Meet Hershey’s New Candy Brand

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Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg / Getty Images

For the first time in three decades, an iconic American candy maker is introducing a new brand—and it’s a soft, sweet, rich blast from the past.

This week, Hershey announced the rollout of a new line of Lancaster-branded caramels, which will be available nationwide by early 2014. It’s the company’s first new candy brand in 30 years, though the U.S. isn’t the first country to get a taste. Earlier this year, the Lancaster brand was introduced in China, which is the world’s second largest market for sweets (Americans, we’re #1!).

As the Hershey community archives reveal, the Lancaster launch is something of a return to the past. Milton Hershey didn’t actually start out focusing on what we now know his surname for: chocolate. Instead, Hershey created the Lancaster Caramel Company in 1886, and its caramels were sold in a variety of shapes, sizes, and neat product names:

They ranged from bean-shaped MCGINTYs that sold to children at the rate of ten for a penny, medium-grade JIM CRACK and ROLY POLY, to the top grade LOTUS. These top of the line caramels were made with sugar, corn syrup, fresh whole milk and 40% cream, together with almonds, a little cocoa powder, and a taste of chocolate. The inch-square LOTUSES sold to the trade in a five pound box for a dollar.

Yes, back then, “Lotus eaters” were getting high on nothing other than caramels.

When the new Lancaster Soft Cremes hit the marketplace in January 2014, the prices will be a bit higher than the 1800s-era products serving as their inspiration. Available in three varieties—caramel, vanilla and caramel, and vanilla and raspberry—they’ll sell in 8 oz. bags for $3.99, or in 4 oz. bags retailing at $2.49.

“The launch of Lancaster Soft Crèmes takes Hershey back to the early days of our founder Milton Hershey and his truly innovative spirit and desire to make great tasting, high-quality products for consumers,” Hershey executive Steven Schiller said via press release. “The Lancaster brand will delight all consumers looking for a rich and indulgent experience as they savor our new soft crèmes that are rooted in our company’s deep history.”

The Hershey Company’s website explains that it was born in 1894, when Milton Hershey decided it would be a good idea to take a more serious look at chocolate, which was then thought of mainly just as a coating for the big attraction, caramel. In 1900, Hershey began making milk chocolate bars, and the rest is history.