The Candy Bar That Set A Confectionary Trend, Supplied A War, And Survived Multiple Bankruptcies

in Candy Blog

It may have felt like a long time coming, but the Clark Bar is finally back...kind of.

What you didn’t know about the Clark Bar…

There’s a lot to acknowledge about the Clark Bar—it’s one of the oldest candy bars in American history, it dominated store shelves when it launched in 1917, it was used as a ration in WWI, and it’s one of the only candy bars to be owned and operated by three different confectionary companies. But what most don’t know is that the Clark bar stands alone as one of the first-ever combination candy bars to exist. 

You know all those candy bars you see scattered about the aisle in every convenience store?

Butterfingers, Baby Ruth, 100 Grand, Almond Joy, 3 Musketeers, the list can go on and on...well, the Clark Bar was the first ever to throw multiple ingredients into one 8 inch bar that was wrapped and filled with the sweet taste of peanut butter, chocolate, and caramel. 

You want to talk about trendsetting—Clark was way ahead of the game when they decided it was time to put the best ingredients into one candy bar that everyone could enjoy.

Not only did Clark establish themselves as the first in their category, but they also were the first choice candy for the U.S. government.

That’s right, the Clark Bar was used in all military rations during WWI and WWII—try 1.5 million units daily. At one point, when Clark found themselves changing ownership (I explain below) and the production of the bars came to screeching halt, the U.S. government stepped in and called production “essential” to the war effort. Tell me that isn’t the sweetest thing you’ve heard in a minute. 

After WWI, other companies saw the success of Clark Bar and decided to try and replicate the same double-bar look that soldiers and civilians loved so much, but saw little success compared to Clark.

So where did the Clark Bar come from? 

Clark Bar Vintage Packaging

The Clark Bar was created in 1917 by Irish immigrant Daniel L. Clark, a Pittsburgh native who wanted to bring a new sweet taste to the Steel City. His love for peanuts and chocolate was so overwhelming, he knew that there had to be a way to combine them into one cohesive confection.

During the early years of the Clark bar, the company had developed a new technique for adding a thin layer of chocolate around an interior filling of choice. This was something that no other confectionery company was doing and ended up becoming the iconic recipe for what would be a candy bar classic.

The original ingredients consisted of ground up peanuts, sweet and sticky caramel, all coated in a thin layer of milk chocolate that covered all the edges—talk about a tasty combination.

This recipe would hold out for roughly 80 years until the Clark Bar was bought by Leaf Candy Company and moved production to O’Hara, a suburb of Pittsburgh. Here they dropped the caramel and stuck with the peanut butter and chocolate combo. 

The trials and tribulations of a confectionary classic...

In case you didn’t know, the Clark Bar has had quite the ups and downs since its original sale to Beatrice Foods in 1955. Here's a shorthand version of what went down with this candy bar brand…

In 1955, the D.L. Clark Co. was bought by Beatrice Foods. Beatrice owned and operated under the same roof as the D.L. Clark Co. for nearly 30 years until they were acquired by Leaf Candy Company in 1983. Leaf Candy took it upon themselves to move the primary production location to O’Hara, PA. Here they would continue the production of Clark Bars until 1990.

When the ‘90s rolled around, Clark struggled to drive popularity for their peanut bar, leaving Leaf Candy with a choice—keep production going or cut it and focus on other endeavors. And cut it they did.

It wasn’t until Michael Carlow, a Pittsburgh entrepreneur, bought the rights and remaining patents from Leaf Candy, that Clark started producing their candy bar again. This was short-lived as Carlow was caught in a check kiting scheme that landed him in prison and his candy bar at the bottom of the barrel.

With Clark on the ropes once again, Leaf Candy stepped in and snatched up the Clark Bar, trying to bring it back into the spotlight in 1995. That didn’t last long as candy juggernaut Necco stepped in and bought the rights to Clark for $4.1 million in 1999.

Fast forward to 2018, and Necco found themselves in a similar situation—on the ropes and filing for bankruptcy. The rights and production equipment was sold off to Boyer Candy Company, the maker of the Mallo Cup. After some test trailing and production setbacks, Boyer came to the table with a new Clark product, the Clark Cup—an offshoot of the bar using the remaining and misshapen bars as cup fillings. Once they dailed in their bar production, the Clark Bar kicked back into high gear and started stocking shelves in certain stores in February 2020.

Whew, quite the timeline, I know.

What’s important is that Clark Bars have found a way to withstand the test of time and poor company management. The bar has accumulated a faithful following of young and old who crave their chocolate covered, peanut-buttery, goodness and refuse to let it fail.

And that is what keeps us going—the candy fans who love their sweets so much, they will always fight to keep them around and fulfilling the appetites of other fellow candy lovers. It’s not just a love of sweets it’s a passion for preserving the candy that reminds you of those days when you were a kid, giddy as all get out, eager to get your hands on your favorite candy bar.

If you’re looking for the original Clark Bar, hop over to our candy aisle and get yourself on our email list and we will notify you when they are back in stock. If you can’t wait any longer, I’d recommend grabbing yourself a few Clark Cups that will really tickle those taste buds while you wait for the original to stock up.

Have always loved them since I had my first one. Hard to find now

Kathleen A Marshall

I had Clark bars at my 12th Birthday party. Yummmies ❤

Tammy Taylor

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