The bar was originally introduced as Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp. Rowntree, a confectionery company founded in York, England in 1824 by Isaac Rowntree, commissioned the manufacture of two new lines of chocolate bars for the British market. The first was to be made from then-new cocoa butter instead of cocoa solids; this became the Kit Kat Bar. The second would be a chocolate-coconut version that would compete with Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and Fry’s Chocolate Cream (a creme filled bar). To differentiate between these new products, they called their own line Rowntree’s Space Food Sticks (later changed to Space Hoax). The new line of chocolate bars, however, never got past prototype stage.
A few years later in 1882, Rowntree started experimenting with different formulas for making chocolate. He eventually developed a new recipe he called “Chocolate Crisp.” By 1890 he began to sell them commercially under the name Chocolate Crisp. They were the first packaged chocolate bars in Britain to be sold under a brand name rather than bearing the brand name of an individual confectioner. The product was launched under that name starting in 1890 and widely distributed throughout western Europe by 1897. In 1897, they were exported to North America under that name as well (not being widely distributed in the US at that time). In 1902, the brand was used to launch a chocolate-coconut bar in the United States.
In 1908, it was decided that “Crisp” was too easy to confuse with “Crunch.” The word “Crisp” was dropped entirely, and the product sold as Rowntree’s Chocolate Bar. In 1912 it had a major makeover. Rowntree’s also produced an Egg Crisp bar with a vanilla centre coated in milk chocolate and an orange centre coated in dark chocolate (later the orange would be replaced by strawberry). Both were discontinued around 1980. An almond bar was briefly made in the 1920s and 1930s.
Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp remains a British icon, made by Rowntree Mackintosh. The bars are milk chocolate with a crisp wafer coating, and remain as popular as ever — now sold under the “Rowntree’s Milk Chocolate” brand name at Christmas time. It can be had all year round in different flavors including hazelnut, gingerbread and coffee cream. In 2012 the bar will be celebrating 130 years of Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp
Contrary to popular belief, Kit Kat bars were not designed by artist Salvador Dali . The original sketches were drawn by former Rowntree’s employee Joseph Rosefield. The Kit Kat is still made in York, and has been exported to the US as part of Hershey’s “KitKat” brand since the 1930s.
Rowntree’s also marketed a bar called Cocoa Crisp between 1934 and 1960, which was a bar similar to Milky Way, made from cocoa butter instead of cocoa solids. The two products are not related.
Oatmeal chocolate Crisp was launched in 2005 and is made in York. Rowntree’s Chocolate Bar is sold in the US as part of the “Rowntree Milk Chocolate” brand.
A new chocolate bar, called Space Hoax, was produced using Rowntree’s Chocolate Bar recipes and launched in 1895 . The name was changed to Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp (without the “Space” prefix) and it was sold as an individual bar. But it did not sell well, and after a few years it was discontinued.