Milk Duds is a confectionery classic that was first sold in 1926 by the Holloway company of Chicago. It’s a pretty simple bit of candy as so many classics are; a chewy nugget of caramel surrounded by a tasty chocolatey coating. Along with Hot Tamales, Milk Duds have always been one of my favorite movie theater go-to candies.
Over the years, I’ve picked up quite a variety of Milk Duds packages that dot their history, though most of what I have is from the last forty years. So today and tomorrow, I’m going to share what I have and walk you through the pieces of Milk Duds history that my collection can shine a light on. Today is what we’ll call the standard Milk Duds chapter and tomorrow it’s going to be the exotic Milk Duds brand extensions.
Unlike some brands that have seen dramatic changes in colorful packaging and mascots through the years, Milk Duds have been steady and reliable. My earliest box is a yellow hue with brown logo, a look which is still largely the design the boxes retain to this day.
I’ll admit that it was this very consistency that, for a long time, kept me from giving much thought to the packaging or to putting much effort to collecting it. These days I find that I can celebrate its consistency and the small tweaks it has experienced in its long life.
But consider this a warning: to the casual observer, you may find that many of the boxes I’m going to share with you today all start to look the same. You have my permission to skim a bit, but if you are curious and want to take a closer look, you’ll note the many subtle design evolutions and company changes along the way.
The problem with this consistency in packaging style is that it often makes it difficult to precisely date a package. I’ve spent a lot of time to narrow in on ways to define each period and where each design fits along the way. I think I’ve created a pretty good roadmap for dating boxes of the 1970-2012 vintage.
First up is my earliest Milk Duds box. This one came to me in great shape — so well-preserved in fact, that it’s hard to imagine just how old it is. I like the Art Deco-ish stylings of this one:
Following is a similar box that incorporates illustrations of the Milk Duds themselves. Still retaining much of the look of that earlier box, I determined that this one was later as it included a trademark next to the logo that the previous box lacked.
It is at this point in the timeline of Milk Duds packaging that I must do a bit of hand-waving.
What I know is, is that the Beatrice company purchased Holloway in 1960, though it continued to operate under its original name into the late 1970’s. I will speculate that the box design seen below might have been one initiated due to the ownership change, though that is merely speculation. The next image of a box I have in my files is from 1963, and by that time it was sporting a very different look than the early, scripted logo style box. This more rigid logo is a design that Milk Duds would carry, off and on, for the next twenty years.
Though it’s from a number of years later, I have a very similar design box from the early 1970’s:
In 1971, Holloway did a baseball card promotion that is likely responsible for the survival of more vintage Milk Duds boxes for that year than all others combined. As a collector, you could consider this the first candy box I ever collected, though I was technically collecting Pete Rose cards when I picked it up.
Though they would later bear the Clark name, in 1972, both D.L. Clark and Holloway were held under the parent company of Beatrice, as you can see in this candy trade magazine ad. I should note, this ad shows us a Milk Duds box with the Good Housekeeping seal — that’s a box I’ve never come across before:
From here things were a little iffy when I first started because many late 70’s Milk Duds boxes look quite similar to the early 70’s boxes. I finally determined reliable groupings using whether or not boxes had UPC codes or not, among other things.
Here’s another early 70’s variety box:
By 1974, Milk Duds would receive a significant packaging redesign. For a long time, this box design was difficult for me to track down, a quest which I discussed back in March for my Wacky Wednesdays Milk Muds post.
Here’s what the redesigned box looked like:
Here’s a Milk Duds 9oz Juniors package featuring this mid-70’s design.
I’ve got one of those Juniors boxes, but I’m saving it for the end of today’s post.
By 1977, the logo for Milk Duds would be revised back to the way it looked in 1972. I’m not sure why this change was made, only that it was.
The previous redesigned box featured a “More Chocolate Taste” call-out, so I think it makes sense that when they returned to the more traditional logo design, boxes featuring that same call-out were the first ones 0n shelves:
Here’s a fun box that featured a mail-away for a Milk Duds t-shirt. I’ve determined this box was on sale in 1978:
Here are a few more late 70’s boxes:
By 1980, the Holloway name would be removed from boxes, as the D.L. Clark company would be the parent confectioner in charge of their production, but still under Beatrice. This first one actually replaces Holloway with Clark in the slogan “Famous Clark Caramels”:
Here are the other D.L. Clark Milk Duds boxes I have:
This next box from 1982 still features the D.L. Clark ownership, but now gone is any mention of Beatrice.
In 1983, the Clark company would merge with the Switzer company (best known for their licorice at the time) to form Switzer-Clark. Here’s a trade ad showcasing the new combined company’s offerings:
From this point until a few years later, Milk Duds boxes had Switzer-Clark, Division of Leaf branding.
The Leaf Switzer-Clark period also saw the release of something that they’d done years earlier; Learn-to-Spell Milk Duds juniors. I’ve always thought these were pretty cool. Here’s the package:
And here are the different of Learn-to-Spell Juniors boxes I’ve acquired over the years. I’m a long way from having the full alphabet:
From here, it’s on to the late 80’s, when Switzer-Clark became simply, Leaf.
During this period, Leaf put out Elf-branded boxes for the holidays, though all I have to show of them is this snapshot of an 1993 industry trade. I’d like to find one of these:
The last of the Leaf-branded boxes I have comes from 1995-96:
From this point, we move onto the Hershey period in Milk Duds’ evolution. The boxes now start bringing attention to how much Milk Duds are lower in fat than other similar candies. The earliest box I have starts out with a 40% claim, though subsequent boxes reduce that to 35% and 33%:
The most recent version of the standard box drops the Hershey logo from the front.
I have a pair of recent movie theater Milk Duds boxes and I’m happy to report that they’ve gone from “chocolatey” to actual “chocolate” – always a welcome change:
Whew! If you’re still following along, we’ve just tracked 35 different Milk Duds boxes over 80 years.
I’m going to close with a pair of fun pieces. The first is a Milk Duds Christmas Holiday box, which is part of a larger series of boxes that have been on sale the last few years. They are made to look like elements of a tiny Christmas village. The Milk Duds is the post office.
Last, but not least – I wanted to showcase a mini-timeline of mini boxes. Here are Milk Duds Juniors boxes spanning the early 70’s through to the early 90’s:
And that is everything for today’s post. I told you it was going to be a biggie!
Tomorrow I’ll be back with a much shorter, much more exotic post. I’ll be wrapping up this topic by covering the flavorful brand extensions of Milk Duds I’ve collected, showcasing no less than three pieces of packaging which have never been seen anywhere on the internet before! You won’t want to miss it!
See ya next time!