The Untold Truth Of Milk Duds

Everyone knows that when you go to see a movie at the theater, part of the fun is eating movie theater snacks. Whether you get popcorn, nachos, ICEEs, or candy, it's so satisfying to fill up on junk food while watching a new film. That said, there are just certain candies that are meant to be eaten at the movie theater, and Milk Duds are one of them. Yes, the chocolate-covered caramel pieces may be a basic sweet, but if you're a fan of them, you know just how addicting they can be and how easy it is to inhale an entire box before you know it.

No matter how you feel about Milk Duds, there's no denying the fact that the candy is pretty iconic in the United States. Yes, the untold truth of Milk Duds is that the candy has a pretty fascinating history, and though it might not be your favorite candy of all time, it's still impressive to see how far the treat has come.

Milk Duds got their name for a fun reason

One of the most interesting aspects of Milk Duds is definitely in the name of the candy itself. When you think about it, the name "Milk Dud" doesn't really bring to mind something yummy, fun, or even very exciting. After all, when something is described as a "dud," it doesn't encourage much hope in the product. Plus, "milk" is almost equally as dull and boring.

But the name is part of what makes Milk Duds so special. Specifically, Milk Duds were invented in Chicago in 1928 by F. Hoffman & Co. And according to Hershey, which bought the company in 1996 (via Rockaway Times), they got their name because the creator, Edwin Holloway, couldn't figure out how to make the chocolate-covered little caramels into perfect spheres, so instead, he dubbed them as "duds." And the milk part is obvious, as it is a key ingredient in both chocolate and caramel. So, just know that the name behind "Milk Duds" is no accident and is just part of the charm of the candy.

Millions of Milk Duds are produced each week

Obviously, even if you aren't a fan of Milk Duds, the candy definitely has some loyal followers. After all, the brand has been around for nearly 100 years, and if that's not a sign of success, then what is? But if you need more evidence that Milk Duds are still going strong, just take a look at how much of the candy is produced on a weekly basis.

According to the Chicago Tribune, back in 1986 the Milk Duds plant went through about 100 tons of corn syrup, 44 tons of chocolate coating, 50 tons of powdered sugar, and 38 tons of sweetened condensed milk per week. Wondering how much that makes? It turns into 32.5 million little Milk Duds and fills up 2 million boxes of the candy. Yeah, that's a lot of duds! With that many out there, it's clear that they aren't really duds any more, now are they?

Milk Duds were synonymous with baseball

For the most part, when you think of Milk Duds, you might associate the candy with going to a movie theater, a road trip, or just having a relaxing night in. Heck, your first impression might just be that it's one of the worst candies ever made! But whatever the case, you probably don't think of baseball when you think of Milk Duds. However, back in the 1970s, the two were all the rage together.

Specifically, according to Sports Collectors Digest, Milk Duds were named "The Official Candy of Major League Baseball Players Association" in 1971. When that happened, pictures of then-famous Major League Baseball Players were featured on the backs of Milk Duds boxes as versions of collectable baseball cards. Usually, when you think of baseball snacks, you think of Cracker Jack or hot dogs, but during the '70s, Milk Duds fought hard to be associated with the sport, and for a while, it worked.

They haven't changed much over the years

Obviously, when something is invented in 1928, it's only natural to assume that the recipe would change over time. After all, tastes can change, ingredients and access to ingredients could change, and some can even become obsolete. Back in the day, Milk Duds were made with cocoa butter, which helped give the candy a creamy and rich flavor. But that's no longer the case.

According to Today, Hershey changed part of the recipe for Milk Duds, along with several other of its chocolate candies, in 2008. Specifically, Hershey dropped the cocoa butter as it was getting too expensive to produce so many Milk Duds with it, and they didn't want to cause the cost of the candy to go up too much as customers might not be too pleased with that. So, Hershey started to make Milk Duds with vegetable oils instead of cocoa butter, a change that was subtle enough to not mess with the integrity of the entire candy.

People doubted Milk Duds when they first came out

As with any new product, when Milk Duds were first introduced, not everyone was entirely sold on the concept. The candy certainly faced some criticism when the chocolate-covered caramel bits first started being sold by ​​Milton J. Holloway in Chicago.

In fact, according to the Chicago Tribune, Holloway was harshly judged for many aspects of Milk Duds. "He got some flak about it,” John Hoermann, a former executive of the M.J. Holloway Candy Co., told the publication about the name of the candy. ”But it was supposed to be Duds as in fancy duds, not Duds as in non-winners.” But that wasn't all. ”Nobody liked it,” Holloway's son, Charles, added. ”Everybody thought it would be loser.” Obviously, all the naysayers were wrong about Milk Duds, because people loved the candy (well, more than enough people), and the name only helped it become more memorable and lasting. So, if you learn anything from the history of Milk Duds, let it be that having haters is actually a good thing.

The packaging has changed quite a bit

Though Milk Duds are a totally classic candy that have been around for decades, that doesn't mean the brand hasn't seen changes since it first came out. Over the years, the candy has been sold in at least 40 different kinds of packages (via CollectingCandy.com). Again, just like the recipe was bound to change over the nearly 100 years that they've been around, styles and logos and marketing materials would also change since Milk Duds first came out. 

But to look back at all the old packaging that Milk Duds have come in, it's clear that the brand has stuck with the same color scheme no matter what else has changed. For years, Milk Duds have come in tiny cardboard boxes with a yellow background and brown writing. To this day, you can spot a Milk Duds package from miles away just from the yellow box alone, and that's some pretty powerful advertising.

Milk Duds were initially produced with other sweets

When you think of Milk Duds and their unique history, you probably really only think of Milk Duds. But the fact of the matter is, the candy was invented in the Chicago Candy District  alongside several other sweet treats. Milk Duds were born at the height of the Chicago candy boom, a time when so many sweets were being invented, it's hard to keep track of them all.

As The Chicago Tribune reported, in 1920, Edwin Holloway saw an ad in a newspaper for a small-scale candy-making company. With $1,200 from his father, he bought used candy-making equipment to begin a new career Willy Wonka would be proud of. But Holloway didn't just produce Milk Duds. He also created candies including Sweet 16 as well as one called Slo-Poke (which is related to Black Cow and still being made today!). And while the other candies might have been exciting at the time, only Milk Duds managed to become an icon.

Milk Duds were purchased by Hersheys

Milk Duds got a humble start, that's for sure. And that definitely makes the candy and its large amount of success all that much more interesting. However, as impressive as Milk Duds' history is, it became even more impressive when the company was purchased by one of the largest candy companies out there. Though Edwin Holloway started Milk Duds on his own, it now belongs to someone else.

When Holloway realized that his son didn't wanted to take over the Milk Duds empire, he decided to sell the company in the 1960s. This might be surprising and a little sad, but the business reportedly sold for $1.25 million, which was no small sum at the time (via Candy Funhouse). Clearly, Holloway had a lot to show for his innovation and hard work in the candy business. The Beatrice Food Company initially purchased Milk Duds, but then it was bought out in 1996 by none other than chocolate giant, Hershey. There's no word on how much Hershey paid to buy Milk Duds, but it would seem like the investment paid off. After all, you can't go to the movies without seeing those iconic yellow and brown boxes.

The Depression was great for Milk Duds' business

If you're familiar with American history, you know that the Great Depression was a pretty terrible time for most people in the country. Farmers and their families struggled, people lost work, Americans went hungry, and so many businesses closed down. But Milk Duds somehow survived through the Depression, and more than that, they actually thrived during it.

Former executive at Milk Duds, ​​John Hoermann, told the Chicago Tribune that the Great Depression was actually great for their business. ”A lot of men were out of work in those days," he explained. "Rather than go home and hear the wife complain about being unemployed, a lot of men would go to a movie for a nickel and for another nickel they could buy a box of Milk Duds and that would take care of them for a couple of hours. The theater business was the backbone of the company.” As bittersweet as it must have been, Milk Duds did extremely well during the Depression, and that might account for their continued success today.

This is how long it takes to make Milk Duds

Obviously, Milk Duds are a relatively simple confection, especially compared to other candies out there with nougat, nuts, and other fillings. Still, anyone who knows anything about candy is aware that it can be complicated to produce. But if you're wondering how long it takes to make Milk Duds, wonder no more. The process is surprisingly quick, and also highly impressive. 

First of all, while Milk Duds aren't super complicated to make, they do require a bit of space. In fact, at the factory, the mixture for the caramel is created on the fourth floor in batches of about 30,000 pounds at a time. As if that wasn't crazy enough, that batch then travels all the way down to the third floor of the factory where it sits for about an hour and then moves to six kettles to cook. After that, the caramel is cooled off with water and then blown with cool air to bring it to room temperature in less than a minute. Then, they are molded into their famous "dud" shape and topped with their chocolatey coating. And it only takes four hours to make all that candy!

Milk Duds are popular again

With all the different candies out there, especially chocolate–based candies, it makes sense that there would be a ton of competition for all-time favorites. In fact, there are quite a few people who really don't enjoy Milk Duds at all and wouldn't be sad if the candy disappeared from the face of the planet. However, don't let the haters try to fool you.

Despite their name, Milk Duds are pretty popular, especially around certain holidays. In fact, Milk Duds are one of the most popular Halloween candies, with 9,732 pounds being sold during the season. And while Milk Duds might not be the most popular candy, they are pleasant, simple, and delicious enough to keep getting produced, purchased, and eaten. So, if you were doubting Milk Duds, then stop, because the candy has been around for almost 100 years, and it doesn't seem like they're going anywhere anytime soon.