Top view of lots of milk chocolate pieces
Here's Where Milk Chocolate Was Actually Invented
By Aimee Lamoureux
Chocolate is one of the most popular sweets in the world, as 16 billion pounds are consumed annually around the globe, with 49% of Americans choosing milk chocolate over any other variety. Humans have likely been devouring chocolate since at least 1500 B.C., but it turns out that milk chocolate was more of a recent discovery.
The main ingredient in chocolate is the cacao bean, prepared by drying and roasting the fruit, or pods, of the cacao tree, which naturally grows in Central and South America. Historically, Olmec, Mayan, and Aztec civilizations first cultivated cacao and drank it as a ceremonial cacao drink before Spanish explorers brought them to Europe, making their own versions of hot chocolate.
In Europe, it was revolutionized in 1828 when Dutch chemist Coenraad van Houten invented a simple way to process cacao beans by treating them with alkaline salts and turning them into a powder, making them more accessible to the masses. Eventually, Swiss chocolatier Daniel Peter came up with the idea to add dehydrated milk to chocolate, creating milk chocolate.
This simple addition made the chocolate smooth, silky, delicious, and more shelf stable, and Peter began selling his Chocolat au lait Gala Peter to the public in 1887. In the early 1900s, Peter's chocolate made it to America after a traveling businessman bought the rights to sell the chocolate overseas, and by 1917, a milk chocolate factory in Fulton, New York, started manufacturing the sweet treat.