The Heath Brothers
Bayard E. Heath
Everett E. Heath
Virgil D. Heath
Vernon L. Heath
In 1913, L. S. Heath, a school teacher, bought an existing confectionery shop in Robinson, Illinois, as a likely business opportunity for his oldest sons, Bayard Heath and Everett Heath. The brothers opened a combination candy store, ice cream parlor, and manufacturing operation there in 1914.
With the success of the business, the elder Heath became interested in ice cream, and opened a small dairy factory in 1915. His sons worked on expanding their confectionery business. At some point they reportedly acquired a toffee recipe, via a traveling salesman, from a Greek confectioner in another part of the state. In 1928, they began marketing it locally as "Heath English Toffee", proclaiming it "America's Finest".
In 1931, when Bayard and Everett were persuaded by their father to sell the confectionery and work at his dairy, they brought their candy-making equipment with them, and established a retail business there. The Heaths came up with the marketing idea of including their toffee on the order form taken around by the Heath dairy trucks, so that customers could order Heath bars to be delivered along with milk and cottage cheese.
Early ads promoted Heath© as a virtual health bar – only the best milk chocolate and almonds, creamery butter, and "pure sugar cane". The motto at the bottom of one ad read "Heath for better health!" It was surrounded by illustrations of milk, cream, butter, cheese, and ice cream, and off in a special corner – a Heath© bar and a bottle of soda. The latter was probably Pepsi, as the Heath© Co. bottled the drink for a number of years.
The Heath© bar started to grow in popularity nationally during the Depression, despite its one-ounce size and the five-cent price, equal to larger bars. Made by hand until 1942, the candy was produced on a major commercial scale for good after the U.S. Army placed its first order of $175,000 worth of the bars. The Heath© bar had been found to have a very long shelf life, and the Army subsequently included it in soldiers' rations throughout World War II.
Popularity of the Heath© bar grew after the war, although the manufacturing process remained largely a hands-on, family-run operation. All four of L. S. Heath's sons, his two daughters, and several grandchildren were involved in the business. In the 1950s, the Heath Toffee Ice Cream Bar was developed, and eventually franchised to other dairies.
In the 1960s, the huge national success of the Heath bar led to family in-fighting, with at least one grandchild, Richard J. Heath, expelled from the business in 1969, eventually publishing a book in 1995 entitled Bittersweet: The Story of the Heath Candy Co.
In 1989, with the diminishing and splintering of the Heath family, the business was sold to a Finnish company, Leaf, Inc., which in turn was acquired by Hershey in 1996. Hershey had initially created the Skor bar to compete with the Heath bar, before it bought out Leaf, Inc.
Since acquiring the product, Hershey has elongated the bar to align with its competition, and it now weighs 1.4 ounces. Current ingredients are milk chocolate, sugar, palm oil, dairy butter (milk), almonds, salt, artificial flavor, and soy lecithin. The wrapper's vintage brown color scheme has a small seal proclaiming Heath the "Finest Quality English Toffee".