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The History of Candy in Wars

The History of Candy in Wars

When we think about delicious candies, the last thing that comes to mind is war. Sure, there’s been a proverbial war between candy manufacturers like Hershey and Mars for decades, but in the end, they’re still producing delicious sweet treats! Yet, there’s historical significance that links chocolate and sweets to different battles and wars throughout history.

The link comes from the habit of soldiers going off to war to pack a few simple treasures to take with them—namely, candy. When you’re far from home with few possessions and a grim prospect, a simple piece of candy goes a long way in lifting your spirits. However, in taking candy with them to war, many soldiers inadvertently spread these delicious treasures across the globe.

Here’s an interesting look at the history of candy in wars, and how simple bite-sized sweets traversed the globe in wartime.

Candy as a Simple Pleasure for Soldiers

Those who went overseas fighting for our freedoms had to give up quite a bit. They had to leave their family and friends, and even the creature comforts of home. Specifically, they left behind the joy of a homecooked meal. Instead, they had to deal with pre-made, freeze-dried foods called MREs: Meals Ready to Eat. The standard meal for soldiers who were overseas fighting during World War II was sparse and nutrition-focused at the expense of taste.

The one part of MREs that many soldiers looked forward to was “dessert:” a small packet of candy—usually chocolates. Many also bought and rationed their own candy during wartime, so they could have something to look forward to.

The Popularity of M&Ms

The history of candy in war helped to create one of the most popular candies on the market today, and it was only thanks to the soldiers that it even got to be a mainstay for the public market.

In 1941, M&Ms were created in New Jersey, during World War II. M&Ms have a hard candy coating, making them a great addition to the MREs that soldiers were given overseas, and they were specifically created for that use. They were durable in warm climates, which was important, given that the soldiers needed foods that could survive the different climates they were being sent to.

Once the war was over, and the soldiers came back from their deployments, many missed some of their favorite treats. Because of this, in 1947, M&Ms began being produced for the masses, and all the soldiers who returned home were able to get one of their favorite treats again.

Other Candies to Survive Wartime

M&Ms are a favorite, but they’re not the only candy that had history in war. In fact, in 1917, during World War I, Goldenberg Candy Company created the Goldenberg's Peanut Chews specifically for the soldiers fighting. While these weren't necessarily considered a candy, they were a high-protein option that gave soldiers energy, while fitting in with the rations that were in place. In 1921, they expanded and offered this candy in retail settings for the public to consume as well.

Hershey also got in on supporting the troops by creating a special chocolate bar, called the D Bar. This candy was high in calories, as well as having a high melting point, and was designed as a survival ration for soldiers. Not only was it designed for soldiers, but they wrapped it in wax paper, so it wouldn't be affected by poisonous gas, and they also made it bittersweet to ensure that soldiers wouldn't eat it too quickly.

A Bright Spot in Dark Times

The history of candy in war stretches a variety of wars, as well as a variety of eras. In some of these cases, the candies were specifically created for soldiers fighting overseas. While it may seem like a small thing to those fighting, having a taste of home in their rations helped them to stay grounded and connected to their home, even when they were miles away.

Imagine yourself as a soldier on the front lines, far from home, not knowing what tomorrow would bring. As you digest an MRE that barely tastes like food, you find a pleasant surprise in your pack: candy. After a hard day, an unpleasant meal and the stress of what tomorrow might bring, a few simple pieces of chocolate can go a long way in raising your spirits and lifting your mood. For the few minutes it takes to enjoy those candies, everything is okay.

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