Posts filed under ‘Marketing’

Lance Cough Drops, from the makers of Tootsie Roll (1918)

As in life, in candy. There are winners, and there are losers.

Tootsie Roll was a winner; the  Stern & Saalberg Company made millions on those little chewy chocolatish nubs. But 1918, it was time for a new image. And a new product. But this one didn’t catch on in quite the same way.

For reasons I have yet to fathom, cough drops were incredibly popular in the early 1900s. Everybody seemed to be suffering from some ailment, and I suspect that all those ailments provided a handy excuse for sucking on sweet candies. Stern & Saalberg came up with their own entry into the cough drop arena: Lance Cough Drops. “Cut the Cough,” get it?

And since the field was so crowded, they poured money into marketing. These images come from an unprecedented four page color ad spread in the trade magazine Confectioners Journal. Stern & Saalberg also planned national print ads, cards for trolleys and trains, and huge window cards and displays for retailers.

With the first World War still in the air, perhaps the old world associations of the names Stern and Saalberg didn’t fit so well with the ambitions of the company. And by this time, neither Saalberg nor Stern was playing an active role in the company. So the company chose a new name, more bland to be sure, but also more definitely candy-like: The Sweets Company of America.

The name change is announced at the same time as the new cough drops, a sort of marketing double-whammy:

And what I really love is the Camelot theme, an imaginative exposition of the basic knight with lance that stands as the logo of the new candy. The artist conceived not just a few royals, but an entire court:

There is something so excessive and extravagant about all this noise around a simple cough drop. And it seems to be missing the candy trend of the day rather dramatically: what will get everybody excited in the next couple of years is not dowdy cough drops, but the new and surprising combinations of sweet and salty, chewy and smooth, chocolate and fruit and nut that will be the glorious candy bars of the 1920.

A detail: Stern & Saalberg reorganized and changed the name of the company in 1917; this ad and announcement appeared in Confectioners Journal in January 1918.

For more on the early history of Tootsie Roll and Stern & Saalberg, see my related post Tootsie Roll Tragedy: The Real Leo Hirschfeld Story.

July 9, 2010 at 12:34 pm 1 comment

Feast on FEASTO

The 1920s and 1930s were the golden era of the candy bar. War-time sugar shortages had inspired candy makers to stuff all kinds of “fillers” into candy form to keep prices lower and supplies up; the resulting innovations were the earliest forms of our modern candy bars of nuts, nougats, grains, caramel, coconut and the like. (See my post on Candy Bar Fillers.)

The earliest of the bars that began to appear in 1919 and 1920 were fantastic confections, to be sure. But candy makers seemed to be putting all their creativity into the candy. Modern marketing gimmicks were just a glimmer on the horizon.

Many of the bars of 1920 were marketed with names that were descriptive, but uninspiring. Planters Nut Co. (yes, the same) brought out the Chocolate Nut  Bar and the Chocolate Peanut Mound, which as you can see were just what they said they were.  D. Auerbach and Sons of New York offered an array of bars including Auerbach Chocolate Marshmallow, Auerbach Chocolate Pineapple Fruit, Auerbach Chocolate Cocoanut Cream. The Ideal Chocolate Company offered its Ideal Sweet Milk Chocolate with Toasted Almond Bar. Honest names, to be sure. You would certainly know what to expect from one of these.

Others had more fanciful names that still suggested what sort of candy you might find in your mouth.  The Cluster Cake, the Jelly Bun, Cocotene, Peanut Goodies, Tropical Nut and Fruit Cake, and Mapeline Walnut Cream bar were available from the C.S. Ball Candy Co. of Dayton, Ohio.

But a few candy bars were beginning to move in a more fanciful direction. Names like Mason’s Peaks, a chocolate coated coconut bar, didn’t so much describe a candy were named in a way that didn’t so much describe the candy as describe an experience. Such candy would rely much more heavily on advertising to make the connection between the idea and the confection.

When I’m mining the candy archive, I often hit on these long-gone candies that exist only in their advertising. And in many cases, all that we can know is the name. What was a Sambo bar like? or a Ouija bar? Both of these were on offer from the Euclid Candy Co. of Dayton, Ohio, but the ads focus on the names and not what is inside the wrapper.

What strikes me when I look at these earliest efforts to attach  names and ideas to candy bars is the wide range of possibilities that are evoked by the names. Candy can be anything! And you can be anything when you’re eating candy.

My favorite from this period is the Feasto Bar, “a luscious combination of chocolate, peanuts, marshmallow, and caramel”: Introduced in May 1920, Feasto is the first bar that I found that refers to the act of eating the bar in its own name. And the rotund figure at the bottom suggests, perhaps, the amplitude of satisfaction one will experience after a feast of Feasto.

Source: Advertising appeared in Confectioners Journal 1920, various issues.

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July 5, 2010 at 10:36 am Leave a comment

Campfire in the Pantry (Marshmallow Chronicles, Part V)

When the Imperial Candy Company/Redel Candy Corp. of Milwaukee launched their new marshmallow line in 1917, they were clearly thinking about just one thing: Campfires. Marshmallow and campfires were the peanut butter and jelly of the ‘teens, and so they named their new confection “Campfire Marshmallows.”

The earliest packaging encouraged marshmallow munchers to roast the goodies around the flaming logs, or at least to imagine a forest surround. Here is a 1918 ad that sets the sylvan tone:

Although the campfire image suggests a rough masculinity, marshmallows were frequently marketed in ways that connected their appearance and texture with qualities of women and children. For example, a competing brand put out by the manufacturer of  Cracker Jack was called “Angelus” and featured a cherubic little girl as the trademark. Along similar lines, in this 1919 ad Campfire brand makes a saucy connection between the puffy white mounds of marshmallow and the little cheeks of these cute rascals:

We can see in these ads that something dramatic has changed between 1918 and 1919. The 1918 box is really emphasizing the campfire theme. It even has the slogan “you can toast them if you like.” In contrast, the 1919 package was simplified and streamlined. And that wasn’t the only change afoot at Campfire headquarters.

In 1919, Campfire broke ranks with the leading marshmallow manufacturers. It launched an audacious new marketing campaign with one aim: to stock every pantry in America with marshmallows. American cooks had been experimenting with marshmallows for more than a decade, to be sure.  (On scientific cookery at the turn of the century and the culinary rise of the marshmallow, see my post on Candy Salad). But Campfire wanted more: to redefine marshmallow altogether, to push marshmallow out of the candy store and into the baking aisle.

Campfire acted on multiple fronts to push marshmallow forever more onto grocery shelves. They changed the shape of the marshmallow to round, the better to cook with. Before that, marshmallows sold as candy were square. And they put the marshmallows in six ounce boxes, rather than the traditional candy-serving of two and 3/4 ounce. They launched a new advertising campaign which promoted marshmallow desserts: jellies and cakes and parfaits. And they put out a cook book featuring both familiar and entirely new recipes “showing the many uses of Campfire in preparing dainty desserts, cakes, puddings, etc.” The booklet was described in ads such as the one above, and included in the marshmallow package.

This 1920 ad features an even more elaborate dessert display, and the explicit suggestion that Campfire marshmallows deserve a permanent place in the kitchen pantry:

There was much to be gained in this push into the kitchen. As an admiring article in Printers Ink explained:

It is easy to see why Campfire keeps entirely away from the confectionery idea and bases its whole appeal on cooking and baking. … Regarded as candy, marshmallows would be purchased only semi-occasionally. Looked upon as a cookery staple most valuable in the preparation of new and dainty dishes it can have a steady demand.

But Campfire did not entirely abandon its marshmallow roasting history. Ads in Boys Life Magazine in 1920 and 1921 reminded Scouts of their summer camp marshmallow pleasures. In an early example of “kid-fluence” marketing, Campfire counseled:

Tell mother about these tempting Marshmallows today. Tell her there’s a recipe folder in every package. But be sure to tell her to get Campfire–the kind of Marshmallows you had at camp. (see the ad here)

Campfire Brand marshmallows today are manufactured by Doumak, Inc. It was Alexander Doumak who invented the modern extrusion process in 1948. Since 1900, marshmallows had been made using the starch mogul system, which involves dropping marshmallow goo into starch molds and letting it set. Doumak came up with the revolutionary idea of squeezing the marshmallow mixture out into a long tube and cutting it into pieces. It was faster and easier than the starch moguls. And that is the marshmallow we have today: tubes of white puffs in a sack, and sold as grocery.

Sources: All advertising images appeared in Confectioners Journal in the years indicated. “Changing a Confectionery into a Staple Article of Cooking,” Printers Ink, Jan 27, 1921 p. 97-100. For a detailed explanation of the modern marshmallow manufacturing process, see How Marshmallows are Made.

June 25, 2010 at 11:29 am 3 comments

Toasted Mallows for Toasty Days

Hot hot hot. Memorial day, and the mercury is rising.

As you probably  learned the day you left a Hershey bar out on your dashboard, heat and humidity are not kind to candy. Many candy factories essentially shut down over the summer before the days of artificial “climate control.” The enterprising candy maker looked for items that would weather the weather (har har): something that wouldn’t melt or get sticky or fall apart when the temperature rises.

Here’s a 1907 ad for Toasted Mallows, a hot-weather specialty:

“When the Mercury Goes Up, Toasted Mallows Go Down.” Not bad for a candy slogan.

Toasted Mallows are marshmallows coated in toasted cocoanut. I love the funny “toasted mallow” character at the top. He looks a little like an oversized shredded wheat biscuit.

The ad copy reads

Here’s a lot of profit and candy goodness for your trade worth investigating. A summer confection that thrives when the temperature hovers in the nineties.

What really caught my eye in this ad was the photo of the young people eating the candy. This is an unusual image for the advertising of the day, most of which relies on hand drawings rather than photos. Who are these boys and girls? I imagine they might actually be employees of the Darby Candy Company. Or perhaps, given that they all seem about the same age, these are students who got a lucky chance to eat some candy in exchange for posing for this photo.

These shaggy looking treats are pretty plain by our candy standards. Today you can still buy “Toasted Mallows” or “Toasted Coconut Marshmallows” as a specialty confectionery item, although they seem more popular in Canada and Australia than in the U.S. Kraft makes a “Jet-Puffed Marshmallow” with toasted coconut. But it’s not the kind of thing you see flying off the shelves, at least not in any of the places I know. In fact, until I was researching this post I didn’t know of the existence of this product.

This bag puzzles me. I think I would find this bag in the grocery store and not really know what to do with the contents.  Do you just eat it out of the bag? Or do you do something else with it? For the Darby girls and boys, Toasted Mallows was clearly a candy. But this Kraft bag poses the mystery of the marshmallow: is it candy? or is it some other kind of grocery item?

Source: 1907 ad for the Darby Candy Company of Baltimore, Maryland appeared in Confectioners Journal.

May 31, 2010 at 7:22 am 10 comments

The End of Candy

2009 was the final year for the “All Candy Expo,” the National Confectioner’s Association’s major trade show. For 2010, the event has been renamed: “Sweets and Snacks Expo.” It’s happening this week in Chicago. I wish I were there. Katharine Weber has a great scene in her novel True Confections based on the Expo, and she makes it seem like a lot of fun (and if you’re there this week, look for Katharine, she’s at the Expo signing copies of her book).

But I’m a little sad about the renaming of the event. Candy doesn’t even merit mention in the event name. The event will feature:

“Confectionery. Chocolate. Candy. Gum. Salty Snacks. Cookies. Popcorn. Biscuits. Breakfast Snacks. Nutrition Bars. Meat Snacks. Fruit Snacks. Granola Bars. Nuts.”

Candy is still up front, but the line of alternatives seems long and decidedly un-candy-like.

A lot of what used to be called candy is now re-imagined as “snacks” (which I guess sounds more like food and therefore more respectable). Meanwhile, candy like everything else these days is trending “healthy.” Which may be about things that are better for you, or it may just be about things that seem better for you. We’re seeing a lot of pseudo-candy on the grocery store shelves: foods that are candy-like, but that promise some other virtue. Fruit juice, all natural, organic, vitamin fortified, and the like. Candy can’t just be candy.

And clearly, there is a lot of candy that doesn’t want to be seen as candy. If you wander over to the snack aisle, you might find items like “Welch’s Fruit Snacks,” or Betty Crocker’s “Fruit by the Foot.” Fruit, right? Um, not exactly. Because whether the sugar comes from apple juice or pear puree or sugar cane crystals, it’s still sugar. But since these products look like something from fruit, they are somehow exempt from the stigma associated with candy. Just ask the Washington State Tax authorities who didn’t even consider those “fruit snacks” when they put together the list for the new candy tax.

The rise of candy taxes in Washington, Colorado, Illinois, and the murmurings heard elsewhere, tell us which way the wind is blowing on candy. American’s will still want it, and still eat it. But it won’t be called candy. And it will likely be manufactured and packaged in some way to evade legal definitions on candy. Even today, products like Milky Way candy bars and Look candy bars are exempt from the Washington tax because they contain flour. So just add a pinch of flour to your recipe, and presto, your candy is tranformed into tax-free food.

As far as the tax goes, I really don’t care. But I do think there is something important about honesty and transparency and clarity in what we eat and how we choose.

Candy is a lovely thing. How sad it would be to hide it, to distort it, to smother it because we can’t call a thing by its name.

May 24, 2010 at 11:38 am 7 comments

Black Crows or Black Rose?

Black Crows: do you know this candy? It’s a venerable gummy licorice drop, from the same people who bring you fruity Dots. But while Dots are in every movie concession and drug store bin that I come across, I never see the Crows. I suspect they are a little less popular. After all, it’s a licorice candy for starters, not America’s favorite flavor these days. And then there is the name. Crows? I mean, those are some big and spooky birds.

I’m not the only one who thinks the name is a little strange. The legend of Black Crows is that they weren’t supposed to be named “Crows” at all. The story (and you’ll find it at Wikipedia and every other “candy nostalgia” book and web site) is that when Brooklyn candy makers Mason, Au, and Magenheimer sent out to have the first labels printed up, somehow the printer got confused and instead of Black Rose, the labels came back with Black Crows. And Black Crows it has been ever since.

It seems an easy mistake: when you say it out loud, black rose does sound exactly like black crows. But Richard, over at The Bewildered Brit, pointed out that this story seemed a little unlikely. He thought it would have made more sense to call the candy “black roses,” but “black crowses” doesn’t make any sense.  I agreed with Richard that the whole thing seemed odd. So I started looking for early evidence of Black Crows to decide for my self if the story of Black Rose made any sense. Here’s what I found.

We do know for a fact that Mason, Au applied to trademark the name “Black Crows” in 1911 (the trademark was approved Dec. 12, 1912, U.S. Serial 71058363).

In the trademark application, the candy makers assert that the name “Black Crows” has been in continuous use in commerce since 1890. That means that in 1890, they were selling the candy as “Black Crows.” No sign of “Black Rose” here.

I found an advertisement for Black Crows published in January 1919:

What is interesting here is that Black Crows are sold in bulk. They are shipped to retailers in big five pound boxes, or in forty pound cases. There is a label on the box, as you can see. But when the candy is sold to the candy-eater at the candy shop, it is going to be scooped out of the box and put into a sack. Whether the label says “Black Crows” or “Black Rose” or “Black Nose” or “Black Panty Hose” hardly matters. If Mason, Au had wanted to call their candy sold in big bulk boxes “Black Rose” back in 1890, and they got the wrong labels, why would they toss the name they had chosen when the name on the label is so irrelevant to how the candy gets sold?

As the January ad announces, Mason, Au was working on a five cent package. It came out in July, 1919. Here’s the ad:

Notice the copy reads: “No Weighing, No Wrapping, Just Selling.” In the nineteen-teens, the idea of pre-packaged candy took off. When unwrapped candy is being scooped out of glass jars or big boxes, the buyer can’t really know what “brand” the candy might be (and this was something of an issue for many candy makers who were trying to capture some market share). Boxes like this Black Crows were revolutionizing the way candy was being sold and packaged, and making the brand and the packaging more and more important to the sale.

When the candy is displayed in these individual packages, it really does matter what name is on the candy box. The individual boxes will be displayed and customers will recognize the brand based on the packaging. If the printer had screwed up all the printing on individual retail packages like this, that would have been a big deal. But in 1890, no such packaging existed.

In sum: Black Crows was the name of the candy going all the way back to 1890. n 1890, there was no such thing as a candy wrapper. The way candy was packaged and sold meant that a “printers error” for a box label would have been easy to work around. Given the absence of any actual evidence that the candy was ever called Black Rose, we can only conclude that the story is a myth.

But as I’m discovering, the candy past is as much myth and legend as it is fact. The “Black Rose” story is another of those candy fabulations, like the story of why Hershey’s named their candy “kiss,” or the story of the invention of the Tootsie Roll. They are all nice stories that add to the mystery and romance of the candy past. Candy is a special product, one we associate with pleasure and fun, and it’s not surprising that we’d hope that the stories behind our candies would be more interesting than the stories behind socks or soap.

Unfortunately, most of the story of candy in America is just the story of business: a product, a market, a sale, companies growing and prospering, or losing their foothold and failing. Not much fodder for the cocktail party circuit, alas. Pity the poor kill-joy historian who just must get it right.

So why would we need the “Black Rose” story anyway? I think it has something to do with changing perceptions of candy and candy eaters. Today, the chewy licorice gum drop is sold alongside similar sugar candies like Mike and Ike, Dots, Skittles: sure, grownups may eat it, but it’s basically kids candy. But if you look at the older packaging above, you can see it’s quite atmospheric and spooky. A century ago, candy like Black Crows wasn’t associated with children or cartoons, it was a serious candy. So a spooky black crow wasn’t so odd. But today, that image doesn’t match the idea of kiddie candies. So we have the new Black Crows logo:  a jaunty, jokey cartoon crow. And we have the legend of “black rose,” that the crow wasn’t really a crow after all.

One last tidbit: Black Crows ad in the 1920s emphasize their quality: they are flavored with real anise seed and licorice, they do not harden or deteriorate, and they are pure and wholesome. But you might be surprised about the color:

They are colored with charcoal, which is beneficial to the stomach.

I’m pretty sure they took the charcoal out some time back. But that explains the nice black color!

Sources: Black Crows ads appeared in Confectioners Journal, Jan. and June 1919. Quote from Mason, Au & Magenheimer ad for Black Crows, Confectioners Journal September 1921 p. 74.

April 28, 2010 at 8:30 am 3 comments

Ancient Candies Sell New Technologies, 1950s

Today I wanted to share with you a couple of candy industry ads from the 1950s that caught my eye. When I saw them, I wondered, why the sudden appearance of these “ancient” motifs and references?

Here we have Monsanto Chemical Company advertising their Flavor Chemicals in 1952 (yes, its the same Monsanto). This is the fruit and flower of modern science, the efforts of chemists at the cutting edge of food engineering. And what image do they use to promote their oh-so-modern product? Ancient Egyptians and Classic Greeks in togas.

And two years later, Annheuser-Busch brings a full-blown pharaonic fantasy to promote its starches and corn syrups.

This ad describes candy as “one of the oldest manufactured food products.” I think this phrase tips us off as to what these ads are doing.

The food business was undergoing a major technological revolution in the 1950s. All sorts of food engineering and food chemistry, much of it developed for the military during WWII, was hitting the marketplace in the form of new kinds of food, new kinds of packaging, and new ways of cooking and eating.

It was “better living through chemistry,” to be sure. But as much as there was the excitement of progress and the new, there was also anxiety: after all, was  chemistry really food?

I think these ads are about creating psychological links between the old and the new to make the new seem more a continuation of the old, more familiar and less of a dramatic break.

The problem is not so acute for Annheuser-Busch’s starches and corn syrups, perhaps. After all, they have some recognizable relation to corn. But Monsanto was peddling additives that were radically new and absolutely artificial: ethavan, vanillin, coumarin and methyl salicylate, flavorings that created the effects of “real” foods like vanilla and mint. The question on some people’s minds must have been: Was Monsanto selling chemicals? Or food ingredients?

Monsanto reassures its customers of its rightful place in the candy kitchen by establishing links to the candy past. “Hebrews, Greeks, Romans… history-making men of nearly every nationality… have listed candy among their foods,” and now Monsanto joins this distinguished line as part of the “modern Candy Industry.”

Note: yes, that’s the same Annheuser-Busch better known for beer. For the full story on how a brewer ends up provisioning the candy trade, see my post Beer and Candy III. For more on Monsanto’s chemicals in the candy industry, see my posts Please Don’t Eat the Wrapper and A Complete, Well-Balanced Diet.

Ads appeared in Confectioners Journal: Monsanto, Feb 1952; Annheuser-Busch, Aug 1954.

April 7, 2010 at 8:30 am 2 comments

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 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 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

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

Where Do You Buy Candy?

Where do you go to buy candy? Not special candy, but just your everyday ordinary candy purchases. I live in the city, so for me, it’s the drug store (believe it or not, there are three within three blocks of my apartment). I hear about a lot of great candies found at Target, a lot of great deals at Wal-Mart, sometimes regional finds at gas station convenience stores.

When I was a kid, I used to ride my bike to the candy store. OK, it was in a suburban strip mall, but it really was a candy store.  I can’t remember what was in the back of the shop, but the front was all candy, all kinds. I went looking for it last time I visited my parents. Alas, that store is long gone. Now it’s a dry cleaner.

So where did people buy their candy a hundred years ago? One big difference between then and now is that there were candy shops in every town, shops that in most cases sold at least some goods that were made on the premises. When I think about the early 20th century, this is the image that always comes to me.

So I was happy to find this ad for Greenfields chocolate, which gives us an interesting picture of how and where people might buy the more “fancy” sorts of candy around 1907.

Of course, department stores and drug stores were major players. This is where the more expensive candies were sold. They catered to customers with more time and money to shop and spend.

The other idea in this ad is the association of candy with transportation. People buy Greenfields on board the rail road, in the train station, on the ferry. In 1907, candy is some thing you might eat on the way. Looking at these ladies’ clothes, though, I’d guess we’re not talking about grabbing a bite aboard a crowded bus, of course. More like lounging in your state-room or private car.

We still buy candy in the airport or at the train station. These days, though, candy on the go is more likely to mean a cup-holder fitted container in the front seat of the SUV.

February 22, 2010 at 8:25 am 4 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.

(C) Samira Kawash

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