100 years after making dessert history as the first combination candy bar, Goo Goo Clusters still taste great - all 3 flavors!
In the beginning there was candy, and it was good.
Chocolate has been around for somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 years, and was a favorite of the Aztecs. Caramel enjoys a rich history in many forms – dulce de leche has been popular in South America for nearly two centuries.
Marshmallows are even more historic, believed to have been enjoyed by the ancient Egyptians.
But nobody thought to put them all together until 1912, when the Goo Goo Cluster was born. Happy 100th birthday, Goo Goo!
In fact, according to the folks at the Standard Candy Company, it wasn’t merely the first time these particular ingredients were mixed – it was the first “combination candy bar” of any type in history. Before that, candies had a singular focus – Standard itself, which launched eleven years earlier in Nashville, TN, made peppermint sticks and chocolates before hitting on theGoo Goo Cluster, which took a layer of marshmallow nougat, added a layer of caramel, and topped it all with peanut studded milk chocolate in a unique mound shape.
The original version, a century later.
An instant hit, the Goo Goo Cluster was a longtime sponsor of the Grand Ole Opry, and while Standard Candy was sold twice in the past century, it remains a family-owned Nashville institution. The candies are still popular in the region, though many people in other places do not even know the nostalgic brand still exists. Not only is it still in business, it is improved. In 1982 the Goo Goo Cluster Supreme was introduced, using the same concept but substituting pecans for peanuts.
Then, in 1991, the Peanut Butter version arrived, swapping the caramel for peanut butter. Last year, at age 99, the whole line got a facelift, upgrading to higher quality fancy peanuts and pecans and better chocolate. How much has changed in 100 years? Let me put it this way – if you want to find out who sells Goo Goo Clusters near you, well, there’s an app for that!
I hadn’t had a Goo Goo cluster of any type in 30 years until they sent me some birthday samples, and even at 100 these candies are anything but old fashioned – they are delicious, especially the peanut butter, my personal favorite.
But Goo Goo Clusters are not the only historic and classic American candies you might be surprised to find out are still going strong. A favorite of mine is Cherry Mash, which claims to be the second oldest combination candy and third oldest candy bar of any type still made in the U.S., after the Goo Goo Cluster and the better known Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar.
The Chase Candy Company has been in business in St. Joseph, Missouri since 1876. During America’s Centennial celebration, the aptly named Dr. George Washington Chase decided to add a small candy making operation to the second floor of his fruit and produce business, but its success quickly made candy his sole pursuit, beating out groceries and medicine. Chase started with peanut candies and simple chocolates, but in 1918 he hit it out of the ballpark when he created the Cherry Mash, which quickly became the best-selling cherry confection in the United States. Originally called Cherry Chase, it was renamed Cherry Chaser before becoming the Cherry Mash, but whatever you called it, the candy features a quarter-pound mound of chopped roasted peanuts blended with chocolate over a smooth cherry fondant center. It goes especially well with ice cream!
Cherry Mash is the second oldest combination candy bar made in the U.S.
By 1926 Chase was making more than 500 different candy products, including recognizable names like Mallo Milk, but the candy business got hit hard by the Great Depression. In 1944, Chase Candy Company was sold to the Yantis family, who continues to operate it today. After a roller coaster series of expansions and acquisitions, Chase is back at a family scale, operating in a purpose built factory opened in 2005, still
manufacturing in St. Joseph 135 years later. Cherry Mash is harder to find than Goo Goo Clusters, but it turns up in the most unusual places – like a candy kiosk in New York’s La Guardia airport. They do not have a downloadable app to find retailers, but they do have a “Cherry Map It” function on their website, which also sells mail order.
The company makes a series of peanut and coconut candies, and its line is still very popular in the Midwest – and Texas – but Cherry Mash remains the flagship, and along with Goo Goo Clusters are two enduring, time proven American candy classic representing a century of tradition, and both well are well worth seeking out and trying.