An essential part of experiencing different cultures is knowing what sweet treats to try. Here is a list of British sweets and their American candy counterparts, all of which are definitely worth a taste test.
While Cadbury was acquired by Hershey’s, the two brands of chocolates by no means taste the same. The British Cadbury is a smoother, softer chocolate while the harder American Hershey’s chocolate takes on a more bitter taste. However, both of these brands are embedded in the tradition of their respective cultures.
A bonfire in the United States will no doubt require a Hershey’s bar—the go-to S’mores chocolate—to melt over a warm marshmallow sandwiched between two graham crackers. Meanwhile Britain’s Cadbury Flake is a thin—you guessed it—flakey chocolate bar that pairs well with vanilla soft-serve to create the iconic 99 ice cream.
In addition, Hershey’s variations in flavor are dominated by nuts and varying types of chocolate. Cadbury, on the other hand, sticks mostly to milk chocolate and sells popular collections featuring sweets such as caramel filled Curly Wurlys, and Crunchie and Fudge (which taste like they sound).
Mars Bars and Milky Ways are essentially the same thing, but they are marketed differently in Britain (Mars Bar) and the United States (Milky Way). However, these nougat, caramel, and chocolate bars do vary subtly in taste, a difference that can only be fully appreciated by comparing the two one after the other. On top of this, Britain claimed to spruce up their Mars Bar by changing its size, including their addition of “little treat,” and advertising a “Mars Bar Protein: More Protein, Less Sugar”—just what every kid wants. In comparison, the Milky Way has introduced new flavors such as the Milky Way Midnight with dark chocolate coating a marshmallow-y center.
Ask for Smarties in the United States and in Britain and you’ll get two very different things. American Smarties are a candy free from the nine major food allergens, gluten-free, vegan, and come in a random assortment of vaguely fruit flavored pill shaped disks that dissolve into a chalky texture. This sugary candy differs greatly from the Smarties that originated as “Chocolate Beans,” popular in Victorian London after their invention in 1882.
Smarties and M&Ms are the most obvious comparison. However, Smarties are slightly bigger than M&Ms and have a crunchier shell, more pastel colors, and sweeter taste. Smarties can vary in size, boast recyclable packaging, and occasionally come with trivia on their containers in an attempt to live up to their name, while M&Ms are constantly coming up with new flavors, colors, and personalized features. If you want a centimeter wide wedding portrait to be eaten at your reception or blue, orange, and white discs with the Astros symbol on them, then you’re better off with M&Ms. You also shouldn’t have any trouble finding a shirt with a huge M&M printed on it.
These two chocolates have no obvious comparison but I have nonetheless decided to compare them. What they both have in common is an outer façade of innocent milk chocolate and a hidden delight within. Described initially as “aerated milk chocolate in a milk chocolate shell,” AERO went on to develop another popular filling—Peppermint. The aeration creates a chocolate bar that is light and bubbly, dissolving on the tongue. Meanwhile, America shows off a passion for peanut butter with the ever-popular Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups balancing sweet and salty flavors. While AERO sells two popular flavors, Reese’s adapted its fillings to include potato chips and peanut brittle, debuted Reese’s pieces, and created Blossom-Top and Franken-Cup shells incorporating a pink and green dyed festive product. While AERO sticks with a legacy of tastiness, Reese’s evolves for every occasion.
Both of these sweets go for the peppermint and dark chocolate combo. However, while the American York Peppermint Pattie is dominated by a fluffy peppermint center that steals the spotlight from the chocolate, the British After Eights boasts the regality of being “enrobed” by dark chocolate, taking on a much more even chocolate-to-peppermint ratio.
Think you’ve seen Kinder Eggs in the United States? Think again.
Americans were recently introduced to the Joy of Kinder. At least, that’s how it’s marketed. Kinder Joy is a plastic-y egg that splits into a treat side, consisting of milk and chocolate cream embedded with wafer bites, and a toy side.
The British Kinder Egg is marketed as Kinder Surprise, and is composed of a creamy chocolate shell containing a yellow plastic egg with a toy inside. A look at United States customs practices in alignment with the FDA will inform you that the US does not like such surprises. Import Alert #34-02 was created in response to the Kinder Surprise Egg and deems that “confectionary products containing non-nutritive objects” can and should be seized by US Customs and Border Protection as they provide a choking hazard. Apparently almost fifty years of selling the Kinder Surprise has not provoked this concern in Europe.
While the Kinder Joy can be a fun, child-proof treat for those trying to live lawfully in the United States, the Kinder Surprise is a classic not to be missed when traveling through Britain. That is, unless you’re not fond of surprises.
Haribo originated in Germany, but has now gained prominence in both the United States and the United Kingdom. There are several types of Haribo in the United States, but most stick to the traditional Goldbears unless you’ve decided you’d prefer to eat Smurfs (now also in sour flavor!). While the United States is not one to shy away from heaps of candy options, British sweets take the cake (or should I say gummy?) when it comes to Haribo mixes. Always dreamed of washing down a fried egg with a Coca-Cola shaped gummy? Now you can. Popular in Britain is Starmix, which contains “Bears, Rings, Fried Eggs, Heart Throbs and Cola Bottles.” While a variation of this is available in the United States, it is not nearly as popular and replaces the Fried Eggs and Heart Throbs with Happy Cherries and Twin Snakes, suggesting the United States prioritization of fruits and reptiles over breakfast and romance (just kidding).
Percy Pig & Colin the Caterpillar vs. I don’t even know…
I would be remiss not to mention Marks & Spencer’s ever popular Percy Pig and Colin the Caterpillar. Colin the Caterpillar is most commonly an array of delicious fruity gummies that look like—shocker—a caterpillar named Colin. However, more iconic than their taste is Colin himself, who also appears as a personalizable caterpillar shaped cake. This cake can also be given a bow and named Connie or you can invest in Colin in plush dog toy form. Percy Pig boasts an even larger array of merchandise including a backpack, knickers (underwear), lotion, and more that I don’t have nearly enough room to list. The only possible comparison I can think of in the United States is M&Ms and their representation as walking, talking chocolate disks. Still, M&Ms stop just short of marrying them to “a lovely lemon and vanilla flavored girl called Penny,” falling in love after “long sunset walks and romantic dinner dates.” This was turned into a “Percy Pig loves Penny” sweet which is delicious if you don’t think about how the names of what you were eating were presumably previously on wedding invitations—“Percy and Penny Pig.”
Exotic or nostalgic, these candies and sweets are worth a try whether you want to explore a different culture, grab a taste of home, or just feel like a little bit of sugar. Personally, I’m off to find some more treats as tasty as these to try for “research purposes.”