10 of the Greatest Candy Treats of All Time

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A Brief History

On February 23, 1896, dentists all over the world must have felt the Earth shake, for on that day the Tootsie Roll was introduced.  A delicious, chocolate-flavored candy roll similar to but not quite like caramel or taffy, these obviously popular treats have been around for well over 100 years now.  Here the author lists 10 of the greatest candies of all time according to his own observations.  Feel free to nominate any other treats you think should be on this list.  How could the author not list pecan turtles?  What was he thinking?  (Stay tuned for a list of the worst candies of all time!)

Digging Deeper

10. Tootsie Rolls, 1896.

During the Korean War, embattled Marines at the Chosin Reservoir were accidentally delivered hundreds of crates of “Tootsie Rolls” instead of the mortar rounds they so desperately needed.  Apparently, the two words “Tootsie Rolls” were sometimes used interchangeably with “mortar rounds,” and someone actually took the request for more Tootsie Rolls literally!  Only a great candy indeed can influence a war.  At different times, a variety of flavors such as fruit and vanilla have been sold alongside the traditional chocolate.  Tootsie Rolls have been certified as Kosher as well.

9. Atomic Fireballs, 1954.

The king of the jawbreaker-type candies, these cinnamon- flavored spheres will get your taste buds good and hot.  Made simply of sugar, syrup and flavoring, these balls are rolled into shape and dyed red.  The hot taste is due to capsicum, the same substance that makes pepper spray burn your skin and eyes.  As long as you do not bite down on these balls, they last a long time.

8. Licorice, c. 1200.

Originally used as a medicine for millennia, or just chewed in its natural form, licorice is actually the root of a plant and is now also used to flavor chewy candy and cough drops.  Not to be confused with anise and fennel, which are similar tasting but different, licorice was brought to northern Europe during the Crusades, where someone figured making candy out of it would be a good idea.  And grateful we are that they did.  We are talking about the black variety, however.  The red look-a-like is an imposter!  Licorice is so good it is even used to flavor tobacco. (No kidding.)

7. Life Savers, 1912.

Invented in Ohio (“the mother of inventors“) as a “summer” candy that would not melt like chocolate, these are empty-center, ring-shaped candies that come in many mint and fruit flavors.  The Pep-O-Mint, Wint-O-Green and Spearmint varieties have saved many a mouth from the embarrassment of halitosis, perhaps rescuing a date if not a life.  Current varieties include mini-sized candies, gummies and Crème Savers, among others.

6. Nestlé Crunch, 1937.

Simply high-quality milk chocolate with crisped rice inside, this simple yet elegant treat is oddly satisfying.  This chocolate bar is another of those chocolate-based treats that go well when included in ice cream and other goodies.  Today it is made in several varieties such as white chocolate, carmel, as a cookie, as an ice cream treat and even with peanuts.  Honorable mention to the Nestle 100 Grand Bar, my personal favorite.

5. Kit Kat, 1935.

Simple wafers covered in milk chocolate, these come in various sizes and breaking off one bar at a time makes them last longer.  One of those things that just “works,” Kit Kat is a tremendous “pick me up” to help you get through the rest of the work day.  Other flavors have been made, and in Japan those varieties number over 200, with such flavors as soy sauce and ginger ale!  To some, seemingly more normal flavors such as banana or orange sound more appealing.

4. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, 1928.

Combing two of the greatest things in the world, chocolate and peanut butter, is a sure recipe for success.  With U.S. sales of about $1 billion annually, these cups are definitely a success.  Sometimes made in novelty shapes for various holidays, or even with white chocolate, these guys come in regular and smaller sizes, wrapped and unwrapped.  Often used in various baked goods and ice cream treats, they have to be one of the most addictive of treats.

3. Chewing Gum, c. 4,000 B.C.

Yes, ancient forms of gum made from tree sap date back to 5,000 or more years ago.  Modern chewing gum made from chicle was first introduced by Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna (the same guy who massacred the Texans at the Alamo, remember?) who imported the stuff to New York where Tom Adams tried to use it as a rubber substitute.  When that intended use failed, Adams started making chewing gum in 1871, with Black Jack and Chiclets soon on the market.  The best-selling gum in the world today is Trident.  (Does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight?)

2. M&Ms, 1941.

Coated in a way to keep the chocolate from melting in your hand, these colorful little guys are the #1 selling candy in the world with annual sales of over $1.8 billion.  Also available in peanut and peanut butter varieties, do not confuse these bite-sized chocolates with Reese’s Pieces!  They are so good they are often mixed in ice cream or soft serve, cookies, brownies or other bakery items.

1. Hershey Bar, 1900.

God bless Milton Hershey and his invention of a process that allowed for the mass production of milk chocolate.  The original “Great American Chocolate Bar” is one of the unmistakable symbols of the United States!  The American military has long used Hershey Bars as signs of goodwill when overseas and as a valuable barter good.  Honorable mention to Cadbury Dairy Milk bars which are the best-selling chocolate bars on the planet.

Question for students (and subscribers): Do you have a favorite candy to eat?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Lacey, Darlene.  Classic Candy: America’s Favorite Sweets, 1950-80.  Shire, 2013.

Tunnell, Michael O.  Candy Bomber: The Story of the Berlin Airlift’s “Chocolate Pilot”.  Charlesbridge, 2010.

The featured image in this article, a photograph by Famartin of two Tootsie Rolls, one it its wrapper and one unwrapped, in the Dulles section of Sterling, Loudoun County, Virginia, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

You can also watch a video version of this article on YouTube.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.