The History of Chocolate: Part One

  • All the ways chocolate became what it is today.

The world consumes nearly 7 billion chocolate bars a year, with sale over 14 billion. Here is the history of chocolate:


Candy bars come in every shape, size and flavor. But it the early 1900s, it was only Hershey.

But an entrepreneur goes against Hershey and a former employee of Hershey’s strikes it out on his own as well. Here are all the details about the history of chocolate.

In 1919 after the WWI win, the US economy is the strongest in the world. Industry was on the rise as the country didn’t suffer from the war because it wasn’t fought on US soil.

Americans have more income than ever and soldiers came home wanting the chocolate they were eating overseas. They alone created the demand for chocolate bars.

For 2 decades Milton Hershey dominated chocolate with the Hershey’s bar and kiss. Sales at the time were equivalent to $325 million today.

Sugar prices tripled for a few years keeping competition at bay, but in this time, it’s everywhere and it’s much cheaper.

Candy was suddenly being made everywhere from home kitchens to large factories. So much so that 40,000 different candy bars were on the market by the 1920s.


Otto Schnering was an entrepreneur out of Chicago, IL. And he went all in on a new company, bought his own equipment and made the Baby Ruth.

His empire eventually rivals Hershey and becomes a global conglomerate, worth more than $25 billion dollars.

But for Schering, it started out poorly. He was drowning in competition. His company Curtiss Candy Company started with Jolly Jack’s, Divinity Hash Fudge and Kandy Kakes.

Schnering does market research on his competitors to find the most popular ingredients like nougat, peanuts, caramel and of course, chocolate. At the time there are so many bars with similar ingredients.

He knows he must stand out from the crowd.

More Hershey

Milton Hershey at the time was the wealthiest man in PA. Hershey Kiss was dominating the market but competition was coming for him.

He wanted to make the best chocolate and in that thinking realized that the milk was the most important part, and that came from the cows. He made a 250 cow round barn, designed to improve conditions for cows and improve milk yields.

In 1919 round barn was costing too much money.


Harry Burnett Reece was fired when Hershey shut down the round barn. Reece had a lot of Hershey know how already and was playing with recipes on his own, too.

Eventually Reece would go on to create the best selling candy on the planet with annual sales of $500 million dollars. This is almost twice as much as the Hershey bar.

1920 was fueled by low sugar prices and candy production. Due to prohibition, candies were named after cocktails. There were more choices and more competition coming out with more innovations all the time.

Reece wants to forge his own path and makes his own recipes but is struggling to find ‘it.’

Baby Ruth

The market research Schnering did proved that most candy bars had the same ingredients and he used that to his advantage.

He created the sweet, salty, bitter, umami, and sour profile, all the tastes that make up his new bar.

In 1921, he invests everything he has into a factory with state of the art equipment that almost no other company has- air conditioning. This meant that he didn’t have to shut down in the heat of the summer.

As he was trying to find his candies new name, he walked in on employees listening to the ball game with Babe Ruth up to bat. He realizes everyone knows who Babe Ruth is and decides on the name, whether he gets permission to use it or not.

He asked if he could use Babe Ruth’s name but according to Schnering, he wanted too much money.

He used the name anyhow.

“All you want for a nickel” was the Babe Ruth chocolate

bar slogan.

He invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into the launch of Babe Ruth. He had a pilot to drop Baby Ruth’s with parachutes over the city of Chicago.

He also priced the bar at half the cost of the typical candy bar at the time, 5 cents versus 10 cents. He still wants to go after Hershey.

And more Reece

Hershey sees success of Schnering but doesn’t know about his former employee yet. Reece is hard at work in the kitchen creating his new candies.

He starts with chocolate covered honeydew melon and chocolate covered marshmallows. Some of his products did ok, and some didn’t.

But how did the Reece peanut butter cup and the Butterfinger bar come to be? For the rest of the history of chocolate, read The History of Chocolate: Part Two.