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Why do Reese’s peanut butter cups taste different?

Reese’s peanut butter cups have been an iconic American candy since they were first created in 1928 by H.B. Reese. Known for their distinctive combination of chocolate and peanut butter, Reese’s cups have become one of the most popular candies in the United States. However, many Reese’s fans have noticed over the years that the taste and texture of their beloved candy seems to have changed. Complaints of Reese’s cups not tasting the same as they used to are common online, leading many to wonder – why do Reese’s peanut butter cups taste different than they used to?

There are a few factors that may explain why Reese’s cups seem to have a different taste than in decades past: changes to ingredients and manufacturing processes, recipe and supplier adjustments by Hershey’s, and the effect of nostalgia. Read on as we explore the possible reasons why Reese’s peanut butter cups taste different than you may remember from childhood.

Changes to Ingredients and Manufacturing Processes

One of the biggest reasons why Reese’s tastes different now is that Hershey’s, the company that has produced Reese’s since 1963, has made changes to the candy’s ingredients over the years. The original Reese’s peanut butter cups contained a relatively simple list of ingredients – milk chocolate, peanuts, sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, milkfat, milk, lactose, soy lecithin, and salt. However, today’s Reese’s contain additions like PGPR (an emulsifier) and TBHQ (a preservative). While Hershey’s claims these newer ingredients allow them to produce Reese’s cups on a wider scale while maintaining consistency, some argue they have altered the original flavors and textures of the candies.

In addition to ingredient changes, advancements in manufacturing and processing methods over the decades may contribute to why Reese’s don’t taste the same. From how the chocolate and peanut butter are mixed and molded to changes in handling temperatures and packaging techniques, small tweaks throughout manufacturing could impact the final product’s taste. For example, older methods of hand-dipping and hand-wrapping Reese’s may have resulted in more flavor nuances versus mechanized assembly lines.

Recipe and Supplier Adjustments by Hershey’s

As the sole manufacturer of Reese’s for over 50 years, Hershey’s has likely instituted small adjustments to the candy’s recipe and suppliers that affect its taste. Many food companies periodically revise product recipes to cut costs, extend shelf life, or experiment with flavor profiles. For example, Hershey’s may have made the peanut butter filling thinner or changed the cocoa bean sources for the chocolate coating to save money or improve consistency across batches. They also may have changed peanut or sugar suppliers over the decades, using ingredients that impart slightly different flavors. While individually small, these recurring formula and supplier tweaks can gradually alter a product’s taste over the years.

The Effect of Nostalgia

Nostalgia also likely plays a role in why Reese’s don’t seem to taste the same as remembered from the past. The Reese’s peanut butter cups many people grew up with in the 1960s-1990s hold sentimental childhood value. When revisiting Reese’s cups as adults today, people may perceive differences in flavor that aren’t objectively there because of nostalgic bias. Memories become distorted and idealized over time.

Psychology shows people often view experiences from their youth, like favorite foods and traditions, as grander and more distinctive when remembering them later on. Some perceptible changes to Reese’s cups could be exaggerated in consumers’ minds due to nostalgia filtering the past in an overly positive way. The actual taste difference between decades-old Reese’s and today’s version may be more subtle than it seems if comparing an idealized childhood memory to present day reality.

Analysis of Reese’s Ingredient Changes Over Time

To visualize how Reese’s ingredients have changed, here is a comparison table showing Reese’s peanut butter cup ingredients at different points in time:

Year Ingredients
1928 Milk chocolate, peanuts, sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, milkfat, milk, lactose
1950s Sugar, chocolate, peanuts, cocoa butter, milk, lactose, soy lecithin, salt
1970s Milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, milkfat, soy lecithin, salt), peanuts, sugar, dextrose, salt, TBHQ
Today Milk chocolate (sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, milkfat, lactose, soy lecithin, salt, PGPR), peanuts, sugar, dextrose, salt, TBHQ

As shown, earlier iterations of Reese’s had shorter, simpler ingredients lists. Over time, more preservatives, emulsifiers, and thickeners have been added, while the formulas have become more complex overall. This supports the theory that multiple incremental changes to Reese’s ingredients since the original 1928 version have led to a different tasting chocolate peanut butter candy today.

The Impact of Manufacturing Advancements

In addition to changes in ingredients and recipes, improvements in manufacturing and processing technology over the decades have likely contributed to alterations in Reese’s taste and texture:

Handmade vs. Automated Production

Originally, Reese’s were handmade via time-consuming dipping and wrapping methods. Today, production is almost entirely automated, which speeds up output but reduces human touch. More automation and machinery probably leads to less variability in each Reese’s cup.

Advances in Heating and Cooling

Historic production involved more variability in heating methods, temperatures, and cooling times compared to computer-controlled systems used now. Tighter climate control affects factors like chocolate glossiness, crispness, and smoothness.

Changes in Mixing Methods

Reese’s initially used simple melting and folding techniques to swirl chocolate and peanut butter together. Newer high-shear mixing achieves a more homogenous blend of the components into a unified could affect the taste and consistency.

Packaging Differences

Reese’s were originally foil wrapped by hand versus today’s automated flow wrapping. The switch from foil to plastic flow wrap changes the shelf life, preserving qualities, and unwrapping experience.

Food Safety Enhancements

Hershey’s has instituted more food safety protocols, equipment sanitation, and microbial testing over time. While positive, extra handling and inspections could marginally impact end products.

Recipe and Ingredient Supplier Changes

Additional explanations for Reese’s taste evolution include Hershey’s periodic adjustments to the candy’s formulas and ingredient sourcing:

Recipe Tweaks

Minor recipe changes by Hershey’s over the years involving proportions, new additives, or rebalancing chocolate and peanut butter ratios would alter taste. For example, adjusting peanut butter sweetness, chocolate thickness, emulsifier levels, etc.

Cocoa Bean Source Changes

Hershey’s likely uses different cocoa bean suppliers today compared to decades ago. Varying soils, genotypes, and farming methods make cocoa beans distinct, affecting chocolate flavor.

Peanut Acquisition Changes

Similar to cocoa, switching peanut suppliers over the years exposes Reese’s to new peanut variations in aroma, oil content, sweetness, etc. based on seed variety, origin, season, soil, climate, and agricultural practices.

Sugar Source Changes

New sugar sources would also impact taste as factors like cane variety, refining methods, molasses content, and crystallization techniques influence flavor profile and texture.

Milk Source Changes

The creaminess and balance of Reese’s chocolate coating depends partly on shifting milk sources, farming methods, and collection seasons affecting fat and protein content.

The Role of Nostalgia

A final factor potentially contributing to the perception that Reese’s don’t taste the same is the effect of nostalgia and positive memories associated with enjoying Reese’s peanut butter cups in the past.

Taste vs. Memory

The way Reese’s objectively taste today may differ only subtly from decades ago or not at all. But people’s memories of how Reese’s used to taste become distorted and idealized over time, making the contrast between memory and reality seem more significant.

Exaggerated Change

Nostalgia tends to amplify how positively past experiences are remembered. So any small changes to Reese’s are falsely amplified because people’s memories elevate how past Reese’s tasted.

Emotional Component

Beyond flavor, nostalgia adds sentimental value to past Reese’s eating experiences like Halloween, childhood, and family traditions. This emotional component makes the past seem superior.

Improved Quality

Interestingly, studies show perception of increased quality over time correlates with nostalgia. So for heavily nostalgic products, people sometimes believe the opposite of Reese’s – that they actually taste better now!


Why don’t Reese’s peanut butter cups taste the same as remembered from the past? Several factors appear responsible for changing Reese’s flavors over recent decades. On the production side, alterations to ingredients, manufacturing processes, and formulas by Hershey’s have incrementally modified the candy’s original taste profile. Simultaneously, consumer nostalgia seems to exaggerate people’s recollections of how Reese’s used to taste compared to today. Ultimately, the combination of actual recipe changes and biased memories based on nostalgia make Reese’s bars taste noticeably different than versions enjoyed 30+ years ago by many consumers. But others with less nostalgia may find little perceptual taste change in Reese’s over time.