A Brit’s Opinion: American Chocolate

(Nestlé)

The 100 Grand candy bar contains chocolate, caramel and crisped rice. (Nestlé)

It’s a cliché that Brits have notoriously bad teeth, and whether that’s true or not (thank you Austin Powers!) it is true to say that they’re renowned for their very sweet teeth. That love for chocolate is always borne out by the figures; the average Brit eats around 10kg of chocolate per year, with Europe as a whole consuming nearly 50% of the overall world total.

That’s a tasty bite of the $80 billion or so dollars spent on it every year, and Brits only lack a little behind Switzerland in the stakes, with the Germans the craziest for choccies with about 11 kg per person, per year.

In the U.S., 2008 figures showed that the average American eats less than half the chocolate Brits do — and perhaps that’s because with high-sugar deserts like cookies, brownies and cupcakes, it’s not as big a treat (or a snack) as Brits see chocolate. That said, when any new Brit arrives in the U.S., they’re confronted with a dazzling array of colorfully wrapped choices — and some very strange names (Oh! Henry, Mr. Goodbar, Whatchamacallit and Baby Ruth).

U.S. companies like Hershey do make Cadbury’s favorites here, but almost every Brit says that it’s “not quite the same,” whether that’s because of more/less milk, too much/too little sugar/high fructose corn syrup. Some of the bars you already know you won’t even see, except in specialist British or Irish stores, though you will recognize some of the ones that were re-named years ago in the U.K. (Starburst, which used to be Opal Fruits, and Snickers, which used to be called Marathon), while some are just in slightly different packaging (Kit Kat, Twix, Milky Way).

Easter faves are often available — Crème Eggs, Mini-Eggs, Chocolate Orange (though sadly not Matchmakers at Christmas) — but since Easter isn’t such a choc-fest as it is in the U.K., you’ll need to stock up when you see them on the shelves. Still searching for that elusive Yorkie USA, I did a taste-alike test. Many bars have peanuts or almonds in them, which is bad news for anaphylaxis sufferers like me, so I’m passing the baton to you Brits with some of my top choices:

U.S. Name: 100 Grand     Tastes Like: Toffee Crisp/Picnic        Grade: B+
U.S. Name: Mounds          Tastes Like: Bounty                              Grade: A-
U.S. Name: Whoppers      Tastes Like: Maltesers                         Grade: B-

3 Musketeers tastes a lot like Milky Way (though the Milky Way you can get here often tastes like a Mars bar) and would get a B, whereas Hershey’s chocolate bars are good in a pinch for a general chocolate boost (B+).

There will be many regional variations too, but the best overall advice for Brits is: next time you fly back to Blighty, bring home as many of your favorites as you can!

Join us Friday, July 26 at 1 pm ET on Twitter for a #MindTheChat on the best and worst of American food items. Click here to start the conversation.

James Bartlett

James Bartlett

James Bartlett writes about travel, film and the weird and wonderful side of living in L.A. He has been published in over 90 magazines and newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, the LA Weekly, Los Angeles Magazine, Angeleno, Hemispheres, Delta Sky, Westways, Variety and Bizarre. He is also a contributor to BBC radio and RTE in Ireland, and is the author of Gourmet Ghosts - Los Angeles, a "history and mystery" guide to bars and restaurants in L.A. - details can be found at www.gourmetghosts.com.

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  • dw

    You can see the difference in ingredients between Hershey’s and Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut bars on their websites. No high fructose corn syrup, but the Hershey’s does have more sugar — although it still tastes a lot better than Hershey’s own-brand stuff.

  • Sharon Stroud Broussard

    oh no…no…no…Whoppers get a D-, in comparison to Maltesers!!! My cousin has kept me stocked, over the past couple of years, with trips to Poundland. When those run out, I gladly pay $7 for a box from World Market.

    • Hepzibah

      Completely agree. Whoppers are nasty. Read the label. Chocolate is missing! I give them a big fat F.

      • dsm

        Seconded! They are disgusting!
        I can explain the no chocolate thing though. According the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), anything chocolate-like containing vegetable fat can’t be considered actual chocolate, even it is higher quality otherwise.

    • British American

      Yes! I ate whoppers once – they were so disgusting. I would never buy them again. Sad sad substitute for Malteasers.

  • SFO Brit

    I miss Minstrels – perfect movie chocolate and much tastier than M&M’s. It’s the one candy I have to pack plenty of in my suitcase

  • therealguyfaux

    And if you ever eat a Baby Ruth in the presence of an American, be prepared to be asked if you know the origin of the name: Babe Ruth, the baseballer, though the company claimed it was named after President Grover Cleveland’s daughter, after whom George Herman Ruth had also been nicknamed. (Odd that, since she had been dead many years, after sadly having died in adolescence, at the time the candy became popular circa 1920.)

    If you are of a literary bent, you can probably figure out Oh! Henry for yourself. I can’t do all your heavy lifting for you.

    • Mike R

      Also, be sure you watch “Caddyshack” if you plan on eating lots of Baby Ruths and want to get why people may be making fun of you.

      • therealguyfaux

        “Lager Beer and Baby Ruth”

        And the correct Final Jeopardy question is “What are the two things that come out looking the same as when they went in?”

  • expatmum

    I have also found that not all the British chocolate you can get here is actually made in the UK. You have to read the small print very carefully ’cause it still doesn’t taste the same.

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  • Jayne Willcocks

    santamonicaexpat

    • Nessie

      You are so right! ^.^ I miss my lovely Chocolate back home in England.

    • jessd6

      I’ve found European-made Cadbury bars in specialty shops in the US, though. They’re the narrower, thicker blocks of chocolate, and they taste so much better than the flat, cardboard-y Americanized Cadbury bars. Just have to check the label!

  • Beryl McMaster

    I;m a Brit living in the Us, there is nothing to compare to english chocolate, it is much creamier and nicer, I will go out of my way to get a Cadbury bar and I love the cream eggs, I stock up on them at easter and put them in the freezer, I have found some German hazelnut chocolate at the Aldi stores here which is also very nice and close to Cadbury’s chocolate. When I go home to UK once a year I stock up on it and bring it back.

  • Sarah J

    Re: Three Musketeers and Milky Way
    I’ve always heard that very early in the life of the American Milky Way and Three Musketeers bars there was a mix-up with the wrappers. Ever wondered why the center of a Three Musketeers is a creamy fluff, and the Milky Way has three distinct ingredients? Could just be a story, but I’ve grown up with it told as truth

  • Raina Rivers

    If you want good chocolate in america, get See’s. That’s probably the best you can get in the US, though you’ll likely have to order it online.

    • Mike R

      True, but See’s are hard to find away from the West Coast.

      • http://writeeo.weebly.com/ Raina Rivers

        I live in the heartland, and there’s a See’s in my local mall.

        • Mike R

          You’re right, but this is a very new development. It was for years a West Coast-only franchise. That has, thankfully, changed recently. Hurrah!

    • 1busyTexan

      Ethel M makes fine quality chocolate. The lemon cremes are wonderful, though so tart, your mouth might pucker at the first bite. Their candies may be purchased on-line. When in Vegas drive out to the main store to take a tour and get a free sample. As for See’s, they’re everywhere, not just in California. There is a location in Houston and a new store under construction in Dallas, at NorthPark Mall. I go to See’s each time I visit Hawaii. This is a moderately priced chocolate compared to Godiva or Ethel M and not the best we have to offer. I don’t eat grocery store type candy bars, with added items like nuts, but I do eat plain chocolate bars. In my small town, we have Cadbury and the German Milka as well as the American brands you have seen. Try doing a blindfolded taste test; it’s a lot of fun! I bought Milk, Cadbury, Dove, and Symphony bars and chose my favorite. My German boyfriend is all about the Milka, but for me, that’s not the best, creamiest one. If possible try throwing a Hershey’s Bliss into the mix.

  • niamh17

    American chocolate is nasty, sorry i would rather go without than eat it, we have a big store two hours away that stocks loads of British stuff and we stock up a couple of times a year and binge on it, and i get care packages of my beloved minstrels as well from my lovely mum.

  • Keri in KY

    Hmm as a lover of dark chocolate I find the American brands dark chocolates superior to British or even Swiss dark chocolates. American dark chocolate brands (I’m talking in the 70′s and 80′s percent cacao range) have a much stronger chocolate bite to the taste than any of the European brands I’ve sampled. Best I’ve had though is a local candy maker (Muth’s- a local landmark store at the same location since the 1920′s) who makes dark chocolate peanut clusters that I just want to devour!

  • rallybug

    I can’t stand Hershey bars – to me, they taste, I don’t know, smoky?

    I have to laugh at one of the local British shops in SLC- they wans $2.30 for a Wispa, when you can buy a box of 48 for about $42 delivered from an Amazon Marketplace seller. I understand making a profit, but…..

  • LoveLondon

    All I need is Lindt chocolate or Galaxy! I was very disappointed the first time I tried Hersheys.

  • Crystal D

    There was a supermarket company that was owned by Tesco which recently sold to another company but I was able to buy British sweets there. I’ve had the Cadbury Flake, which was a bit too messy for me, though I do love the Toffee Crunch. I’m hoping with the new company acquisition, they still keep the British sweets. I still have yet to try them all!

  • Alizoo

    I tried Whoppers once and had to throw them away they were so horrible! And Hershey’s chocolate both smells and tastes properly bad…I swear the last lot I tried reminded me of vomit! Will I be the only Brit to move to America and not get fatter? Probably not – I do like Reeses peanut butter cups…