Reese’s are currently owned and manufactured by Hershey’s, but they didn’t start as one of the American chocolate giant’s products. Harry Burnett Reese is the man responsible for Reese’s first product, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
Mr. Reese was a Dairy Manager for Mr. Hershey in 1917. He managed the Round Barn dairy farm, which used newer milking machines than other dairy farms that were running at the time. Because of this, Milton Hershey frequently visited the Round Barn every two weeks, looking for new ways to approach milk production and the treatment of dairy cows. In 1919, the farm was shut down due to its running costs.
Jobless, Harry Reese started up R&R Candy that same year; a company that he managed from an old canning factory in Pennsylvania. Some of his first products were chocolate-coated almonds and raisins. These were sold in local stores near the factory.
Despite a dedicated start-up, his business failed in 1920. From there, he went to work in a paper mill, and later, back to working for Hershey in 1921 – first, in the shipping department, and then as a Foreman.
While working for Hershey again, Reese began making candy in the basement of his home. He made a range of hard candy, chocolate-covered nuts and raisins, as well as the Lizzie Bar (named for his eldest daughter), and the Johnny Bar (named for one of his sons who worked with him at the Hershey company).
Reese has always used Hershey’s chocolate as the coating for the treats that he has made. Following the success with his chocolate and candy products, he quit working for Hershey’s and went into candy manufacturing again.
On consignment, Reese incorporated his candy company in 1923. He promoted sales by having chocolate-coating tables set up in department store display windows; showcasing his employees and their skills in chocolate work.
The Peanut Butter Cup
In 1928, H.B. Reese invented the Peanut Butter Cup, which became part of his company’s product line that same year. The original version of the Peanut Butter Cup was a ball of rolled peanut butter that was dipped in chocolate. The cup used to stylise the chocolate was used to provide a casing for the candy and help it form a shape.
World War II’s financial and economic constraints meant that Reese ended up focusing solely on the Peanut Butter Cup, which had become his most popular and best-selling candy. Even after the war had ended, Peanut Butter Cups were a favourite among every person in the street. Sold for reasonable and inexpensive prices, and easily produced.
After H.B. Reese’s death, his six sons inherited his company. They chose to merge the H.B. Reese Candy Company with the Hershey Chocolate Corporation in 1963. After just six years together, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were the Hershey Company’s top selling product. They’re still sold today, but the product line has expanded somewhat over the years and different variations have been available.
Variations of the Peanut Butter Cup
As well as flavour variations, there have also been a range of sizes for the Peanut Butter Cup. The Big Cup is a larger sized cup, which has been available as a regular Peanut Butter Cup and as a Peanut Butter Cup with Reese’s Pieces mixed into its filling. There has been a half-pound cup (approximately 226 grams in weight), as well as mini cups and thins that have been released in both milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Finally, a World’s Largest Peanut Butter Cup has also been on the market, weighing in at eight ounces.
In terms of filling variations, there has been caramel, crunchy peanut butter, a cookie cup with crushed cookies mixed into the peanut butter filling, a chocolate fudge filling, a snickers-like peanut butter cup, a peanut butter cup with hazelnut cream, and even a cup that used Honey Roasted Peanut Butter. Some of the more unique fillings have been marshmallow and peanut butter, as well as banana crème and peanut butter. Of these, most have been discontinued, though the Crunchy Peanut Butter Cup can still be found on the market.
There’s only so many types of coatings that can be used for chocolate, but Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups have definitely ventured out and tried a few. Dark chocolate, white chocolate, fudge, and Chocolate Lovers are coating variations that have been available. The original is made with milk chocolate.
Next up, we have the wonderful coating and filling variations – where Hershey’s have decided to change both elements of the cup, rather than just one. We’ve had Extra Smooth & Creamy (a smoother chocolate and peanut butter combination), Inside Out (a peanut butter cup with chocolate on the inside, acting as the filling), and Peanut Butter Lovers (a cup with an extra layer of peanut butter and a thinner chocolate layer).
Finally, the holiday editions. There have been a few different ones and they’re fairly self-explanatory, so we’ll just let you know which ones have been available over the years: Reese’s Peanut Butter Hearts, Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs, Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins, Reese’s Peanut Butter Ghosts, Reese’s Peanut Butter Christmas Trees, Reese’s Peanut Butter Bells, Reester Bunny, and the Reese’s Snowman.
Reese’s in the USA and UK
In the United States, you can find Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in packs from two to twenty. The orange packaging is extremely recognisable (and trademarked, if you can believe it!). In the UK, it’s quite different, and you can usually only find the two-pack and three-pack versions of the cups and the smaller packs of Reese’s pieces (available in much bigger packs in the US).
Of course, there’s always American candy stores and subscription services to fulfil your Reese’s and Hershey’s needs! When candy is imported directly from America by a candy supplier, it’s much easier to get some of the variations of the candies that are readily available in the US.