Monday, April 19, 2010
Clark Bar (Get Real - Milk & Dark)
Necco is re-evaluating much of their classic candy line. It started with the Necco Wafers, which went to all natural ingredients last year. Then early this year Sweetheart fans were in for a shock when they went for more intense flavors and colors. The newest development is for a product that isn’t what Necco is known for, candy bars. The Clark Bar is now all natural and uses real chocolate.
The new Clark bar now has no preservatives, no artificial flavors or colors and most importantly, they use real chocolate to coat the crunchy molasses and peanut butter center. They’ve also created a dark chocolate version.
The Clark Bar was introduced around 1916-1917 by D.L. Clark of Pittsburgh who already had a thriving candy business, but needed something in bar form, especially for soldiers that had lots of portable energy. Like many candies created during wartime, this one stuck around after when the veterans sought out the familiar and satisfying flavors. The candy company made many different kinds of bars over the years but the only other to survive to the present is Zagnut (now made by Hershey’s).
In 1955 the Clark family sold the business to Beatrice Foods. In 1983 Beatrice foods spun off their confectionery division to Leaf. However, Leaf ran afoul of the locals when they wanted to move the candy factory so they sold it the local Pittsburgh Food and Beverage Company in 1991 (along with Slo Pokes & Black Cows which were part of the Holloway company before being bought up by Beatrice along with a separate deal for Iron City Beer). I lived in Pittsburgh at the time, this was huge news. What happened after that was more than mismanagement or miscalculation, it was a fraud worthy of a feature film. Finally Necco swooped in 1999 to rescue the closed factory and abandoned bar.
Throughout the years and many owners the Clark bar has changed. While I can’t say that new formula is a return to the original, it’s certainly on paper an improvement over the others from my lifetime.
For those of you not as obsessed about these sorts of things, skip on down to the present day Clark Bar photo area for the current review.
Ingredients in the 1950s (source) - made by D.L. Clark
Ingredients in the 1970s (source) - made by D.L. Clark a division of Beatrice Foods Co.
Ingredients in the 1980s (source) - made by Switzer Clark, division of Leaf, Inc.
Ingredients in the 1990s (source) - made by D.L. Clark and Clark Bar America
Ingredients in the 2000s (source) - Made by Necco
Ingredients in 2010 (from the wrapper) - Made by Necco
It certainly sounds like Necco has reverted to a more wholesome recipe. But all the marketing in the world is no good if the product is inferior.
The first change is the wrapper, it’s bold and masculine; it reminds me more of Matchbox cars than candy. The second is the size. The previous version of the bar was 1.75 ounces, and now it’s 2.1 ounces. This not only puts it on par with other candy bars of its type (Butterfinger is also 2.1 ounces) but also edges out bars like Snickers.
The bar his handsome with a beautifully rippled chocolate coating. The plank is substantial at 5.5 inches long and 1.5 inches wide. It smells sweet and peanutty, just what I like in my crunchy molasses peanut butter bars. The crunch is great, mostly flaky and easy to chew without sticking to my teeth or descending into taffy. It’s buttery without being greasy. It’s a little salty without being savory.
There were hints of smoke sometimes in the bars that I didn’t care for, I wasn’t sure what that was. But they were definitely fresh, no hint of rancid or off peanut oil flavors. The milk chocolate did an excellent job here of pulling it together with a creamy texture. The cocoa flavors weren’t intense, but felt kind of like “I’m having chocolate milk with my peanut butter sandwich.”
The Clark Dark Bar has similar ingredients, in this case the dark chocolate is called Sweet Chocolate. It lists sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, butter oil, soy lecithin and vanilla extract. It’s really too bad about that butter oil in there, otherwise this would be an excellent vegan bar - maybe if enough folks write in they would change. The one thing I noticed though that was refreshing was that the weight of the dark bar is the same as the milk chocolate one. In most other milk/dark duets the dark is lighter (Snickers Dark, Special Dark, M&Ms Dark).
The dark chocolate is sweet, and without the milk to mellow it out, it’s noticeable. The good thing is that there’s a light bitterness to it that hooks into the molasses and earthy roasted peanut flavors. I preferred the Dark version ultimately.
The texture of the bars varies as I’ve found with most candies of this type. Sometimes the center was flaky and nicely layered, but at least one (the milk one in the close up) was a little less layered and more hard-candy solid. The flavor profile remains the same. The molasses and peanut butter flavors go well together. It’s a deeply flavored bar with sweet and salt, smoke and toasted sugar all backed up by the rib-sticking satisfaction of peanuts.
Read more about the history of the Zagnut from the Bewildered Brit.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.