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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The History of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Started in a rural Pennsylvania basement, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are one of America’s oldest confections. First made in 1928, from humble beginnings they have only continued to grow in popularity, becoming one of the most popular candies worldwide.

How it all started

In 1917, Harry Burnett Reese answered an advertisement for work on a dairy farm. This farm was owned by the owner of the Hershey Chocolate Company, Milton S. Hershey. Reese worked on the dairy farm for several years, later transferring to the Hershey chocolate factory. Here he was inspired by Hershey, and began to create his own chocolates.

In the beginning Reese only wanted to provide extra income for his family. He started with making confections in his basement, naming his various creations after his own children. One of the main ingredients in his creations was, of course, Hershey’s chocolate.

By the 1920s Reese’s pet project was doing better than he had expected. With his candy selling well in the local market, he decided to take his business seriously, setting up the H.B. Reese Candy Company. One of his more popular products was his peanut butter “penny cups,” so named for their cost of one penny. Reese was so successful with these that he sold five-pound boxes to local retailers.

With the success of his own candy business Reese was able to quit his job at the Hershey factory. He even built his own factory in Hershey, Pennsylvania, manufacturing a wide variety of candy, including chocolate covered dates and raisin clusters. But during the World War II, due to scarcity of supplies, Reese was forced to abandon his other projects. This left him to focus solely on his most popular product, the peanut butter cups.

The peanut butter cups continued to grow in popularity. His company was later sold to the Hershey’s Chocolate Company in 1963. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups have since prospered under Hershey’s, still remaining one of the more popular candies in the U.S.

Who was Harry Burnett Reese?

Born in 1879 in York County, Pennsylvania, to Annie Belinda and Aquilla Asbury Reese. He was wed in 1900, to Blanche Edna Hyson. They would later go on to have sixteen children.

Early on Reese struggled to support his growing family. He worked all manner of jobs, from being a butcher to a factory worker. In 1917 he moved his family to Hershey, Pennsylvania to work on Hershey’s dairy farm, until the farm was closed. After moving to Spring Grove, Pennsylvania, he moved back to Hershey to work in Hershey’s chocolate factory.

An entrepreneur himself, he created the peanut butter cup in 1928. By 1935 he was so successful with his endeavor that he was able to pay off all his mortgages. He would later die of a heart attack in 1956, leaving his company to his many children.

Evolution of the Product

There have been many variations of the peanut butter cup over the years. These have ranged in size from “big cups,” to minis. There have also been white chocolate, dark chocolate, marshmallow, caramel, and hazelnut flavor varieties.

Every year there are many holiday editions offered. Between January and February heart-shaped valentine candies are available, followed by egg-shaped candies for Easter. Halloween and Christmas feature pumpkin-shaped and tree-shaped candies, respectively.

The candy has also branched out into other areas. In 1994 Hershey launched the Reese’s Puffs Cereal, corn puffs flavored with either Reese’s peanut butter or Hershey’s chocolate. This cereal is still being sold today.

Available world-wide, many countries today enjoy the chocolate and peanut butter flavor of Reese’s candy, and it’s ranked among the ten most favorite chocolate treats in the U.S.

Fun Facts

Reese’s Peanut Butter cups consistently rank as the third most popular candy during the Halloween seasons, behind candy corn and Snickers.

Previously only available on U.S. army bases, the cups have recently become a sensation in Japan they are now sold to the general public. They are currently the top-selling candy in Seiyu, the Japanese branch of Wal-Mart.

Reese’s makes so many cups in their annual production they could give one to every single person in Europe, Australia, Japan, the US, China, India, and all of Africa.

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