Posts filed under ‘Chocolate’

Champagne Chocolate in a Beer Town (Pop Rocks Bar)

I’m back from my Wisconsin adventure with some candy stories to share.

We spend our annual vacation at a cottage was on a lake outside a small city called Rhinelander in Northern Wisconsin. Rhinelander (population 8,000) is a pretty non-descript town, with a derelict main street struggling to keep its head above the rising tide of Wal Mart and Home Depot. You wouldn’t come here unless, say, your in-laws lived in the town. But the area surrounding Rhinelander is green and unspoiled, dotted with lakes and vacationers fleeing Chicago. It’s what they call the “north woods”:  flat, woodsy country, anchored by the Wisconsin River.

The history of Rhinelander is all about wood. This is Paul Bunyan territory, where plaid flannel and sharp axes provided the raw materials for a growing nation. In the nineteenth century, Rhinelander was a major hub in the processing and transport of logs and raw lumber. Today, Rhinelander is a factory town. There’s the paper factory, where wood pulp and chemistry do their magic.

And then there’s the Fun Factory, where the raw materials are of the sweeter sort.

The Fun Factory sells ice cream, a few house made chocolates, and an eclectic assortment of those strange candies that may or may not have been around for 75 years: Cow Tails, Choward Violets, Laffy Taffy. This is the kind of place that won’t survive trying to compete with the Walgreen’s and Walmarts in town, so don’t look for your typical brand names. For the candy curious, it’s a gold mine.

I found a few  oddities that intrigued me. One of them was this Pop Rocks Bar, whose name pretty much gets at what it is: chocolate and pop rocks in the form of a candy bar. Cybele May’s review at Candy Blog reports the debut of this bar in 2007, but I suspect I’m not the only one who’s never seen one.

This is a small bar, especially by American standards. But the bar wasn’t made to American standards, I suspect. The wrapper says it was made in Spain. I think in Spain they may be a little behind the U.S. in the whole “supersize” phenomenon.

I was so curious about this bar that I rushed out to the Fun Factory porch to try it before the nice lady had even closed the cash register drawer. My assistant tasters (aka husband and daughter) were with me; what good luck to discover that the bar is scored in precisely three pieces.

When you bite into the bar and work the chocolate a bit in your mouth, there is a lot of fizzing and popping and explosive crunching. You know the sensation from Pop Rocks, but the chocolate sort of muffles the effect (in a good way, I think). The “pops” in the bar are colorless and flavorless, so the chocolate is all you taste. The pop is pure sensation.

The closest comparison would be a chocolate bar with those rice crispie crunchies in it, like Nestle Crunch. But a rice crispie that melts in your mouth just turns to sog, where as a pop rock that melts in your mouth explodes. So where a Crunch bar asks you to take action to get the crunchy effect, Pop Rocks lets you passively await a crunch and pop and snap that happens to you. The pops will pop, they just won’t stop. So don’t try this one unless you’re good and pop-ready.

Now I didn’t find the Pop Rock bar to be particularly “good.” The chocolate seemed cheap and waxy, and I wanted it to melt more smoothly to work the popping effect without so much chewing on my part (if you chew, the pops pop better).  I only ate one square, and I didn’t feel I would need to continue, on that day or any other.

I sat there on the Fun Factory porch with the sort-of melting chocolate and the fizzing and popping in my mouth, and I thought: champagne. Popping chocolate is for grownups, for parties, for nights when the champagne corks are shooting toward the ceiling and the bubbly is flowing in fountains. Popping chocolate should be smooth, European, melting to the touch. Popping chocolate should be a morsel passed in golden cups on silver trays as the sun sets on the Riviera.

Popping chocolate is a brilliant idea, but not for kids and 7Elevens. This one needs a do-over by a real chocolatier. Call it “champagne chocolate” and pass it to the grownups, and I think you’ve got a hit on this season’s society circuit.

June 28, 2010 at 12:27 pm 2 comments

Sugar and Snow: Jeri Quinzio and Eskimo Pies

I’m looking forward to a Candy Professor night on the town: Jeri Quinzio, the author of the award-winning book Of Sugar and Snow: A History of Ice Cream Making, is lecturing and hosting an ice cream tasting here in New York City.

Ice cream and candy have been happy fellow travelers throughout history. Although candy making and ice cream making required different sorts of skills and equipment, they tended to operate in close proximity. The venerable Confectioners Journal, which began publishing in 1874, included ice cream making and fountain recipes until the 1940s. The Chicago area trade journal published in the first decades of the twentieth century was called Candy and Ice Cream. These days the only candy you’ll find at Baskin Robbins or Cold Stone Creamery is mixed into the ice cream. But when I was a kid, the ice cream parlor and the candy shop were usually one and the same.

Until fairly recently, the term “confection” referred both to frozen sweets like ice cream and non-frozen sweets like candy. Check out the wrapper on your Popsicle next time you flag down the ice cream truck. It says on the side that it is a “quiescently frozen confection.” That means it doesn’t get shaken around as they freeze it, and that it is in the same culinary category as candy and Cracker Jacks.

My research focuses on candy, so I was pretty happy to pick up a copy of Quinzio’s Of Sugar and Snow, which fills in the ice cream side. Her book is filled with all sorts of delightful ice cream stories. My favorite is one about the collision of candy and ice cream, perhaps for the first time: the story of the Eskimo Pie.

According to the story, Eskimo Pies were the brain child of a fellow in Iowa,  Christian K. Nelson, who taught high school and ran an ice cream parlor on the side. One day a kid came into the store with a nickel and a dilemma. He wanted ice cream. He wanted a chocolate bar. But he only had enough money for one or the other, and he just couldn’t make up his mind. I’m sure we all can sympathize.

In any event, we don’t know what Nelson did on that particular day in 1919. Maybe he chipped in another nickel of his own. Maybe he broke the chocolate bar in half. Maybe he sent the kid packing. But he went home that night with an idea.

Nelson experimented over the next few months with different combinations of ice cream and chocolate until he hit on the right formula for a chocolate-coated bar of ice cream. He called it the “Temptation I-Scream Bar.”  The Bar was a reasonable success. But things really took off after Nelson met Russell Stover, who was working at that time with an Omaha ice cream company. They decided to go into business together. They changed the name to “Eskimo Pie,” and started selling the bar for 10 cents. The bar was a big hit (although I note that the kid with the nickel was still out of luck). Nelson and Stover were so successful that they started licensing the rights to local ice cream manufacturers. Quinzio tells us that “by the spring of 1922 they had twenty-seven hundred licensees and were selling a million Eskimo Pies a day.” That’s a lot of ice cream!

I had noticed advertising in the 1922 trade journals for chocolate coatings to make “Eskimo Pies,” and Quinzio’s story of their manufacture explains why. Nelson patented his chocolate coated ice cream bars, and the manufacturing license was for the process and the brand name “Eskimo Pie.” That meant that ice cream companies who wanted to make Eskimo Pies would buy their own ingredients and chocolate coatings.

H.O. Wilbur and Sons was one of the contenders for the Eskimo Pie supply market. Their ad gives you an idea of what an ice cream bar looked like in 1922. Also it’s interesting to notice the igloos, polar bears and “eskimos.” Famous expiditions to the Arctic regions in the early 1900s had made  Americans were fascinated with all things “eskimo.”

Unfortunately, Nelson and Stover ran into legal troubles that drained their finances, and their business broke up in 1922. But two things came out of us that we still enjoy today: Eskimo Pies and their myriad offspring, and Russell Stover Candies. Yes, it’s the same Russell Stover. He left his ice cream past behind and went on to found one of the most recognized brands of American candies.

Source: The story of Eskimo Pies is told in Jeri Quinzio, Of Sugar and Snow: A History of Ice Cream Making (University of California Press, 2009), 173-174. Wilbur ad from Confectioners Journal March 1922.

May 19, 2010 at 10:58 am Leave a comment

WONKAnfusion: Or, Who is Buying WONKA Chocolate?

Nestle’s new WONKA line of chocolates has me a bit mystified.

Cybele in her review of Wonka Exceptionals Domed Dark Chocolate over at candyblog.net described the new product and packaging as:

[T]he quality of the chocolate is much better. The chocolate is smoother, has a bolder flavor and of course the fact that the ingredients are better should make it easier for families to choose Wonka. I’ve compared them before to Dove and Hershey’s Bliss – but what these have going for them is that the packaging is all about imagination – the bright striped foils are going to appeal more to kids than the sedate and elegant positioning of Dove or Bliss.

I agree with her description, but it seems kind of schizo to me. On the one hand, the quality of chocolate and the pricing put the Wonka line in competition with Dove and Hershey’s Bliss, chocolates that convey adult sophistication. On the other hand, the packaging is all bright colors and psychedelic swirls, more like the packaging on “extreme” kids candies.

I was confused. Who is supposed to buy these? They seem too expensive and too big for kids to buy for themselves; is it about parents who want to buy “quality” candy for their kids? That doesn’t make sense to me either: parents who are worried about the “quality” of their children’s candies are looking for organic and natural ingredients, not “premium” lines.

And as more and more reviews of the Wonka products have been circulating on the great candy blogs, my confusion has festered. Higher prices, wackier packaging, for whom?

And then my friend over at sugarpressure.com turned me on to the WONKAnation blog. And all was revealed.

WONKAnation: it’s a bus. A tour. Bands. Parties. Free candy. The WONKA Chick. Dude, its endless summer with Nerds and Gobstoppers in the mix. It’s a Twitter feed promising “instantaneous awesomeness!” It’s The OFFICIAL WONKA talkin’ about “you and your rockin’ WONKA style!”

The new WONKA isn’t about the little kiddies at all, its about that new demographic, those 20 and 30 and 40 somethings who want to rock and roll all night and party every day: kiddults.

Just like those kiddults, WONKA is grown up chocolate with attitude:

WONKA is bringing a pinch of whimsy, a bucket of imagination and something a little unexpected to the all-too-stuffy premium chocolate category.

So take your stuffy Scharffen Berger, your boring Green & Black, your dull Dove. WONKA’s in the house. Dude.

April 2, 2010 at 8:24 am 3 comments

Chocolate, Chocolate All the While

Here’s a cute poem published in the Confectioners Journal in 1910:

“The Chocolate Kids”

Goodness! What will keep these children quiet?
Folks go crazy at the riot.
We feed them candy, cakes and pie,
The more they get the more they cry.
What can have brought from tears relief?
The reason is, in words quite brief—
The only thing to make them smile
Is chocolate, chocolate, all the while!

Is it chocolate, chocolate all the while for you, too?

Even back in the 1900s, folks had a notion of the “addictive” qualities of chocolate. Take this example: following the 1909 National Confectioners Association annual convention in Detroit, rumors were flying that the candy makers were worried about the effects of a proposed duty on the cocoa bean. They though, papers reported, that higher prices for chocolate might mean consumers would turn to other, cheaper kinds of candy.

Nonsense! countered the Confectioners Journal. The secret of chocolate is this:

Chocolates serve as their own relish. The girl who has eaten one chocolate bonbon craves another. She craves in a still more active way after consuming the second and continues with uniformly accelerated craving until she has exhausted the boxful… There is a limit to one’s appetite for all confections save chocolates.

Sounds like chocolate addiction to me!

It wasn’t just girls who kept the chocolate makers in business. But this image of women’s weakness for chocolate is still with us today. If you’ve seen those Dove Chocolate indulgence ads, you’ll get a hint of the reason. Women savoring chocolate is a pretty sensual image. We can imagine the Victorian sensibility of 1909 being titillated and fascinated by the image of a woman getting pleasure over and over by eating and eating that box of chocolates.

Are women really naturally addicted to chocolate? Personally, my weakness is candy corn.

Sources: “The Chocolate Kids,” Confectioners Journal July 1910, p. 124; “Laments,” Confectioners Journal July 1909, p. 109.

March 29, 2010 at 12:41 pm 1 comment

Hershey’s Kisses: Got Lawyer?

While I was researching the stories about Kisses and Buds in my previous posts, I came across a lot of interesting information, not all of which is included in the official “Kisses Facts.” And I also came across a lot of lawsuits. So here are some things about Hershey’s Kisses that you might not know:

Hershey’s churns out something like 80 million Kisses a day in three factories (Pennsylvania, California, Virginia). That’s 29 billion Kisses a year. There are 305 million people in the U.S. (more now, they just keep coming….). So figure almost one hundred Hershey’s Kisses per person—man, woman, infant, child–per year. And if you’re not eating your share, someone else is!

Hershey’s introduced variations like almonds and Hugs in the 1990s. Then in 2002 they started producing “Special Edition” flavors. These are all over the place: cookies and cream, strawberry, pumpkin spice, pickle. Oh, not pickle yet. Well, I’m sure it’s coming. Anyway, if you want to see what kinds of Kisses have come and gone, visit Zoe’s Online Hershey’s Kisses Collection. Zoe is 11 years old and has been collecting Kisses for five years. She maintains a lovely online collection of more than 55 Kisses flavors. I had no idea!

Save the Earth, Eat a Kiss: the foil wrapper on Hershey’s Kisses is recyclable. So throw it in the green bin, or better yet, reuse it to make a fake Hershey’s Kiss. See if you can get away with it, but watch out, as our next item demonstrates.

Hershey’s Chocolate is litigious when it comes to defending their trademarks. In April 2009, they went after artisinal chocolatier Jacques Torres for a high-end truffle he was selling as “Champagne Kisses.” Each Champagne Kiss costs $1.50, for which you get a chocolate cube filled with champagne truffle (made with real Tattinger Rose Champagne) and decorated with a red lips kissing mark. Here’s what Hershey alleged:

Hershey is concerned that Jacques Torres Chocolate’s use of the mark KISS or KISSES may cause consumer confusion with Hershey as to the source, sponsorship, or affiliation of Jacques Torres Chocolate’s product.

And here’s what Torres, via his lawyer, replied:

Mr. Torres will not discontinue his use of the term “Champagne Kiss.” We believe that this is yet another example of a giant, monolithic corporation attempting to take advantage of “the little guy,” in this case, a world-renowned artisan from France. … Mr. Torres vigorously disputes your contention that he is using or infringing upon a Hershey-owned trademark. The analogy might be similar to Chevrolet complaining that Rolls Royce is infringing on the Chevrolet trademark.

Take that, Hershey! Read more: Hershey’s v. Jacques Torres: The Lawyer-to-Lawyer Slapdown! — Grub Street New York

There have been cases where Hershey’s Chocolate was much more clearly protecting itself from legitimate infringers. An early case involved the Hershey Creamery, also of Lancaster, Pennsylvania; the Hershey family of the Hershey Creamery was no relation to Milton Hershey. The Creamery was mostly an ice cream business, but in the ‘teens began producing chocolate candy and cocoa. Then there was trouble:

Milton S. Hershey learned of the candies in 1919, and assigned Charles Ziegler to “find instances of confusion and infringement and of unfair competition”. Ziegler found that in addition to making similar products, the packaging used on the chocolates resembled that used by Hershey Company—then called Hershey Chocolate. Investigating complaints from retailers in Boston, New York, Binghamtom, Norfolk, and Richmond, Ziegler reportedly found that retailers were confusing the two products, and sometimes deliberately replacing the higher priced Hershey Company products with the Hershey Creamery products. In Harrisburg, Ziegler found a display of Hershey Creamery “Hershey Kisses” which were bite-sized chocolate drops similar to the chocolate company’s creations. After cease and desist letters failed to resolve the problem, Milton Hershey filed suit in 1921 in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania for trademark infringement. In 1926, a district judged partially sided with Hershey Chocolate and prohibited the creamery from using the name Hershey’s in connection with “manufacture, advertisement, distribution, or sale of, among other things, chocolate, cocoa, chocolate confections, and chocolate or cocoa products”.

Source: Wikipedia entry for Hershey Creamery. Wiki sources: D’Antonio, Michael. “A Betting Man”. Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams. Simon and Schuster, p. 184–185. Hershey Foods Corp. v. Hershey Creamery Co., 945 F.2d 1272 (3d Cir. 1991)

A fine book on the Hershey Chocolate story is Michael D’Antonio’s Hershey: Milton S. Hershey’s Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams published by Simon and Schuster in 2006. D’Antonio is an independent journalist, and the book is an “unauthorized” biography. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, it just means the book is not a product of the Hershey Company. So when Hershey caught wind of the book’s cover just a month before the book was to be released, they flipped out. I’m not surprised: the book looks just like a Hershey Bar.

Hershey went to  court to get an injunction to stop the publication of the book, based on a violation of its image trademarks. In the suit, they stated:

Hershey does not object to the content of defendant’s book, or to the mere use of the word ‘Hershey’ in the title of the book. However, defendant has designed and adopted a dust jacket for the book which extensively uses Hershey’s well-known marks and trade dress beyond any manner permissible under law.

Hershey didn’t win this one. The case settled out of court: the book went forward with the trademark images, but with a disclaimer on the cover that says “Neither Authorized Nor Sponsored by the Hershey Company.” As for the image of the Hershey bar, it’s up to readers to figure out they can’t eat it.

Related Posts:

  • Hershey’s: Why a Kiss is Just a Kiss
  • Kissing Cousins: the Hershey’s Kiss and the Wilbur Bud
  • March 5, 2010 at 8:29 am 2 comments

    Hershey’s: Why a Kiss is Just a Kiss

    Have you ever wondered why Hershey’s Kisses are called “kisses”? Here’s the official answer from Hershey’s Inc:

    While it’s not known exactly how KISSES got their name, it is a popular theory that the candy was named for the sound or motion of the chocolate being deposited during the manufacturing process.

    Well, as for the first part, that “it’s not exactly known,” I can’t dispute that. Hershey’s has been planting their chocolaty kisses on the collective lips of America since 1907. No one alive today was witness to that first chocolate blob, or the “eureka” moment when someone shouted “It’s a Kiss!”

    But that part about the sound of the chocolate dropping onto the conveyor belt? I’m afraid I’m going to have to pop a big old hole in that bubble of a story.

    The fact is, back in 1907 you had your choice of kisses. There were generic flavored kisses like Cocoanut Kisses, Molasses Kisses, Nut Kisses, simple candies that anyone might make. Then there were the fanciful brand name Kisses: Sun Bonnet Kisses (National Candy Co, Chicago); Miller’s Violet Kisses (George Miller & Son, Philadelphia);  Blue Bell Kisses (Robt. F. Mackenzie Co, Cleveland), Honey Corn Kisses (Wm. J. Madden & Co NY); Nethersole Kisses, Moonlight Kisses (United States Candy Co, Cleveland); Elfin Kisses (Caldwell Sweet Co, Bangor Maine); Heckerman’s Lucky Kisses: 5 cent box “assorted selected flavors.” My personal favorite wasn’t around in 1907, but I’ll mention it anyway since we’re on the topic of Kisses. The Novelty Candy Company offered around 1915 a pack of three flavors, cinnamon, molasses, and vanilla called Tom, Dick and Harry Kisses, “the kiss you can’t afford to miss.”

    So when Hershey’s came up with a little bite of chocolate, calling it a “chocolate kiss” was sort of obvious. A candy “kiss” was just another name for a small bite sized candy, typically something with a softer texture. There were lots of other names for small bite sized candy at the time: drops, buttons, blossoms, balls. There was nothing at all special  in 1907 about the name “chocolate kiss.”

    In fact, the rival chocolate company H. O. Wilbur and Sons was the one who had come up with a proprietary name for their own bite sized chocolate: Wilbur’s Chocolate Buds. Wilbur had taken the important step of trademarking the name “Bud” for its chocolate in 1906.

    But just as with today’s “xerox” and “kleenex,” the term “chocolate bud” was quickly coming to mean any sort of chocolate drop, and imitators were rushing in to sell their own “buds.” Things got so bad that Wilbur went to court to get an injunction against competitors trying to pass off their look-alike products as genuine Buds. Trade magazine advertisements warned dealers against  accepting imitations and insisted: “there are no buds but Wilbur’s.” Ads taken out in popular magazines cautioned candy lovers to watch out for “counterfeits” and make sure their Buds were genuine Wilbur Buds.

    Scribner's Magazine ad for Wilbur's Chocolate Buds, 1911

    When people talked about “chocolate buds” in the 1900s, its pretty clear that they are talking about Wilbur’s product or something very similar. A 1914 recipe for an ice cream sundae, for example, suggests sprinkle of “chocolate buds” on top. A 1911 publication suggesting ideas for money-making proposed that a woman going into the candy business might stock her store with “the finest chocolate buds, marshmallows, and different size cakes of the best milk chocolate.”

    In contrast, the term “chocolate kisses” could mean just about anything small and chocolate flavored. In addition to references to candy, I found the term in late nineteenth and early twentieth century cook books to name different sorts of cookies. And in 1910 when the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture examined 336 candy samples for purity and accurate labeling, 13 of those candies were described as “chocolate kisses,” a generic category. Only one of those candies was a “chocolate bud.”

    It wasn’t until after the end of WWI that the term “kiss” seemed to be increasingly associated with the chocolate drop. The November 1919 issue of Confectioners Journal included an ad from the Racine Confectioners Manufacturing Company for the “Racine Chocolate Depositor,” a machine that was for making ” Chocolate Kisses and Stars… cast on metal covered plaques without the use of molds of any kind….plain tubes for kisses, or with tubes for 5-6-8-10-12 point stars. Then in late 1921, L. Weiscopf of New York advertised a “Chocolate ‘Kiss’ foil Wrapping Machine” and boasted that it was “in constant operation in several of the largest chocolate manufacturing plants in the United States.” This is most likely they machine Hershey’s used, a machine that also allowed them to include the distinctive paper plume peeking out of the foil wrapper.

    The marketing of these specialized machines suggests that, after WWI, Hershey’s chocolate kiss had become so familiar that when candy people wanted a general term for a conical drop of chocolate, they called it a “kiss.” But the fact that these machines were sold widely also tells us that others besides Hershey’s were making and selling chocolate kisses.

    “Kiss” was, for most of the twentieth century, just a generic term for a bite sized candy. This is why for 90 years Hershey’s was unable to trademark the term “Kiss” as a name they could use exclusively for their chocolate kisses. Until a the late 1990s, every trademark application for logos or wrapper images for “Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses” included a limitation: the term “kiss” was always excluded. The trademark examiners insisted that “kiss” was a general term for a sort of candy, and according to U.S. Trademark law, you can’t claim a trademark for a general term like “milk” or “tissue.”

    Finally, in 2001, Hershey’s won the trademark after a prolonged legal battle (U.S. Registration 2,416,701). Henceforth, only one candy could call itself a “Kiss.” Hershey’s lawyers argued that, despite a long history of general usage, by the 1990s America was persuaded that a candy called “kiss” always meant Hershey’s Kiss, and they commissioned a huge survey to prove it. The judge sided with Hershey’s, and a kiss became a Kiss ™.

    Which was first: the Hershey’s Kiss or the Wilbur Bud? Read about the candy copy cats in my previous post, Kissing Cousins.”

    Just for Fun: You can read the legal briefs filed for and against “Kiss” on the U.S. Patents and Trademarks website. From “Trademark Document Retrieval,” enter the registration number 2416701. Choose the document dated 24-Feb-2009 called  “Unclassified.”

    March 3, 2010 at 8:32 am 17 comments

    Kissing Cousins: the Hershey’s Kiss and the Wilbur Bud

    Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses: do we need to say more? Everybody knows the Kiss. Hershey’s Kiss is certainly one of top contenders for “American Candy Idol.” But today, Candy Professor takes you back to a time when the Kiss was not the Kiss, back to a time when candy brands were still a new idea, and candy makers didn’t always know the best ways to profit from their candy innovations.

    Hershey’s today is one of the major candy companies in the world, boasting annual sales in excess of $4 billion dollars. But around 1900, Hershey’s was one among many contenders for America’s top chocolate maker. The big business in chocolate at that time was not so much direct retail products, but selling various coatings and chocolate ingredients to candy makers large and small. Rivals like Stollwerck Brothers of New York and Chicago, H. O. Wilbur and Sons of Philadelphia, and Rockwood and Co.of Brooklyn were promoting their own chocolate goods, each promising purity, quality and taste unrivaled.  Finished candy goods were, for many of these companies, a side line to the real action in wholesale cocoa and chocolate.

    Milton Hershey was early to realize the potential for selling eating chocolate on a national scale. He developed his own technique for making milk chocolate and began manufacturing small batches in 1900. Hershey’s chocolate bars were a huge success, and he quickly expanded, moving to an enormous new factory in the town that would come to be known as Hershey, Pennsylvania in 1905. The first full year of manufacture in the new factory, sales of Hershey’s chocolate products topped $1 million; that’s about $24 million in today’s dollars.

    By 1907, the year the Kiss was introduced, sales had doubled to $2 million. Even then, Hershey was a major player. But other chocolate houses had their own eating chocolate products.  And when Hershey came up with the “Milk-Maid Chocolate Kiss” back in 1907, it wasn’t the only foil-wrapped chocolate bite in town.

    Confectioners Journal ad 1909 (detail)

    Muncey's Magazine ad, 1911

    Rival chocolate manufacturer H.O. Wilbur and Son had been selling a bite-sized foil-wrapped conical chocolate drop called the “Wilbur Bud” since 1894. You wouldn’t know it today, but back in the 1900s, Wilbur set the standard for those little foil-wrapped chocolates. The candy journal International Confectioner waxed rhapsodic over the beauty and hygiene of Wilbur’s candy in 1914:

    Each piece is wrapped separately; they are packed like jewels. A large box of Wilbeurbuds can lie open several days before it is all eaten. …  Our little Wilburbuds can’t go stale–each is wrapped in foil.

    It was Hershey that was the copy cat.

    And Hershey wasn’t the only one. H.O. Wilbur even went to court in 1909 to try to stop the imitators. One of these might have been Rockwood’s Chocolate Dainties, which were sold four for one cent. In their little foil wrapper, they would have been indistinguishable from Wilbur’s Buds or Hershey’s Kisses or any other similar chocolate.

    Unwrapped, the Wilbur Bud was quite distinctive; the bottom of the candy was molded into a flower shape and the letters W-I-L-B-U-R embossed in each petal.

    In contrast, the Hershey’s Kiss then as now isn’t much to look at. It is just a plain cone, its bottom flat and unadorned. While this perhaps was less lovely to behold, it did mean the Kiss could be manufactured by dropping the chocolate on a flat belt, rather than needing special molds. This would eventually matter quite a lot, but in 1907 the Kiss’s plain-Jane looks would have been a distinct disadvantage.

    The decisive moment for the Hershey’s Kiss was 1921, when new manufacturing equipment allowed the foil wrapping to be automated, and also allowed for the inclusion of the “plume” that extends from the top of every Chocolate Kiss. By spring of 1922 Hershey’s was taking out full page ads blaring “Insist upon having the “GENUINE” Sweet Milk Chocolate Hershey’s KISSES. Be Sure They Contain the Identification Tag ‘HERSHEY’S.” The plume was trademarked in 1924, meaning that no other conical foil wrapped chocolate could use the same technique to stand out.

    Wilbur, and many other small American chocolate concerns, eventually fell behind Hershey in the race for market share. Milton Hershey was a generous philanthropist as well as a brilliant business man, and the success of the company in dominating the American chocolate scene is a fascinating story of doing well by doing good. Today, Hershey’s Kisses are a multi-million dollar share of the American candy market. And Wilbur’s Chocolate Buds? You can still buy them by mail-order, or out of a little Wilbur Chocolates storefront in Lititz, Pennsylvania.

    So why are Hershey’s Kisses called Kisses, anyway? Read more in my next post, “Why a Kiss is Just a Kiss.”

    Image of today’s Wilbur Buds from www.wilburbuds.com

    Kisses image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mtsofan/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    March 1, 2010 at 8:30 am 20 comments

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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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