which was in fact massive, about 4 inches long and nearly 2 inches square, at a weight over 3 oz. Being mostly nougat, a lot of the volume was air. But even still, compared to current candy bar standard is closer to 1.5 ounces, Milky Way was a hefty morsel.

The rustic look of the bar and package suggests that chocolate enrobing and candy bar wrapping are still in a pretty primitive state. This bar was wrapped by hand, as were most of the bars of the 1920s. In fact, the wrapping looks kind of sloppy. I’ve seen ads for candy bars from both larger companies and tiny outfits, and this style of wrapping was pretty common, whether some sort of paper as in this example or an imprinted foil. Wrapped candies of this sort had just begun to dominate the candy market, so expectations for what the wrapping should look like were not very settled. And since most of this was done by hand in factories, at high speeds, a certain slap-dash wrapping style is not so surprising.

And what about the name, “Milky Way”? My last post featured a 1960s era ad that promised wholesome milk, corn and eggs, farm fresh ingredients that make the candy “milky.” But when the candy was first introduced in the 1920s, the “milky” reference was a little different, as you can see in this 1925 ad:

The promise of milk in a Milky Way was originally a reference to a soda fountain treat, malted milk. This ad promises that the bar contains “more malted milk by volume than is contained in a double malted milk at the soda fountain.” So instead of drinking your malted milk, you could eat it in the form of a candy bar.

The focus on milk is to promote the “food value” of the candy bar. But the comparison here is between two different treat foods, both of which you would eat outside the home. This preserves the distinction between meal food and treat food, a distinction that seems to have broken down sometime later.

In 1925, candy bars and malted milk sodas were obviously not for breakfast. By the time we get to the 1960s TV ad that I wrote about in the last post, the images of eggs, milk and corn in the context of the farm emphasize that the candy bar is food like any other (and I think of breakfast particularly when I see those images). And so we arrive at our current state of confusion. It is, after all,  just a little wiggle to move from candy bar to breakfast bar…

Entry filed under: Candy as Food, Marketing. Tags: .

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Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

Welcome to Candy Professor

Candy in American Culture What is it about candy? Here you'll find the forgotten, the strange, the curious, the surprising. Our candy story, one post at a time.

Samira Kawash, PhD
Professor Emerita,
Rutgers University

(C) Samira Kawash

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