Bar Wars: A Battle of American and British Chocolate Bars

Bars of dark chocolate broken up

The USA is made up of many independent cultures. However, the basis for much of the American way of life derives from British culture ingrained as waves of 19th-century European migrants arrived. Because the English language took root as a new nation grew, the USA and Britain share a long history of connection.

The countries don't only share a first language but a wealth of culinary habits, religious festivals, and popular culture. For example, British TV shows have often been exported to American screens, and many of these hit shows went on to do well.

Those (like myself) who have resided on both sides of the Atlantic have a unique perspective on the similarities between the cultures. There is a firm divide on many things — especially food.

15-year California resident and British expatriate Tim agrees.

“American food is great,” he explains. “Especially diner food like chicken fried steak, pancakes, or waffles — American chocolate bars, though, are very different. Some are great; others are awful.”

Chocolate first appears on the pages of history with the Mesoamerican tribes fermenting the beans into alcoholic liquor. The word itself stems from ancient words for cacao and drink. In Columbus's fourth mission, he discovered the locals' penchant for cacao beans, introducing them to the Spanish Courts in the early 16th century.

Europe's relation to chocolate has a dark past, with the English, French, and Dutch colonizers relying first on Mesoamerican plantation workers before their disease-depleted ranks (another by-product of colonialism) were replaced by slaves from Africa.

Milk chocolate arrived in Europe in 1875 when a German-Swiss named Henry Nestlé worked with chocolatier Daniel Peter by adding powdered milk to cocoa liquor.

Rodolphe Lindt soon came up with the conching machine, which improved chocolate's texture and consistency. By the end of the century, chocolate giants Cadbury and Hershey were producing several variations of this luxury product.

When comparing America and Britain, chocolate bars prove an interesting place to start. Both products can be extremely different due to the divergent regulations and ingredients used in manufacturing.

British products must contain a minimum of 20% cocoa solids to be classified (some European countries have an even higher ratio) as chocolate bars. In contrast, American bars must only contain 10%. American chocolate has more sugar and salt, while British chocolate uses more butter and cream.

As an Englishman who has lived in the USA, I can attest to sampling many American chocolate bars to compare with my copious British chocolate habit. Here is my review of iconic American chocolate bars versus their British counterparts. Welcome to Bar Wars

Hershey's vs. Cadbury Dairy Milk

We will start with the two titans of the chocolate world: America's Hershey's and Britain's Cadbury.

American Splendor?

Hershey's is the grandmaster of American chocolate and the most iconic of America's chocolate bars. There is an amazing scene in the Mad Men series where Don Draper describes the feeling of opening his first Hershey's, which has stayed with me since.

Upon the first bite of a Hershey's bar, I discover this is not like most chocolate bars I have tried. Hershey's bars only contain a low concentration of cocoa solids, making me wonder: what makes up the other 90 percent?

The taste is acquired, to say the least. There is a curious game-like taste to this bar, which is disconcerting. The ingredients state the inclusion of cocoa carrageenan, derived from seaweed. Maybe this explains the funky taste?

The flavor could be better, though the texture is also quite waxy, not luxuriant or velvety like chocolate should be, and it doesn't seem to melt. Meanwhile, the texture is gritty and gets stuck on your molars. This one is not for chocolate lovers; can we even call it chocolate? Sorry, America: this is not a great bar of chocolate.

Verdict: 5/10 SPECS. 

Timeless Velvet

Cadbury Milk Chocolate is one of the oldest bars on the market, having begun life in the '60s (the 1860s, that is) as an icon of British industrialization. The purple packaging gives the bar an exotic air, which must have been the intention: showcasing chocolate beans imported from a far-flung destination is part of this marketing. The famous bar sleeve has an almost regal tint with its delicate purple foil inner sleeve.

Cadbury Milk Chocolate uses West African cacao in its recipe, which means the flavor is unique and quite unlike its South American counterpart. The Dairy Milk bar is instantly creamier in texture and has luxuriousness that Hershey's cannot achieve. Where the Hershey's bar is sweeter, it lacks a Cadbury bar's smooth, silky finish. Cadbury chocolate is like sumptuous chocolate milk in a solid bar form.

Verdict: 8/10 SPECS

Result: Britain

Butterfinger vs. Cadbury Crunchie

The next category for this contest is crunchy chocolate bars that stick to your teeth. What better two bars to compete for this than the Butterfinger and Cadbury Crunchie bars?

Honeycomb Toffee Covered in Joy

A Crunchie is a block of aerated honeycomb covered in a layer of Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate. These bars are unavailable in America, so those who wish to try them must head north to their Commonwealth member neighbors in Canada.

Those familiar with Cadbury Diary Milk can imagine the combination of their creamy chocolate mixed with crispy honeycomb. Upon the first bite, the shock of the crunch kicks in, then as you progress, the honeycomb dissolves onto your teeth.

Eventually, a Crunchie consumer has no alternative but to remove said honeycomb with their fingers or swish a drink around their mouth.

The taste is rich, though the texture can be cloying. As much as I love the flavor, the sheer scale of remaining detritus is a turn-off.

Verdict: 7/10 SPECS

A Delicious Misnomer

Butterfinger bars are one of the first bars I tried after moving to the States. Thankfully for British residents, they are now freely available at supermarkets in the American imports aisle.

The name itself is a misnomer because the crispy core is, if anything, not buttery at all — maybe the name Peanut Butterfinger probably didn't fit the label.

Created by the Curtiss Candy Company of Illinois in 1923, the manufacturer was famous for dropping Butterfinger bars from planes over cities nationwide. The marketing also extended more recently to modern popular culture, with The Simpsons licensed to advertise the bars from their first season.

Eating a Butterfinger is an essential box to tick for any visitor to America. As you take the first bite, the snap on the bar is comforting, and the inside is packed with layers of sugary peanut and caramel cornflake crisp. This is a quality chocolate bar that wins the round.

Verdict: 8/10 SPECS

Result: America

Starbar vs. Baby Ruth

Next: two chewy peanut, caramel, and nougat-filled bars covered in milk chocolate go head-to-head. Ironically, one is the stuff of legend, and the other is relatively obsolete in its UK home.

An Underappreciated Gem

Starbars first appeared on UK shelves in 1976, yet another descendant of the Cadbury chocolate family. Having any product bound in Cadbury Dairy Milk Chocolate instantly increases its longevity. Starbars will still be on the market in 2122.

A Starbar has a thick caramel tube filled with a soft caramel and peanut core, covered with Dairy Milk Chocolate. The bar has a little give, which means nothing sticks to the teeth, and the inside has a nice semi-crunchy texture.

Now Cadbury is owned by American giants Kraft, it remains to be seen if Starbars can survive the market with the dozens of new Cadbury products competing.

Starbars' early ad campaign in the late '70s mirrored the time with the clever double entendre: “…next time you're having an energy crisis.”

Verdict: 9/10 SPECS

Hey, You Guys! 

Baby Ruth is my favorite American chocolate bar for many reasons. I first encountered a Baby Ruth bar when I saw The Goonies on British television in the '80s. I remember wanting one so badly when Chunk first pulled the Baby Ruth from his pocket as a peace offering for Sloth.

10 years later, I got my first taste when a visiting family friend from Seattle brought gifts. He gave us a bag full of American candy like Big Red chewing gum, Jolly Ranchers, and Baby Ruths, among others.

That first Baby Ruth bar was both frustrating and exhilarating. There was excitement at holding one for the first time; that first taste of joy; finally, the lingering disappointment that they weren't available in the UK.

Thankfully, this is no longer the case, and I can buy them regularly at the local supermarket. The chocolate on the outside has a deep cocoa flavor, and it's a nice bite as you break through the peanut and chocolate cover and into the soft nougat and caramel.

Verdict: 10/10 SPECS

Result: America

Almond Joy vs. Bounty

This round sees two coconut-filled mainstays of trans-Atlantic culture, with Almond Joy and Bounty facing off. Ironically, one was created as a shameless copy of the other.

The Last One Left Behind

In the UK, they sell a giant mixed chocolate assortment box called Mars Celebrations, in which one will find various bite-sized Twix bars, Mars bars, and Milky Way bars, among other brands.

Invariably, Bounty is usually the one that gathers at the end as more favored chocolates disappear from the box. This is an unfair indictment of what is a delicious chocolate bar. A British invention from the Mars U.K. subsidiary, Bounty first appeared on British shelves in 1951 when the company wanted a version of the American Mounds bar.

A Bounty is similar in flavor to Almond Joy — hence the match-up. The difference with a Bounty is the pure shredded coconut cream filling. Still, the balance works with a thin layer of milk chocolate wrapped around it. Bounty is not the greatest chocolate offering but it has a satisfying consistency and texture.

Verdict: 6/10 SPECS

Almond Joy (of Coconut)

Another misnomer (see Butterfinger) from the American side is Almond Joy. Almond Joy is a descendant of the Mounds bar: originally made with milk chocolate and brought to us by the Peter Paul Candy Manufacturing Company.

Why is the Mounds bar not in this round? Although Almond Joy does contain almonds too, the dominant filling flavor is coconut; with milk chocolate for a casing, it is more similar to the Bounty than the Mounds.

Almond Joy's chocolate is from Hershey's, and it comes in two small bars, so it is bigger than the Bounty. The chocolate is slightly different, with more cocoa flavor and a nice melt. The crowning glory is the crunch of the almond on top, which makes a good bedfellow for the shredded coconut beneath.

Verdict: 7/10 SPECS

Result: America

Twix vs. Twix

Yes, that's right. Although the Twix originated in England, most Americans probably imagine this to be one of their own. They are the same product: two cookie fingers with a caramel topping covered in milk chocolate. However, their ingredients are far from the same.

The Mother-Twix

The Twix first arrived in the UK in 1967, is a product of Mars Limited, and was marketed as the Raider bar across Europe around the same time.

It has changed slightly since my earlier memories of two firm shortbread fingers topped with soft caramel and coated in chocolate. Sometime during 2000, the UK manufacturers changed the denser cookie base for a crispier, lighter finger —much to its detriment, if you ask me.

Moreover, a 2012 marketing campaign with the slogan “Left Twix or Right Twix?” led to an ongoing debate on social media about which finger was better. In reality, there is no difference. Even with claims that one is drizzled in caramel while the other is layered, such a mass-produced bar is most likely just churned out on a conveyor belt.

Verdict: 8/10 SPECS. 

The Other Twix

The great thing about American Twix bars is the sheer variety on offer now. With salted caramel, peanut butter, and even gingerbread* Twix on offer, there is no shortage of variety in America's Twix arena.

I have eaten many American Twix bars in my time, and I feel no guilt whatsoever. However, upon researching this snack, it appears I should have.

A blogger named The Food Babe Online found that the ingredients in American Twix bars were quite different from British bars. UK bars have simple ingredients like reduced-fat cocoa solids, cocoa mass, and natural vanilla extract.

American Twixes contain corn syrup, artificial flavorings, and palm oil. This loses the American Twix one point — juicing is for losers!

*Disclaimer: Gingerbread Twix is no longer in production, sadly.

Verdict: 7/10 SPECS 

Result: Britain

Toffee Crisp vs. 100 Grand

Our final battle in the chocolate Colosseum is the toasted rice and caramel selection. Both these bars receive fewer accolades than they should.

An Expensive Joke

Produced by Nestlé in 1964, the 100 Grand bar is now part of the Ferrera confectionary empire, which bought American Nestlé's candy division in 2018. Once named the $100,000 Bar, it became a reference in various popular culture vehicles.

Michael Scott in The Office: An American Workplace jokes in a motivational sales seminar that “…if you sell enough of them, you will win one hundred grand!”. He then throws a 100 Grand Bar into the audience, striking an unsuspecting student on the head.

Jokes aside, 100 Grand is a thoroughly decent product, with a generous layer of crispy rice-dashed chocolate wrapped around a core of stretchy caramel. It has a long chew with very few leftover pieces to navigate. The chocolate is a little thick for my liking, but it's a solid performer.

Verdict: 6/10 SPECS

A British Doppelganger

Toffee Crisp bars were invented one year before the 100 Grand bar in Halifax, northern England. It is unclear whether the $100,000 Bar was a copy, considering few Americans must have tried a Toffee Crisp before then.

The flavor is conspicuously similar to its rival, so it is hard to tell the difference between them. A Toffee Crisp is similar in layers. However, the caramel fondant is denser than the 100 Grand, and it sits on top of the toasted rice and chocolate cluster.

It is less chewy, and the chocolate is strong, which leaves a slightly bitter cocoa aftertaste, not unlike its competitor. However, the chew on this bar is much shorter than 100 Grand. Both bars have their plusses, so it is hard to separate them.

Verdict: 6/10 SPECS

Result: Dead Heat

Milky Way vs. Mars Bar

There is a British (or global) version of Milky Way without the caramel topping. However, the American Milky Bar is more similar to the world-famous Mars Bar. These two are old foes in the chocolate bar war.

An Old Timer

Milky Way is another of my favorite American chocolate bars. It first came to US shelves in Minneapolis in 1925 and was named after a popular chocolate milk drink of the same name.

On comparing the two, the American bar (unsurprisingly) is bigger. However, the label is less friendly than the lighter, global product. However, the American Milky Way is a superb bar of chocolate.

The chocolate coating is thicker on top to withstand the bite's pressure, and the texture is creamy for an American bar. The best part is the nougat filling, which has a great, milky flavor and pleasing, soft texture. This bar remains a timeless legend.

Verdict: 9/10 SPECS

A Generic Classic

In Britain, the brand name Mars is to chocolate what the brand Coke is to soda. For decades, in the UK, people referred to “Having a Mars bar” in a generic sense for any bar of chocolate.

Although not a British company, Mars invented their flagship chocolate bar in Slough for British customers. Slough's other claim to fame is the location of Wernham Hogg Paper Merchants in the original Office series. Like the TV series, an American version appeared with almonds. It was discontinued and later rebranded as the Snickers Almond bar.

Comparing Mars bars to Milky Way bars is easy; there is no contest. While the Mars bar is satisfying, it lacks the silkier texture of a Milky Way. Even though the chocolate is creamy, the bar is almost too sweet.

Verdict: 6/10 SPECS

Result: America

Charleston Chew vs. Curly Wurly

The next category is a simple one: long, chewy chocolate bars. In this case, we have another weapon from Cadbury's arsenal, the Curly Wurly, against an older rival in the classic Charleston Chew.

Teeth-Glued Delight

Curly Wurlys are a mainstay on every newsagent's sweet shelf in Britain. I remember buying one for 10p every Friday on my way home from school at a local house-turned-gas station on a residential street.

On reflection, it was a strange place. It had an archaic gas pump out front with analog tickers, and the old guy who ran the place would nudge all the pieces of candy with his oil-stained fingers as you counted out your pennies.

The Curly Wurly bar was invented as an experiment in 1970 with leftover caramel. It resembles a double helix with stringy, chewy caramel covered in trademark Cadbury chocolate. It melts away before you can dislodge the caramel from your back teeth.

Verdict: 7/10 SPECS 

Another Old-School Operator

Charleston Chews have been around for many years, though they are hard to find in retail units in the UK. Invented in 1925 and named after the dance of the same name, you would do well to find a more emblematic American product.

I was excited to find these online, having never tried one. I love how American bars don't cede to the pressure of modernism — the Charleston Chew design looks like a prop from a Thornton Wilder stageplay.

I tried the vanilla version. While I loved the texture, the chocolate coating could have had a better flavor, and the vanilla nougat inside had a weird taste. I still can't describe it to this day: Somehow, this chew has lasted almost a century, and I am still trying to understand why this is. Sorry, America!

Verdict: 4/10 SPECS 

Result: Britain

Hershey's Cookies' n' Creme vs. Caramac

This round could be dubbed the battle for sickly-sweet supremacy — or the non-chocolate round. Technically, these products are made without cocoa butter, so they are not chocolate.

Untouchable Sweetness and Crunch

Hershey‘s has a bad reputation in the English chocolate lovers' world due to the lack of chocolate in its bars compared to its British rivals, like Cadbury. This is the case with their famous Cookies' n' Creme bars, which are hugely successful in the UK.

The bars are the same size as their straight milk chocolate rivals. They are no longer labeled chocolate bars, having changed their ingredients to cheaper alternatives. This would seal the death warrant for most chocolate purists.

After a bite, they still retain the same crazy sugar and vanilla flavor that made their predecessors so good. I can't tell the difference. I recommend not eating these too often unless you want permanently high blood sugar.

Verdict: 7/10 SPECS 

Butterscotch Delectability

Only a few Americans will have heard of a Caramac bar. These are the product of the Rowntree-Mackintosh candy dynasty, which like most great confectioners of the 1860s, was eventually consumed by Nestlé.

Caramacs are golden butterscotch candy bars. They are distinctly British, and there are no products quite like them in the States, so a comparison with Cookies' n' Creme is flaky at best. They don't benefit from the added feature of cookie pieces, and the texture is different from chocolate.

However, the deep salted caramel flavor is pleasing, and the grainy texture as the chocolate (I don't know what else to call it) melts is interesting. Like their Hershey's rival, Caramac bars are so sweet that they are best as an occasional treat.

Verdict: 6/10 SPECS

Result: America

Hershey's Air Delight vs. Milk Chocolate Aero

The texture is everything in the cut-throat chocolate world, and this final round pairs two aerated bars against one another. Nothing beats chocolate that almost evaporates in your mouth.

Floating on Years of History

Aero bars are made by Nestlé now, having been invented and produced by Rowntree Mackintosh for many years before its acquisition by overlords of everything Nestlé. If you want to mass-produce chocolate, the chances are your product will become theirs within a short time.

Aerated chocolate was invented in 1935 by Rowntree, and that same year they launched the Aero bars. The process of aeration is created when gas accelerants are used in the setting of the chocolate.

Aero bars have a luxurious texture and melt on your tongue more quickly than normal milk chocolate. Subsequently, they last only a short time, which is good for business but bad for chocolate fans. Aeros haven't changed flavor for a long time, and there is a good reason they have enjoyed such a long life on candy store shelves.

Verdict: 7/10 SPECS 

Meh Delight

I must come clean here. I am British, so it is hard to forget my childhood favorites, while maintaining neutrality is challenging. However, I am objective as a mediator for the trans-Atlantic chocolate face-off.

I find it hard to get excited about Hershey's chocolate. That said, this aerated format works well. There are many qualms in the chocolate geek world about aerated chocolate being a great way to save on products with half the bar being air. They may have a point, though the aeration process must cost more to produce, and who cares anyway?

The Hershey's Air Delight bar is probably the best plain version of Hershey's chocolate. There isn't much more to say than that, other than these bars melt better and appear creamier in texture than their normal predecessors. However, the British air bar edges the round in this case.

Verdict: 5/10 SPECS 

Result: Britain

Final Score: America 5 Britain 4. Team USA wins! 

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Author: Benjamin Rice

Bio:

Film reviews, analysis and breakdown, sport, education, travel, food, current affairs, books – in my spare time I like to be outdoors in nature, in the waves, or on a golf course.