Candy Bar Fillers
What’s inside your favorite candy bar? Could be all kinds of yummy stuff: crispies, nuts, creme, something chewy, cookie wafers, raisins, coconut. I look at all those amazing combinations and I’m wowed by American candy ingenuity.
So when I found out why all that stuff is in our candy bars, I was surprised. Ingenuity, yes. But first, necessity.
Between 1916 and 1922, prices of everything were going up, and supplies were going down. It was that pesky war thing. One candy lover kept track of the size of his favorite penny roll of candy, getting smaller from 1916 to 1922:
If you were making wafers or chocolate drops, you could either raise the price or, as in the case of those penny rolls, lower the quantity. But if you were making candy bars, there was another option: filler. Something to bulk the candy up, but at a lower price than sugar or chocolate. And if it tasted good, so much the better.
Candy fillers start appearing in 1918. The ads that I’ve seen in the trade journals make a very explicit appeal to candy makers. The whole idea was to do more with less.
In July, 1918, the California Associated Raisin Company extolled the use of raisins in candy: “Nowadays when all fillers are high-priced, Sun Maid Raisins can help you. The more raisins you use, the bigger your profits.” That same year, the Cincinnati Extract Works advertised its cherry, raspberry, and strawberry pieces with the header: “Conserve Sugar by Using Fruit Centers for Candies.” Merrell-Soule of Syracuse, N.Y. brought out a “New Filler” called Confectioners Mince. Candy-makers were instructed to “use it as you would use any other filler. It conserves sugar.” Coconut was popular, and as an added bonus it was a good filler too.
Grains and cereals were especially attractive as fillers. They were cheap and bulky, and perhaps interesting in flavor and texture as well. The Baltimore Pearl Hominy Company promoted “Fairy Flakes” as a good substitute for up to half the coconut in coconut bars.
Quaker Oats Company offered this proposition:
There is a way–a splendid way–whereby candy may be made with the greatest possible bulkiness–at the lowest possible cost–with the minimum amount of sugar… The problem of selling the consumer big satisfying dimes worth of high grade goods is solved. … This epoch-making candy ingredient is Puffed Wheat–or for that matter, Puffed Rice or Corn Puffs.
The candy-stretching powers of this new invention, puffed grain, would make it again possible to offer “the old-time size at the old-time price.”
Liberal use of nougat, creme, and caramel in candy combination was likewise the result of sugar conservation. New food processors had developed bases for these ingredients that used corn syrup or other sugars that were not rationed. The nougat and caramel bases were advertised as saving time and money, and thereby boosting the bottom line.
The direct ancestors of what we know today as the “candy bar,” innovative concoctions appearing in 1919 and 1920 like Planters’ Chocolate Cluster Bar (peanuts, fruit, coconut and chocolate), Continental Candy Corp.’s Feasto (chocolate, marshmallow, caramel, and peanuts) or Mason’s Cocoanut Peaks (“Purity and Plenty”) were no doubt delicious. But they were something more as well: the ingenious inventions of clever candy makers who took economic necessity and made something sweet.