Nestlé's WWII Toll House Ads Changed Chocolate Chip Cookies Forever

Eighty years is a long time to keep a memory alive. December 7, 2021, marked the 80th anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor and the beginning of America's involvement in World War II. As more and more veterans of the great conflict pass away, so too do the first-hand accounts of the horrors and triumphs of the war that shaped our current world.

Though the in-person experience of WWII may be fading, certain things from the period persist. It may seem somewhat shallow to view advertising as a gateway into the heart of the time, but the ads created by companies during WWII have a distinct, patriotic tone that is hard to ignore. All eyes may have been on the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific, but the lives of everyone who stayed home were heavily influenced by the ads that greeted them every day (via Georgia Southern University). One such ad campaign, by none other than Nestlé, not only stirred a fervor of patriotism but helped turn the chocolate chip cookie from a regional treat to a national icon.

A patriotic duty

There was a time when the chocolate chip cookie was not the sensation it is today. The creation of dietitian and Inn owner Ruth Graves Wakefield, the Toll House cookie was so unbelievably popular in New England that, in 1939, the cookie and its creator got a spot on Betty Crocker's popular radio show "Famous Foods from Famous Places." That's how, according to The Toast, Nestlé got wind of the cookie, buying the exclusive rights from Wakefield shortly thereafter.

Mass production of Toll House Cookies had begun, but WWII put a cog in the wheels. Instead of the easy-to-make dessert, they had been originally marketed as, the chocolate chip cookie became the symbol of domestic America's patriotic duty. Through a series of ads on everything from the cookie tins to larger posters, Nestlé encouraged American women to bake as many cookies as they could and send them to the boys fighting the war overseas (via The Henry Ford). It was seen as a way to boost morale and let the soldiers know that they had not been forgotten. The Toast explains that when the war ended, thousands upon thousands of soldiers were now hooked on these delectable little cookies. And with the baby boom that followed, so were their children. Thus, the chocolate chip cookie became America's cookie. It helped win the war and helped bring the country into the future, one sweet bite at a time.