The Flavor Inspiration Behind Milky Way Candy Bars

A pile of Milky Way candy bars
A pile of Milky Way candy bars - Steve Cukrov/Shutterstock

Milky Way candy bars have been around for quite a while, so it's hard to imagine a time when they didn't exist. The decadent chocolate bar has origins way back in 1923 and is actually the oldest candy bar that the Mars corporation still has on shelves. Chock-full of milky chocolate, soft caramel, and nougat, its flavors are reminiscent of turtle ice cream. What you might not know about this bar is that it was inspired by malted milkshakes.

Malted milkshakes were a very popular treat at the time of the Milky Way bar's creation. Chicagoan William Horlick was the first to dry milk and combine it with malt in 1882. Since milk farming was transforming to large-scale production, and pasteurization regulations were yet to pass in most states, milk wasn't widely considered safe to drink at that time. Dubbed Horlick's Food, malted milk tablets were marketed as good for your health. They rose in popularity during the late 1800s, thanks in part to the Temperance Movement. The mixture quickly caught on at soda fountains across the U.S. Back then Milky Way bars were advertised as "a double malted milk in a candy bar." Years later the candy empire took a different route with its advertising for the Milky Way, leaning more into the correlation between the bar and outer space. Today the bar is now advertised with more practical methods, like with many new limited-time flavor offerings. Still, we'll never forget this beloved candy bar's true origins.

Read more: 26 Kit Kat Flavors, Ranked

Other Origin Stories Of Milky Way Candy Bars

person mixing a milkshake
person mixing a milkshake - Bettmann/Getty Images

One other fascinating fact you should know about Milky Way bars is that, despite its occasional correlations with the galaxy of the same name, the bars are actually not named after our galaxy, either. The name "Milky Way" comes from a specific famous malt drink from the '20s. (For context, the modern milkshake was invented in a Chicago Walgreens in 1922.)

The Milky Way candy bar's creators clearly loved malts. The men who started it all were Frank C. Mars and his son Forrest, who are often credited with being the inventors of Milky Way bars. Frank first started selling Milky Way bars in Minneapolis shortly after the mild success of his first original creation the Mar-O-Bar, which was a chocolate bar with a marshmallow filling. Made in 1923 and released commercially in 1924, the Milky Way bar immediately proved itself to be a success. Sales of the bar skyrocketed to $800,000 in its first year. Today that would add up to well over $10 million.

So the bar was an overnight success, just like its malted inspiration. Here are some other things you should know about the indulgent candy treat.

Some More Lore, And Controversy, Behind The Bars

vintage ad for Milky Ways
vintage ad for Milky Ways - Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

While Frank Mars is known as being the big man behind this bar, as we mentioned, his son had something to do with it as well. As some stories go, Frank's son Forrest suggested that his dad make a candy bar inspired by the malt while they were sitting in a soda shop in 1923. The two argued for years about who the true inventor of the candy was after its creation, but both remained very successful in the Mars company nonetheless.

Another controversial thing about Milky Way bars goes back to one of its ads. In the 1960s, Mars launched a commercial that showed a Milky Way bar turning into a quarter glass of milk to tout its wholesome qualities. Well, candy isn't exactly known for being healthy, and the quarter glass of milk was a bit of a stretch, so the brand received a warning from the Federal Trade Commission for the video. Mars got itself into similar hot waters for equating the bar to other healthy foods years earlier thanks to its inspiration from malted milk, which is unexpectedly healthy.

Whatever happened with its beginnings, Mars has certainly straightened itself up in the modern age, and it's nice to see the familiar candy bar still standing strong on the shelves all these years later. And hey, while they're not as popular, you can still buy malted milkshakes at some restaurants if you want to compare the two.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.