It’s not hard to find a mouth-watering candy bar to chow down on these days – but identifying which candy bars have had the biggest influence on our lives is a bit tougher. There are the popular bars like Snickers, Reese’s Pieces, Butterfinger, and then there are the classic bars that really shaped the industry from the days when chocolate was a new thing like the Hershey’s bar, Toblerone bars and more.
When you consider the history of some big brands in the candy bar industry, it’s impossible to skip over the huge cultural impact they’ve had in America and throughout the world. Many of today’s big confectionary companies like Hershey’s, Nestle and Cadbury, have been in operation for well over 100 years and some of their present day recipes haven’t changed too much.
We've compiled this list of 10 influential candy bars and given you an inside look at how they've affected the candy bar industry around the world. We’re pretty sure you've heard of nearly all of the tasty treats on our top 10 list and, if you've got a bit of a sweet tooth, then you've probably tasted a fair few of them too!
10 Milky Way Bar – Since 1923
Coming in at number 10 on our list is the Milky Way bar, made by the Mars confectionery company. It was the country’s first filled candy bar and was reportedly an overnight success for the company when it was created in Minnesota in 1923 by Frank Mars (costing only a nickel). The American bar is made of chocolate-malt nougat and topped with caramel and milk chocolate. As reported in Time magazine, this bar’s influence is far-reaching because it was the first candy bar to be inspired by a real dessert: the milky way malted milkshake. Many other candy bars have followed suit since then.
9 Snickers – Since 1930
Named after a horse (!) and produced by the Mars confectionery company, the Snickers bar is made of nougat topped with caramel and peanuts, then covered in milk chocolate. It’s become the world’s best-selling candy bar (with over $3.6 billion in global sales according to The Southern) and that’s what makes it so influential all over the globe. Its latest advertising campaign is called “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” and looks at men behaving in odd ways when they’re hungry. Most recently it released an advert featuring Godzilla, who was shown rampaging due to hunger, but after a Snickers bar he gets back to being normal and even hanging out with humans.
8 Nestle Milk Chocolate – Since 1875
This simple milk chocolate bar by Nestle has been influencing the international candy bar market for over 100 years. Until this bar was released, chocolate bars tended to be more chewy and less sweet or milky. As reported on the Nestle Professional website, Daniel Peter succeeded with this Nestle Milk Chocolate bar after having spent years looking for a good way to combine condensed milk and chocolate. Since then, the candy bar market has been filled with milk chocolate options.
7 Chicken Dinner – Since 1923
Released in the same year as the popular Milky Way bar, the Chicken Dinner was named after US President Herbert Hoover’s promise for a “chicken in every pot”. It didn't contain any chicken; it was simply a nut roll covered in chocolate and it stopped being sold in the 1960s. However, in its 40 or so years of production, it was praised as the world’s first nutritious candy bar which went on to have a big influence. These days many confectionery companies sell “healthy” versions of their products and many energy bars contain an element of chocolate or candy.
6 Wonka Bar – Since 1971
If you've read Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or seen the movie, you’ll know how much influence this bar has had. As reported by historian Darlene Lacey in Time magazine, it was a “big sensation” for a fictional candy bar to actually come to fruition in the shops. The Quaker Oats Company paid for the 1971 film to be produced, and released a candy bar in time for the film too (which apparently tasted gross!). Nestle Wonka bars were sold until 2010 though, and were a big success. Reports show that some countries around the world are even bringing them back.
5 Nestle Crunch – Since 1937
When Nestle Crunch was introduced to the market in the late 1930s, it caused somewhat of a revolution in the candy bar world. According to Time magazine, it was the first chocolate bar to add something other than the usual caramel, nougat and nuts. It added crisped rice instead. The bar was a success, paving the way for many other future candy bars to have different ingredients (and lower prices thanks to the cheap crisped rice). These days the bar has the slogan “For the Kid in You”.
4 Toblerone – Since 1908
This Swiss, triangular treat is comprised of chocolate, almonds, honey and nougat and made its big debut in 1908. This combination of ingredients was very unique at the time it was released in Bern, Switzerland so it really upped the game for the candy bar industry. Its distinctive triangular prism-like shape has added to its influence. In Manchester (in the UK) a triangular set of student residences are known as “the Toblerones”.
3 Cadbury Dairy Milk – Since 1897
This is a mega-brand in the international confectionery market and has been influential for over 100 years. In the early late 1800s, Cadbury in the United Kingdom (Birmingham to be precise) released its original milk chocolate bar because they had lots of cocoa butter left over after making cocoa essence. The Cadbury website says that this first bar probably wouldn't appeal to today’s tastes, as it was coarser and less sweet than today’s candy bars. It was in 1905 that the dairy milk bar as we know it was launched and it was marketed as having “a glass and a half of fresh milk”. Cadbury bars have continued their strong association with milk in all advertising since then.
2 Hershey’s Milk Chocolate – Since 1900
Once advertised as being “more sustaining than meat” this milk chocolate bar is a true icon. It has an important legacy in America (and worldwide) due to the way it upped production of chocolate on such a huge scale in the early 1900s. Milton Hershey founded the company in the late 1800s and then built a factory in the middle of USA dairy country, allowing unmatched production of chocolate on a scale never seen before. Now Hershey lovers can find dedicated Hershey’s stores in places like Niagara Falls (Canada) and Times Square (New York City).
1 Kit Kat – Since 1911
This hugely successful wafer bar is covered in chocolate and divided into separate fingers, which can be snapped off. As reported by Time magazine in February 2014, it’s impossible to find a candy bar that has changed our world as much as Nestle’s Kit Kat. Its influence is thanks to a couple of key traits. First, it was the first candy bar to really be advertised around social occasions or sharing. One long-time slogan was “Have a break...Have a Kit Kat” and marketing centered around people taking a break and snacking on a Kit Kat with others. Second, the Kit Kat was (one of) the first candy bars to get major attention around the globe including in places like France, Australia, China, Japan and more.