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Hershey mass-produced his bars and chocolate “kisses” and sold them in grocery stores and pushcarts. Before long, America’s major cities had their own candy factories, to go along with the local breweries and bakeries.Boston—for a time the nation’s capital of candy production—boasted an entire street dubbed “Confectioner’s Row,” along with half a dozen chocolate factories.
The rest have been swallowed up, or put out of business, by the massive consolidation that has shaped the modern confectionery industry.
Here, you’ll find elegies to dear departed goodies such as Wacky Wafers, the Summit bar, the PB Max, Choco-Lite and the Reggie Bar.
The era of the local candy factory dates back to an ambitious Pennsylvanian named Milton Hershey, a failed vendor of caramels, who recognized in the 1890s that chocolate bars were going to make someone a lot of money.
Their most loyal customers—the folks who had grown up eating their bars—are getting older.
And they fret that their companies will eventually have to be shuttered, unless one of their children takes over.
Back then, they were referred to as “nickel bars” and marketed as a cheap source of quick calories.
This gave rise to bars such as the Club Sandwich and the infamous Chicken Dinner which featured a roasted chicken on its label (though, alas, no actual chicken in the bar).And the giant chains that dominated the retail landscape, such as Wal-Mart, charge so-called “slotting fees”—a fee paid by the supplier for desirable shelf space—that are often prohibitive.There’s no danger of the small manufacturers being bought out by one of the Big Three—Hershey, Mars and Nestle—because the profits generated by their bars simply aren’t big enough.Earlier this month, the British chocolate giant Cadbury agreed to a billion buyout from Kraft, creating a mega-firm that projects billion in annual sales.Thousands of candy bars have disappeared along the road to consolidation, including such recent delicacies as the peanut butter-and-chocolate pods known as Oompahs, the treacherously chewy Bit-o-Choc, the glorious, nougat-and-caramel-filled Milkshake, and the Bar None, an ingenious marriage of peanuts and wafers dipped in chocolate.On days when the breeze was blowing right, you could smell chocolate for miles.