The peanut butter Mountain Bar turns 45 this year

Photo by Danielle Nease

Photo by Danielle Nease

By Danielle Nease
Tacoma Daily Index

I was born in 1971, and a year later in 1972, the Peanut Butter Mountain bar was born. I have been in love ever since. 

There’s something delicious about the Vanilla bar, and that Cherry, what pop. But that delicious eruption of peanut butter when you bite into the Peanut Butter Mountain bar just cannot be beat. For me, as I chew, I involuntarily close my eyes and go into that deep, satisfying hum that means I am feeling the love of everyone who’s ever loved Tacoma, Brown & Haley’s, ROCA, Mount Rainier or Mount Tacoma. Mmm, mmm.

A Mountain of a sale display- look at that, 3 for 25 cents! Image courtesy Brown & Haley

A Mountain of a sale display- look at that, 3 for 25 cents!
Image courtesy Brown & Haley

It’s as if you can taste the history of all Pierce County, but in a completely fresh and awakening way – no stale history here! Part of that history for me was making special trips to Bartell Drugs when they had Mountain Bars on sale four for a dollar, a giant mountain display of deliciousness. Stock up time! I remember being disappointed when I couldn’t find 4 Peanut Butters, or HAD to add a Vanilla or a Cherry just to round out my numbers. Oh the humanity! All delicious, every one, no regrets here!

Hand Dippers making the magic happen Image courtesy Brown & Haley

Hand Dippers making the magic happen
Image courtesy Brown & Haley

The Vanilla Mount Tacoma Bar, introduced in 1915, was hand rolled by Brown & Haley Dippers, who then immersed the fondant in a puddle of chocolate, eventually placing the bar into a hand-folded blue box. In 1923, the brand expanded outside Tacoma, and the name became the Mountain Bar, for all those Seattle-ites who knew more about Mount Rainier than Mount Tacoma.

A display box of Cherry Mountain Bars Image courtesy Brown & Haley

A display box of Cherry Mountain Bars
Image courtesy Brown & Haley

Soon after that, the Cherry Bounce bar became the Cherry Mountain bar. It would be close to 50 years later that the creamy goodness of a Peanut Butter Mountain Bar would come on the scene. The bars are no longer hand-dipped, but are made on modern equipment that produces over 500 bars per minute.

I like to think of the Mountain Bar as my secret Tacoma treat. I like giving local gifts to friends, and ROCA is one of my go-tos- but I have never given away a Mountain Bar- I keep those all to myself!

I do like ROCA too. I love the crunchy goodness of all the flavors, and I like the expansion of products and flavors they’ve delved into- I think any business knows they need to keep on top of new developments in their industry, keep making changes and evaluating to stay relevant, and I think Brown & Haley has been highly successful in this area, with new types of Roca such as Mocha Roca and Cashew Roca, even Roca Thins as well as the next generation of mountain treats, Mountain Thins. Brown & Haley has also been expanding market share (for instance, check out their expansion into China, representing 20% of global ROCA sales, and with over 1.6 million pounds sold during the month of Chinese New Year each year!)

Here’s to the Mountain Bar, and Brown & Haley, being around another 100+ years!

Trivia cards from Mountain bars:  "Just for laughs"  A poet came into the publisher's office and asked "What do you pay for blank verse?" The publisher suavely replied, "Blank checks." Image courtesy Brown & Haley

Trivia cards from Mountain bars:
“Just for laughs”
A poet came into the publisher’s office and asked “What do you pay for blank verse?” The publisher suavely replied, “Blank checks.”
Image courtesy Brown & Haley

More about Brown & Haley, from their website:

Harry L. Brown owned a small confectionery store and enjoyed experimenting with chocolate and sugar candies. J. C. Haley worked for Schilling and Company, a spice company, and had a flair for sales and advertising. Together J.C. and Harry created confections known world-wide, and the enterprise we have the honor of carrying forward today.

They met at church in Tacoma, Washington in 1908, after J. C. Haley moved from West Virginia seeking his fortune. After beginning to work together in 1912, they incorporated their candy manufacturing business in 1914. By 1916, Brown & Haley was marketing a full line of candy products, including a chocolate and nut confection with a vanilla-cream center called Mt. Tacoma Bar, later known as MOUNTAIN® Bar.

In 1914, World War I erupted, the Panama Canal officially opened, and Ty Cobb won his eighth consecutive American League batting championship. With the emergence of war in Europe, nearby Camp Lewis (now Fort Lewis) swelled with doughboys training to fight “over there.” The soldiers had a collective sweet tooth that yearned to be satisfied, and Brown & Haley happily supplied them with everything from taffy chews to butterscotch balls. The young company’s sales soared, but then fell with the Armistice and the return of Camp Lewis to its pre-war population. J.C. and Harry then decided that the key to success was to innovate, and so began several years of experimentation.


A LEGEND IS BORN: In 1923, the company hit the jackpot with a crunchy, log-shaped candy piece suffused inside with butter and coated with chocolate and diced almonds. This delicious buttercrunch confection was dubbed ALMOND ROCA® by a local librarian. Word spread quickly about this foil-wrapped luxury confection. In 1927, the company decided to seal it in the now-famous pink tin, extending the product’s shelf life threefold. This ability to travel, and the candy’s exquisite taste, spurred worldwide sales of ALMOND ROCA® buttercrunch toffee.

ALMOND ROCA® confection traveled with U.S. troops to Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific during World War II, then to Korea and Vietnam. It continues to be a favorite of our troops around the world. Over time, overseas troops introduced it to locals in foreign markets, which fueled company exports. “The candy that travels” has been found in 63 countries including Europe, Africa, South America, Australia and Asia.

TRADITION AND INNOVATION: Brown & Haley’s heritage of creating premium, high-quality confections persists today. We continue to innovate, developing and producing outstanding food products that delight our consumers. We are still headquartered in the factory where ALMOND ROCA® buttercrunch toffee was invented, but we have expanded five times since 1919. And we continue to develop and implement new technological advances, including quality assurance processes, proprietary production capabilities, and state-of-the-art packaging equipment. We know someone has moved away whenever we get a new web customer buying cases of MOUNTAIN® Bars, to be shipped to the East Coast. That’s our story. We’re working hard, so our products will delight you, everyday.

                                                 Brown & Haley