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Candy Industry Giants Who Withstood the Test of Time


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In the constantly evolving world of candy, some sweet sensations have really stood the test of time. These confectionary delights have captivated multiple generations with their irresistible flavors and timeless appeal. Today we are going on a journey through candy history to bring to you the candy industry giants who have withstood the test of time. Not only have these companies endured the winds of change, but they have created an enduring legacy that has made their brands even more than just a household name.

From the iconic chocolate bars of Hershey's to the velvety richness of Ghirardelli, and the nostalgic charm of NECCO, these traditional confectionery brands have woven themselves into the fabric of our culture, leaving an indelible mark on America’s sweet tooth. As we delve into the fascinating histories of these candy titans, we'll uncover the secrets behind their longevity and celebrate the sweet success stories that continue to delight candy enthusiasts worldwide, enchanting our taste buds and creating one smile at a time for well over a century.

Did you know?

Kikkoman Soy Sauce is likely the oldest food brand in the world. The company has undergone some name changes in its over 350-year history, but the quality and flavors have remained relatively unchanged since the late 1600’s.


While none of our favorite candy makers have been around as long as the classic Japanese shoyu, many of them are still quite old. In fact, the oldest candy maker that made this list is celebrating their 200-year anniversary this year!

Cadbury (1824)

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The English confectionary company Cadbury, best-known for their ‘glass and a half’ dairy milk chocolate bars started in a small grocery shop in Birmingham, England in 1824. Here, John Cadbury began by selling tea, coffee and drinking chocolate prepared by hand with a pestle and mortar. In just a few short years, John bought a warehouse and began manufacturing chocolate there in 1831.

But business was tough, and the competition was fierce. In the 1860’s, John handed off the company to his sons, Richard and George who began focusing their efforts on processing 100% pure cocoa. At the time, many cocoa manufacturers were adding things like animal fat, red lead and even brick dust to bulk out their cocoa. Luckily with their use of a van Houten cocoa press from the Netherlands, Cadbury was able to begin making the purest cocoa in England at the time.

In 1905 his son, George introduced their legendary Dairy Milk Chocolate Bar to the masses. This iconic chocolate bar was created with the intent of putting more milk into a candy bar than any other on the market. To this day, it is still the UK’s most popular candy bar, with an estimated 21.4 million people in the UK who consumed a Dairy Milk bar in 2022/2023.

But perhaps the crowning achievement of Cadbury is their drumming gorilla commercial from 2007, which many on the internet have dubbed “the best commercial of all time”. You might think that’s a preposterous claim, but in 2015 it was indeed voted the best British commercial of all time by Marketing magazine. Check it out, it truly is phenomenal!

Necco (1847)

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The New England Confectionary Company, or Necco for short began in 1847, by a Boston druggist named Oliver R. Chase. You see, back in the early 1800’s candy making was largely a pharmacist’s trade. Medicine prescribed by doctors at the time was either mixed into a liquid cocktail or made into a lozenge that the patient would then consume. These medicines tasted so bad that sugar was typically added to mask the taste.

Chase invented a small machine that automated the lozenge pressing and cutting process, which revolutionized the industry. Combining forces with 2 other innovative candy companies that started between 1840 and 1880, they rebranded as Necco in 1901 and continued to make classic candies we all know and love to this day.

Necco Wafers, Mary Jane, and Sky Bar are three popular favorite types of candies that came from the minds of Necco. Over the years they purchased the companies that made Sweethearts Conversation Hearts, Candy Buttons, and Clark Bar, among others vastly expanding their lineup of products.

Sadly, in 2018 the fate of Necco hung in the balance as the company faced imminent bankruptcy. However, a glimmer of hope emerged when the Ohio-based Spangler Candy Company swooped in to acquire Necco through a United States federal bankruptcy auction. Spangler Candy, with its own illustrious history dating back to 1906, boasts a repertoire of iconic treats such as Dum Dums lollipops and Bit-O-Honey.

While the original Necco company structure may have succumbed to financial turmoil, its legacy lives on under the Spangler umbrella. Despite the tumultuous turn of events, the enduring Necco name continues to be sold in candy stores all across the world – a testament to its enduring charm and cultural significance.

Ghirardelli (1852)

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Domenico Ghirardelli was an Italian immigrant who opened up a confectionary shop on the corner of Kearney and Washington Streets in San Francisco. Shortly thereafter, a company employee discovered the Broma process by hanging a bag of chocolate mass in a warm room. As the cocoa butter dripped out, the remaining residue produced an intense chocolate flavor that was unlike anything else at the time.

Following this serendipitous discovery, Ghirardelli quickly capitalized on the innovative technique, which helped revolutionize chocolate production. This breakthrough allowed for the creation of different types of chocolate with a depth of flavor previously unseen in the industry. As word of Ghirardelli's exceptional chocolate spread, the company's reputation soared, cementing its status as a leading purveyor of premium chocolate.

Over the years, Ghirardelli continued to refine their craft, introducing new products, and perfecting its signature chocolate recipes. Today, Ghirardelli stands as a beacon of quality and tradition in the chocolate world, beloved by connoisseurs and chocolate enthusiasts alike for its rich heritage and uncompromising commitment to excellence. The company was purchased by Lindt & Sprungli in 1998, but the quality and excellence of their chocolate has cemented them as a market leader in the chocolate world.

Lindt & Sprungli (1879)

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Though the company started its journey in 1845 with David Sprüngli’s small confectionery shop in Zurich, Switzerland, the invention of the conching process in 1879 really took the chocolate world by storm. Rodolphe Lindt had just opened his own small confectionary shop in Berne, Switzerland but he was making brittle, somewhat bitter chocolate, just like everyone else was making at the time.

One Friday evening he left the shop, but in his excitement to enjoy the weekend, he had forgotten to turn off the conching machine. It churned the chocolate all weekend, and when he returned the following Monday morning, Lindt found the smoothest, best-tasting chocolate he had ever tried! This accident was the beginning of Lindt’s world-class chocolate fondant and was perhaps the event that single-handedly put Swiss chocolate on the map.

This "melting chocolate," was an overnight sensation, setting Lindt far ahead of his competitors. Over the years, Lindt expanded their product line to include a wide range of premium chocolates, Lindor truffles, and other confections, all crafted with the same dedication to quality and innovation. Today, Lindt continues to be celebrated for its exquisite chocolates, beloved by chocolate enthusiasts worldwide for their unparalleled taste and luxurious texture.

The Wrigley Company (1891)

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William Wrigley Jr. started off as a soap salesman at the young age of 13. A young marketing prodigy, Wrigley added baking powder, rubber stamps, and newspapers to his sales repertoire and his reputation continued to grow. To incentivize customers to purchase his baking powder, Wrigley began offering free packs of chewing gum as a bonus. However, the gum proved to be more popular than the baking powder itself.

In 1893, the company introduced its first branded chewing gum, Juicy Fruit, followed by Spearmint shortly thereafter. Both had become instant successes, laying the foundation for Wrigley's dominance in the chewing gum market. His spearmint gum quickly became the best-selling chewing gum in the world.

Over the years, the company continued to innovate and expand its product line, introducing iconic brands such as Doublemint, Big Red, and Orbit. Today, the Wrigley Company is a global leader in the confectionery industry, known for its wide range of chewing gums and breath mints enjoyed by millions of people worldwide. Mars Inc. purchased the Wrigley brand for nearly $23 billion dollars in 2008.

Hershey’s (1894)

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Milton S. Hershey was a fan of sweets early on in life, and by the age of 14 he began his apprenticeship with a Pennsylvania confectioner, Joseph Royer. After 4 years of learning, he moved to Philadelphia to start his own confectionary business. In 1886, he started the Lancaster Caramel Company, which was a phenomenal success, employing 1,300 people at two factories by the early 1890’s.

When Hershey attended the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, he saw some German chocolate-making machinery, that made him instantly become fascinated with the idea of making chocolate. In 1894 he incorporated the Lancaster Caramel Company and made Hershey’s Chocolate a subsidiary. By 1900 he sold the Lancaster Caramel Company for $1 million dollars and focused all his efforts on making chocolate.

The Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar quickly became a household favorite. He had transformed what was once considered a “luxury item” into an affordable, accessible treat for the masses! To meet growing demand, Hershey built a massive chocolate factory in Derry Township, Pennsylvania, that was the largest chocolate factory in the world. This factory town, later named Hershey, became the heart of the company's operations and a testament to Milton Hershey's many philanthropic endeavors.

Over the years, Hershey expanded their product line to include a wide range of chocolate treats, including Hershey's Kisses, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Rolo, and Kit Kat bars, among others. Today, the Hershey Company has remained one of the largest chocolate manufacturers in the world, known for its commitment to quality and innovation.

Mars Incorporated (1911)

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Mars Incorporated was founded by Franklin Clarence Mars who made and sold buttercream candies out of his home in Tacoma, Washington. Throughout the 20th century, this company would grow from a small candy shop to one of the largest confectionery companies in the world!

In 1920, he moved operations to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he started expanding his line of products. He introduced the Mar-O-Bar which was his attempt at coating whipped cream with chocolate. This was successful enough, but his real break came when he was sitting with his estranged son, Forrest at an old-time soda shop, drinking a malted milkshake. Forrest asked his dad to put the malted milkshake into a candy bar, and the Milky Way was born! This was wildly successful, making $800,000 in its first year, which would be about $11 million today.

Coming off the success of his Milky Way candy bar, the company relocated again, this time to Chicago Illinois in 1929. The easy access to transportation in Chicago made the company dominate distribution channels across the United States.

They continued coming out with iconic candy bars like Snickers, M&Ms, Twix, and 3 Musketeers, easily making Mars Inc. one of the largest candy brands in the world. They were also instrumental in making Halloween candy very popular in the post-World War 2 era.

Today, Mars, Incorporated has over 140,000 employees in over 80 countries across the world. In 2022, Forbes ranked the company as the 4th largest privately held company in America.

As Redstone Foods celebrates the rich history and success of these candy industry giants, we're equally dedicated to supporting the smaller players in the confectionery world! From beloved family-run neighborhood candy shops to large nationwide grocery store chains, Redstone Foods is here to supply a diverse array of sweet treats to candy enthusiasts worldwide. With our extensive selection of candies, snacks, and craft sodas, we're committed to spreading joy and sweetness to every corner of the globe. Cheers to the sweet life, courtesy of Redstone Foods!

Feel free to reach out to us by giving us a call or simply sign up for an account online today! Our team of dedicated sales representatives are here to assist you with all your confectionery and snack needs.