The History of Wilbur Chocolate
In 1865, Henry Oscar Wilbur was operating a hardware and stove business in Vineland, New Jersey, when an opportunity arose to unite with Samuel Croft in the confectionery business in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They became partners under the name of Croft, Wilbur and Co. and began their business at 125 N. Third St., Philadelphia, where they produced molasses candies and hard candies for sale to train passengers.
Their business flourished and they expanded into manufacturing chocolate candies. This made it necessary for them to seek larger quarters at 1226 Market St., Philadelphia.
In 1884, the partners decided to separate the business into two independent companies: one focusing on the manufacture of cocoa and chocolate and the other concentrating on other candies. H.O. Wilbur and his two sons, William Nelson and Harry L., took control of the cocoa and chocolate business and named the new company H.O. Wilbur & Sons. Samuel Croft brought in a new partner and renamed his company Croft & Allen.
Business boomed and larger quarters were again required in 1887, at which time H.O. Wilbur & Sons moved to their last location in Philadelphia at Third, New, and Bread Streets. The business continued successfully, making it possible for Mr. H.O. Wilbur to retire at 59 years of age, which placed the full responsibility of operating the business on his two sons.
That same year, the Stirring Cupid image and advertising campaign were introduced. More than 100 years later, this image of a small winged cupid—complete with bow and arrow and stirring a cup of cocoa—is still used and recognized in the Wilbur Chocolate retail store.
In 1894, H.O. Wilbur and Sons developed a technique for depositing chocolate into a solid shape that resembled a flower bud. They called this new product a Wilbur Chocolate Bud. The Buds were instantly popular with customers and the line would later grow to include milk, dark, white, and mint varieties.
Tragedy struck the Wilbur company and family in 1900, when Harry L. Wilbur passed away. The third Wilbur brother, Bertrand K., who was a doctor in Alaska, returned to Philadelphia upon his brother’s death and assumed supervision of production in the chocolate plant.
In 1905, a 3rd generation of Wilburs entered the family business in the form of William Nelson’s son, Lawrence H. Wilbur. He would later develop the machine to individually foil-wrap the company’s famous Wilbur Chocolate Buds.
The firm was incorporated under the name of H.O. Wilbur & Sons in January 1909, and the Wilbur family continued to control the company until 1926.
In 1927, negotiations began with Suchard Societe Anonyme of Switzerland for the right to produce and distribute Suchard products. On February 17, 1928, an agreement was reached that changed the company name to Wilbur-Suchard Chocolate Company, Inc. Shortly after this agreement was reached, Wilbur-Suchard Chocolate Company, Inc. merged with Brewster-Ideal Chocolate Co. of Lititz, Pennsylvania, and Newark, New Jersey.
Three factories continued to operate under the Wilbur-Suchard name in Lititz, Philadelphia and Newark, producing a complete line of chocolate items but concentrating on consumer goods, such as Suchard foil-wrapped squares and vending machine tablets and bars.
Beginning in August 1930, all manufacturing operations were consolidated in Lititz. The Newark plant was sold back to Mr. Brewster in 1934.
In the early 1950s Wilbur-Suchard Chocolate Company continued to focus on consumer goods. However, when the manufacture and sale of Suchard products was ceased in 1958, this focus began to change.
The company became a wholly owned subsidiary of the MacAndrews & Forbes Company in 1968, and the name was changed to Wilbur Chocolate Company. Except for Wilbur Chocolate Buds and Ideal Cocoa, the company began to manufacture only chocolate coatings, chunks and drops for use in the confectionery and baking industries. The focus was now on industrial chocolate for sale to candy makers, bakeries, and dairies, instead of the consumer.
In 1982, Wilbur Chocolate Company purchased a processing facility in Mt. Joy, Pennsylvania, from Bachman Candy Co. This acquisition allowed for a growth in the company’s production of chocolate, compound and chocolate liquor.
In 1992, Cargill, Inc. purchased the Wilbur Chocolate Company. Cargill, a global leader in the production and marketing of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services, is headquartered in Minnesota.
The Wilbur Chocolate family expanded in 2002, when the company purchased Omnisweet, a Canadian producer of specialty compound chips, low melt ice cream flakes and other unique, value added products. Later that year, the company also purchased Peter’s Chocolate from Nestlé USA.
In 2009, Wilbur Chocolate Co. celebrated 125 years of manufacturing quality chocolate products for the baking, confectionery and dairy industries across North America. Products continue to be manufactured in the same century-old factory in Lititz, where the company moved to in the 1930s, but three other plants have also been established in North America since that time.
Beginning in 2010, the company name evolved to become Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate, Inc. The change was necessary to reflect the multitude of offerings from Cargill, Inc.
The Wilbur Chocolate brand continues to be a leader in manufacturing chocolate and confectionery products with consistent quality and flavor to its loyal customer base across the nation.