The Real Life Candy That Inspired Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory

If you read Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" as a child, it no doubt opened up a world of make believe where kids just like you could win a golden ticket to a place where all your candy-coated dreams could achieve their sugary zenith — the Wonka Chocolate Factory. Or, if you weren't much of a reader, you've probably seen "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" with a cunning Gene Wilder as the inimitable Willy Wonka. Of course, Dahl himself had quite the imagination, and as it turns out, a sweet opportunity early in life gave him the inspiration for one of his most beloved books. That glorious opportunity was being a bona fide chocolate tester.

According to Biography, the Cadbury chocolate company would send samples to oh-so-lucky students at Repton School in South Derbyshire, which Dahl attended as a teenager. Not only did Dahl get free chocolate to test and give feedback on in school, but he also got an idea that eventually turned into one of his greatest works of fiction. "It was then I realized that inside this great Cadbury's chocolate factory there must be an inventing room, a secret place where fully-grown men and women in white overalls spent all their time playing around with sticky boiling messes, sugar and chocs, and mixing them up and trying to invent something new and fantastic," the author wrote in a speech (posted at Beyond using sugar-craving students as a test group, Cadbury may have had another sneaky tactic up their sleeve.

Chocolate spies were a real thing

Oompa-Loompas may not exist, but the premise behind them may be a little closer to reality than you think. According to Slate, during Dahl's childhood, Cadbury and one of the other largest British candy makers at the time, Rowntree, would routinely send spies into their competitor's factories to steal all their scrumdiddlyumptious secrets. This may have been where Dahl got the idea for Mr. Slugworth and the other scheming antagonists from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." In Wonka's factory, as Slate explains, all of the employees are conveniently replaced by Oompa-Loompas, small beings who are indebted to Wonka for rescuing them from the perils of Loompaland, to prevent such egregious espionage.

Like Dahl, one can't help but wonder what was going on behind the walls of these wondrous confectionery kingdoms and just what those juicy candy secrets could possibly have entailed. According to Biography, Dahl entered Repton in 1929. By that time, Cadbury had already begun selling cream-filled eggs; the company launched those sweet novelties in 1923. But it wasn't until 1971 that the delicious, gooey Cadbury Creme Eggs we enjoy today were introduced (via Cadbury). That means the chocolate makers protecting those secrets may have had to walk on candy egg shells for almost 50 years.