Canada is known for many things – maple syrup, hockey, mounties. Chocolate tends not to be at the top of the list.
Who knew that Canadian chocolate would be such a hot commodity? Caramilk is a chocolate bar that started out in Canada, and in fact it’s still manufactured in Toronto. All of the Caramilk bars that are sold all over the world are produced at a single factory in Toronto, the same place that they’ve been produced since 1968. The Gladstone Factory is a key tourist attraction in the city.
Caramilk is distinctive because it’s a chocolate bar that’s filled with creamy caramel. In Canada, the bars are labeled as candy bars instead of chocolate bars as only solid chocolate may be marked as chocolate bars in Canada. This is a system of labeling that’s spelled out by the Canadian government.
Caramilk is now owned by the Cadbury candy company, which was started by George Cadbury in England in the 19th Century.
In the United Kingdom and in Ireland, a caramel filled chocolate bar is sold by Cadbury under the name Cadbury Dairy Milk Caramel. This version has slightly different ingredients and has a different shape and taste than Caramilk, however, it’s similar and is also sold by Cadbury.
Another version is sold in New Zealand and Australia by Cadbury, this time called Caramello. This name is also used in America, where the Hershey Company produces and sells Cadbury Caramello under a license from Cadbury. The same flavor has translated into ice cream in America as well under the brand name Caramello.
Other variations include dark chocolate Caramello, cappuccino Caramello, and maple flavored Caramello. Cylindrical versions are sold as well, called Caramilk Rolls, which are similar to Rolo candies and are sold in the same markets.
In the early nineties, an Australian version of Caramilk was marketed across the country but was chocolate infused with a caramel flavor. The packaging and advertising were distinctly different from traditional Caramilk bars. Though the original run of this bar was short-lived, a version was put out in 2017 as a limited edition in New Zealand.
Caramilk isn’t just known for its smooth, chocolate texture. It’s also known for its smooth, silky advertising.
In its most memorable advertising campaign, the company followed a theme of answering how the caramel center made it into the hard chocolate exterior of the bar. There were a series of fifteen different commercials that chased this theme, one of the longest and most successful advertising campaigns in Canada’s history.
One of the ads featured the Conehead aliens bringing the secret of Caramilk to earth, along with the secret of the pyramids. The company also ran an ad that featured Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa eating a Caramilk. That ad won a Clio award.
The team at advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach produced the advertisements, led by Garry Prouk.
Part of the success of Caramilk has been in its ability to keep its ingredients and its processes secret. The company has closely guarded its recipe since 1968, at times causing great public interest and questions about the brand. Caramilk is one of the best-kept secrets in the candy business, one with lots of imitators, even within its family of companies.
The delicious recipe is coveted all over the world, particularly now since limited runs of Caramilk have been proposed in countries where it was once discontinued.
After more than fifty years in business, Caramilk continues to be one of the most popular brands of Canadian chocolate, while its distinctive format and flavor have inspired imitators all over the globe.