Free Shipping on Orders over $49 (Retail Only)

Shop Now

The Heath Bar: America’s “Finest” Toffee

What is the Heath Bar?

The heath bar is a deliciously thin, even candy bar, consisting of a thin layer of toffee wrapped in a smooth layer of milk chocolate. It’s the perfect combination of soft, smooth and crunch. Born in the U.S., the Heath Bar remains one of the nation’s great candy bars…all thanks to the doings of a schoolteacher and his two sons.

Heath Bar Today

Toffy, the Candy Bar, and the Birth of the Heath Bar

To understand the Heath Bar, it’s important to understand the candy bar. Now a favorite candy of American men today – the candy bar created by the Frye family of England in 1847. Most likely their candy bars were gritty as a means of creating the smooth chocolate didn’t exist yet. That changed in 1879 when Rodolphe Lindt invented a process known as “conching” to create the smooth, delectable texture of the chocolate we love so much today. CHOCOLATE BARS – In Order of Creation: Dark, Chocolate w/Almonds, Milk, White:

            Fry’s Chocolate ad 1901

Heath Bar, Hershey Bar, Peanut Chew: The Candy Bar Difference

Candy bars were different from other chocolates.  Most chocolates, indeed, most vintage candy, was weighed and sold by the pound. Candy bars, including the Heath Bar, Hershey Bar, and others, were called “count line’ candies, sold by the piece, typically wrapped and ready to go. Around 1912, a new invention appeared on the candy scene called “combination candy bars,” a chocolate candy bar filled caramel, peanuts, marshmallow, and, yes, toffee: all relatively new, post-Civil War ingredients the consumer loved. One of the first was the Goo Goo Cluster, made in Nashville and still around today:

              Goo Goo Cluster Made in 1912

These new candy bars gave confectioners the opportunity to fill their expensive chocolate with deliciously cheaper fillers, meaning they were more profitable. Even better, the count line aspect of candy bars, made them portable enough to withstand long trips to places such as the trenches in World War I, where they appeared in the first rations ever. These included the Clark Bar and Goldenberg’s Peanut Chew.


                                        Clark Bar Ad

The Heath Bar, which was invented in 1928, eventually made an appearance in the supplies of fighters during World War II.

      World War II Ad

Enter Milk Chocolate, Toffee & A New American Classic: The Heath Bar

In 1914, just as candy bars were making a mark in the chocolate kingdom, L.S. Heath, a schoolteacher in Illinois, was looking for a line of work for his two oldest sons Bayard and Everett. The reason? Were they ne’er-do-wells? Youngsters just starting out? History doesn’t tell. Luckily, L.S. Heath found a small confectionery for sale. He bought the shop and soon his sons were selling ice cream, fountain drinks, and sweets.

One thing led to another, and candy salesmen were hanging around the Heath brothers’ store, talking, as they do, about candy. One of them was raving about another candy-maker’s toffee, called “Trail Toffee.” Legend has it the salesmen offered to provide the Heath brothers with the recipe…and the next thing you know, it’s 1928 and the company is making what was known as “Heath English Toffee” or, simply “Heath Toffee.” The Heath Brothers tweaked the recipe and soon marketed it as “America’s Finest.” People traveled from all over the place to get some.

    Heath Bar Ad 1920s

What is the Difference Between Toffee, English Toffee, and… Buttercrunch?

The difference between English toffee and plain old toffee isn’t entirely clear. Some say English toffee, made by the British, is made with more butter, and tends to be softer than the American version. In fact, some British toffee is closer to American taffy than, well, toffee. Then, there’s the explanation that nuts are the decisive factor. American toffee has nuts and British toffee doesn’t. If it has nuts on top, it’s actually buttercrunch. If it has nuts in it, it’s American toffee which is actually peanut brittle. Got it?

Never mind – stick with this: When the Heaths started selling their Heath Bar, they described it as “Heath Milk Chocolate English Toffee Bar.”

  True Treats’ Buttercrunch


LOOK: Here’s a toffee comparison from The Nibble: The Nibble: Buttercrunch Toffee Difference

 The Heath Bar Marketing Dilemma

In 1915, as the candy business was taking off, L.S. Heath bought a dairy. All went well, and in 1931, L.S. quit his job teaching school after twenty years. He then convinced his sons to sell the candy store and join the dairy business. They did, bringing at least some of the candy-making machinery with them.

It was the younger generation who also thought up this great marketing idea: why not sell our candies through the dairymen who went house-to-house selling milk, ice, and cheese. Just add “Heath Toffee” to the list and customers will add it to their purchases along with other products. And, of course, they did.

The Heath family also confronted a dilemma common to just about any manufacturer of any candy. How to distinguish themselves from the other toffee/English toffee/taffy/buttercrunch/brittle makers. They knew a good logo was at hand. So, they designed logo which had a large “H” at either end, with the “eat” in lower caps in the middle: HeatH.

  Heath Bar Ad with Two H’s

Now, here were the marketing dilemmas: First, the bar was one ounce, while the others were four, which convinced consumers they were buying a penny candy and not a five-cent bar which was typical of candy-makers of the time. Second, shoppers thought the name of the company was H&H with the “eat” telling them what to do with it. A third problem: the packaging, name aside, made it look like the laxative Ex-Lax. Salesmen weren’t sure what they were supposed to sell.

Reasons unknown, the Heath Bar took off anyway and is made by Hershey Today.

The LA Guide to Candy for Grandmothers and Mothers Everywhere

The LA Guide to Candy for Grandmothers and Mothers Everywhere

I just returned from a fabulous trip to Los Angeles where I fully realized my expectations. First, I visited my stepson and his family – most notably 9-year-old Ethan (see picture below) and my son, Adam, who’s in graduate school at UCLA (much too far away from me, in my opinion).  Second, I explored the LA candy scene, and third, tied the two together as I went. Here’s a look at two peak moments in my family-candy based visit.

ETHAN and the 36 Candy Gift Set

I arrived in LA with the usual bathing suit, sunscreen, and other obvious ensembles. I also had gifts for Ethan – a step Grandmother’s favorite bonding experience – which was, no surprise, a real hit with him.

Ethan loved the gift and used it the way candy should be used, which is why his Mom didn’t shriek in horror when she realized the gift (our 3-stack collection of Retro favorites) contained 36 kinds of candies to sample. He didn’t eat the candy all at once but at parentally-determined times, after dinner for example, or as an edible pat-on-the-back for a job well done.  In other words, no sudden bloating, sugar overload, or embarrassing displays of gluttony, which many less-informed parents fear.

Even better, Ethan found games to play with my husband, AKA Grandpa Dan, who was also on the trip. For example, Ethan instructed my husband to close his eyes and then dropped a piece of candy into my husband’s mouth. Then my husband had to both identify the kind of candy, such as jellybeans, which was easy, and the flavor, which was harder. If Dan got it right, Ethan ate a jellybean. If he got it wrong, Ethan ate a jellybean. Candy logic.

The Take-Away: Candy is not the nemesis to health and well-being that everyone thinks it is. We know it has sugar, is made for fun, and we know how to eat it. The true culprit is everything else, all those foods from sauces to energy bars that explode with sugar we don’t even know we’re eating. So don’t get mad when Grandma shows up with sugary treats. Teach your kid new and even better ways to decode manufacturers’ product labels.

Adam and the Candy Bar Extravaganza

I say this without bias – my son, Adam, is close to the most remarkable human being alive. But he does have one peculiarity – he doesn’t like candy. Rather than zigzag to candy stores or rush along the corridor of fun-food kiosks at Venice Beach, we spent lots of time at museums. Which, actually, is my favorite thing to do with Adam and has been since before he could walk. (Of course, we do sell historic candy to museums, so I checked out the gift stores, just in case…)

Another favorite is eating out, the more interesting the food, the better. And so it was when Dan, Adam, and I found ourselves at the outdoor tables of Tar & Roses in Santa Monica where I encountered their interpretive candy bar. So, here are the candy bars we sell at True Treats:







Now – here’s their interpretation:

Get it? I didn’t – it looked more like a sundae without the ice cream. So I asked what kind of candy bar did the chefs have in mind in their creation.  One waitperson

said “Probably Snickers.” Another said: “Probably all of them.” No matter – I tried the candy bar dessert, anyway. NOT exactly a candy bar, but who cares? Candy bars have gone through more iterations than an aging Hollywood movie star. They started as fun food, became part of the first rations in World War I, were sold as an inexpensive meal in a bar during the Depression, and were considered “delicious food” by the National Confectioners Association who gave us this advice about candy bars in particular and all candy in general: “Eat Some Every Day”.

Today, candy bars are on the downswing when it comes to purchases, which is why it’s odd that candy bars have morphed into extremely popular iterations such as cereal bars (Fruity Pebbles, for example) and health and energy bars (buried within the ingredient labels) and desserts like the one Adam, Dan, and I shared at Tar & Roses. My interests were professional, of course. And the verdict: doesn’t taste like a candy bar to me. But it was delicious food, as the NCA once said.

The Take-Away: Candy bars hardly comprise an inexpensive meal and neither does any candy. BUT – candy does mark the good times of our lives and is what we remember most. When I think of LA and seeing Adam, I will remember the Tar & Rose candy bar that wasn’t. They also give us the opportunity to relive those events every time we eat the candy – the smell, flavor, and texture all bringing back the time and place, and love we had for those who shared it.

Retro Candy You May Have Missed

The universe of “retro” candy is a large one, spanning over 150+ years – Wax Lips (early 1900s), Good n’ Plenty (1893), NECCO Wafers (1847) and such sensations as Fruit Slice Gum (1960s) and Turkish Taffy (around 1931)… to name a few. But wedged into this clutter of wrappers, flavors and advertising stints are candies long forgotten but still among us – alive, well, and ever fascinating. Here is a sample of some of them:

Cherry Cocktail (1926). Still made by the family-owned Idaho Spud Candy Company which opened in 1901. The candy bar is not your everyday cherry cordial, but a “whole maraschino cherry crème center buried in a mixture of ground peanuts and milk chocolate” the company says. The result – no classic smooth, chocolate coating but a textured mound of chocolate.

Pulled Creams (around 1840s). If you like cake frosting, you will love these – smooth, creamy and oh-so-sweet. While the Kentucky-based shop started making these sweets in 1921, they originated in the mid-1800s with the first penny candies. By the way – those early candies gave working class kids their first taste of affluence, as the low prices offered them an opportunity to enter a store and buy something. The sweet promise of success.

Contraband. Actually, these peppermint-molasses candies (late 1800s) have always been legal and were a favorite hard candy. In 1935, the candy store owner was enamored by the Prohibition-era G-men, James Cagney and bootleggers.  Like many others of the time, he gave children broken pieces of candy as the passed by to school. Of course, candy was forbidden in school so, in the Prohibition-era spirit, he named the candy “Contraband.” (His other hard candies were called…bullets).