For almost anyone with a sweet tooth, a chocolate craving is bound to hit at some point — probably soon. But have you walked down the candy aisle recently? The shelves are practically exploding with chocolate options. On the one hand, many chocolate companies are producing higher quality and more creative chocolates. On the other hand, the classics are hard to beat. So which one do you choose in your hour of need?
It was hard work, but we found the most popular chocolate brands, tasted them all, and ranked them here to help you choose the best way to satisfy your next chocolate craving. It should be noted that this list covers the most popular brands on the market. While there are a lot of incredible artisan and up-and-coming chocolate brands making a splash these days, we wanted to focus on brands that can be found almost anywhere, so you won’t miss a single bite.
To make sure we got the whole story, we tasted several products from each brand. We attempted to cover both milk and dark chocolate options, too, all while considering overall tastes, textures, and prices where they diverged from the usual. Prepare yourself for an indulgent roundup of the most popular chocolate brands available.
Some people wait all year for Cadbury Creme Eggs to hit the shelves at Easter time. If you’re into the milky chocolate shells filled with a super sweet and creamy fondant filling that vaguely looks like an egg yolk, we’d never want to get in the way of your happiness. But if you venture further into the chocolate collection of this company, you might be disappointed with what you find.
We tasted two of the chocolate bars in the Cadbury Milk line, the Milk Chocolate and the Royal Dark chocolate bars. The milk chocolate bar was pretty sweet, which was fine, but the texture and general chocolate flavor were off-putting. The texture was brittle, almost grainy from the sugar, with a waxy mouthfeel at the end that didn’t melt quickly. The flavor of the chocolate was fruity, like extra sweet white raisins, which is a strange flavor for chocolate to have. Upon checking the ingredients, nothing looked out of the ordinary, except for an ingredient called "PGPR". According to Berkeley Wellness, this is an emulsifier that is substituted for a portion of the cocoa butter — which might be partially to blame for the unappealing texture.
While the Royal Dark chocolate bar tasted a little better than the milk chocolate, because it was mostly flavorless in comparison, we can’t confidently recommend it either. Ultimately, we’ll stick to the Cadbury Creme Eggs for a sugar punch in the springtime, and look elsewhere for our chocolate bars.
10. Russell Stover
Every Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day brings drug and grocery store shelves bursting with Russell Stover chocolate boxes, which have been on the market since 1923. Over the years, the chocolate boxes haven’t changed much, each with milk and dark chocolate candies filled with flavors that include vanilla and chocolate cream, raspberry, strawberry, orange, coconut, truffle, and maple nut butter.
The chocolate itself is fine, a thin one-note shell that mostly exists to enrobe a filling. The fillings are usually a little stiff, very sweet, and have an abundance of fake extract flavor. But you know what? They’re also kind of addictive. There’s nothing especially luxurious about these chocolates, but it’s still nice when a loved one shows up with a large box as a gift.
As it turns out, Russell Stover specializes in sugar-free chocolates. Not only do they make sugar-free chocolate boxes, bagged candy, and chocolate bars, but also sugar-free chocolate chips for those looking for baking options. While we haven’t tried the sugar-free chocolates, they come highly rated and we’re impressed by how extensive the collection is.
Nestle isn’t just chocolate. In fact, it’s one of the largest food companies in the world, with brands that produce baby foods, bottled water, cereals, chocolates and candy, coffee, frozen foods, dairy, tea, ice cream, and pet food. Of the chocolate and confectionery brands Nestle owns, the most familiar in the United States are undoubtedly KitKat bars (owned by Nestle, but manufactured by Hershey’s in the US) and Crunch bars. We didn’t need to be told twice to taste a KitKat bar to compare it to other popular chocolate bars.
When we stopped to really break down what was going on with a KitKat bar, we found the chocolate had a nice snap to it when breaking the wafers apart. The chocolate itself is very sweet, without any unusual or deep flavors. What really brings it together are the wafers, which balance the sweetness of the chocolate and add a great crunchy texture to the whole experience. Biting into a Crunch bar, we could tell that the chocolate "recipe" is different from the KitKat because of the texture. The chocolate is milkier, still very sweet, but with an almost waxy texture. Again, the texture shines as the highlight of the candy bar, which in this case comes from puffed rice.
Ultimately, Nestle’s chocolate offerings aren’t made with the world’s finest chocolates, but we can see why they’re popular. The chocolate is easily approachable and the textures of the KitKat and Crunch bars set them apart from plain candy bars.
According to Statista, Mars is the largest chocolate company in the world, producing not just chocolate, but also mints, candy, and chewing gum. The names that arguably contribute most to that title are M&M’s and Snicker’s, two of the most popular chocolate candies on the market. So to get a good feel for the kind of chocolate being produced, we picked up a few bars of M&M’s Minis chocolate bars.
The milk chocolate bar was incredibly sweet and packed with chocolate flavor, but in a good way. The texture was milky and soft, with a little added texture from the Mini M&M’s, but not a lot of crunch. The "melts in your mouth, not in your hands" benefit that you get from M&M’s candies by themselves doesn’t apply to the candy bars, which are so soft that people with warm hands will likely need a napkin.
The dark chocolate bar was still very sweet, with more of a cocoa powder kind of flavor. They call it dark chocolate, but it reminded us more of brownie batter in candy bar form. The chocolate itself is still very soft and a little pliable. While we also didn’t think this was the best of the popular chocolates, it’s exactly what we expected it to be. Playful and sweet, these chocolate bars satisfied our sweet tooth with just a few bites.
Dove chocolates are marketed with a touch of luxury, which set our expectations a little higher when preparing to taste their chocolates. With three different collections that include individually wrapped bonbon-style chocolates, chocolate bars, and ice cream bars, the offerings are very focused. We sampled the milk and dark chocolate bars to get the full effect of Dove’s chocolates. On the label, the tag line "silky smooth" to which the chocolate absolutely lives up to. Not overly sweet, but nicely balanced, both the milk and dark chocolate bars were easy to enjoy without getting overwhelmed by the sweetness.
When breaking off a piece of chocolate from the bar, the chocolate gave way with a satisfying snap, a trait found in many of the highest quality chocolates. There were no strange flavors or textures, which was also welcome. The individually wrapped Dove Promises chocolates come in about a dozen additional flavors, including two chocolates with actual cocoa percentages in the dark chocolate range. Without that distinction, the milk and dark chocolate designations are a little vague.
If milk chocolate is your jam, Milka might just be the purest form of milk chocolate on the market. Milka is the lilac-wrapped chocolate company owned by the mega-brand Mondelēz International, which also currently encompasses Kraft Foods and Nabisco. While Mondelēz is a relatively new corporation, Milka is a Swiss chocolate company that has been producing "Alpine Milk" chocolate for over 120 years. The brand may be new to some Americans, but it’s one of the largest brands in Europe, with its products sold in over 32 countries, though that list does not currently include the US.
If you’re lucky enough to have an international grocery store nearby, chances are you’re going to have a wider selection of Milka’s many flavors at your fingertips. But even one of the basic bars of Alpine milk chocolate is a treat. The chocolate is incredibly creamy with a distinctively grassy milk flavor to it. You can just imagine Alpine cows like the purple and white mascot on the label grazing the Swiss mountainside. We also tried the Extra Cocoa chocolate bar, which has the same creamy texture as the classic milk chocolate but is missing that dark chocolate bite that a bittersweet chocolate lover would probably be looking for.
While the milk chocolate bar gets high marks in our book, the dark chocolate option falls a little short. It can also be a little difficult to find in stores depending on where you are, although it’s easily found online.
Godiva chocolates are often as widely available these days as some of their less expensive competitors, but they turn the luxury marketing up with gold-wrapped packages tied with ribbon. An illustration of the fair Lady Godiva adorns each package of chocolates, which originated in Belgium in 1926 and has grown into a massive international company.
Each box of chocolates or truffles includes candies enrobed in milk, dark, and white chocolate. The chocolate itself is smooth and creamy, without being overwhelmingly sweet or boring. Both the classic and creative fillings found in the chocolates and truffles really take these treat boxes to the next level. Where most of the fillings in the Russell Stover chocolates taste fake, these flavors taste authentic, rich, and artisanal. While the cost of these chocolates can get a little high depending on which box you choose, Godiva also makes smaller boxes, as well as chocolate bars and individually wrapped chocolates for those who only want to splurge a little. If you’ve got a little extra money to spend on occasion, these are superior boxes of chocolate.
With Ghirardelli chocolates and chocolate bars, you can really dig into the nuances of different percentages of chocolates. Bars are available in milk chocolate to start, then come in increments of 60% chocolate all the way up to 92% cocoa. They also make a 100% cocoa bar which is completely unsweetened, but it’s admittedly intended for baking. Unless you’re into eating chocolate with absolutely no sugar in it, we can’t rightfully recommend or review it here. The bars are also available with a few flavors that include popular fruits, nuts, and caramel. If you’re interested in exploring different grades of chocolate by itself or in your cooking, Ghirardelli is a great place to turn.
While tasting the Ghirardelli chocolates, we noticed that the quality of the chocolate was higher than anything we had tasted up to this point. There is a solid snap when breaking the bar in half, as well as a clean and smooth chocolate texture. The bar isn’t so soft that it melts in your hands and has no uncomfortable waxy mouthfeel when melting. We also appreciate that the same quality of chocolate is used for the baking and professional products Ghirardelli offers. When venturing out of the chocolate bar territory, we’re also fans of Ghirardelli hot chocolate and brownie mixes that are widely available in stores and online.
It’s hard to argue with the numbers when Reese’s is the number two selling chocolate candy in the US, followed by the classic Hershey bar in the number four position, according to The Daily Meal. So we took a long hard look at these chocolates to see how they stacked up. There are no surprises here. We tasted both the classic Hershey bar, as well as the Special Dark bar and the Reese’s.
The Hershey’s milk chocolate bar is sweet, but not as sweet as the Cadbury and M&M’s bars. The Special Dark bar had a smooth texture, with more of a snap than the milk chocolate bar. The chocolate itself had a nice flavor, with dark fruit notes and a comfortably bittersweet profile. While it doesn’t have a specific cocoa percentage, people who enjoy bittersweet chocolate will likely be satisfied with it. There’s still no other chocolate bar that we thought would be appropriate smushed into a s’more, and that nostalgia has carried it quite far.
Then there’s the Reese’s. It’s the perfect balance of sweet milk chocolate, stuffed with salty peanut-buttery goodness. There’s nothing fancy here, which we’re comfortable with. You don’t need a special occasion to buy a Reese’s, and you won’t break the bank when buying one. On an average day, there are very few things that are going to satisfy a chocolate craving like a Reese’s, and that alone puts the Hershey company in the bronze medal position in our rankings.
2. Ferrero Rocher
More so than any other brand, it was scary how quickly we could eat an entire box of Ferrero Rocher chocolate. We were only slowed down by the fact that they’re individually wrapped, forcing us to take the extra second and a half to decide if we were going to exercise any self-control. It’s all here, both in terms of taste and texture. The candy consists of a crunchy wafer full of a creamy hazelnut chocolate center, which is then enrobed in chocolate and nuts. It’s the quintessential Italian chocolate. It’s like the best parts of a KitKat, Godiva Truffle, and Reese’s all rolled into one and made with high-quality ingredients.
Rocher translates to "rock", which this style of chocolate confection visually resembles. From as objective of an opinion as we can give, the chocolate made by Ferrero Rocher is sweet but nicely balanced with the nutty, savory hazelnut. There are also dark chocolate and almond coconut versions available in the larger Ferrero collection boxes for those looking for a little bit of variety. The fillings are creamy and rich, covered in a light chocolate coating that easily melts in your mouth. Depending on how much you’re willing to spend and how much self-control you have, these come in packs of three or boxes of up to 48 chocolates.
It’s hard to play favorites with chocolate sometimes. Different moods call for different indulgences, and everyone has different preferences. In Lindt, we found a collection of beautiful high-quality chocolates, widely available and in a range of products that will surely please everyone from the truffle lover to the chocolate bar purist. Like Ghirardelli, Lindt offers their pure chocolate bars in a wide range of cocoa percentages from 70 to 100 percent cocoa, as well as pristine milk chocolate and flavored chocolate bars with additions like chili and blackberry with acai.
What we found that really set Lindt above the competitors were the beautifully rounded flavors of the chocolates. The ingredients list is as clean as it can be with nothing unusual, and with the addition of bourbon vanilla beans in their line of Excellence chocolates. Whether you’re treating yourself to a creamy truffle, enjoying a pure bite of a chocolate bar, or reaching for high-quality baking chocolate, Lindt has you covered.