A Brief History of Goo Goo Clusters

Goo Goo Cluster tin with the Original Goo Goo Cluster
Goo Goo Cluster tin with the Original Goo Goo Cluster | (c) Goo Goo Cluster, LLC
Photo of Leena Kollar
8 March 2018

When people in Nashville hear the words “Goo Goo,” they automatically go into chocolate mode. That’s because the city’s famous Goo Goo Cluster continues to be a quintessential Nashville delight, more than 100 years since it was invented.

The Goo Goo Cluster dates back to 1912

The Goo Goo Cluster was the first ever combination candy bar in the world. This refers to a candy bar that is made from more than one main ingredient. The Goo Goo Cluster is crafted with caramel, marshmallow nougat, fresh roasted peanuts and milk chocolate. At the time it was created, other candy bars were made exclusively with chocolate, caramel or taffy. The origins of the Goo Goo Cluster began at the Standard Candy Company in Nashville, back in 1912. The original plant supervisor at the candy company, Porter Moore, along with Howell Campbell, Sr., have been credited with creating the original recipe. That same recipe is used today, and additional variations have been added to the Goo Goo Cluster brand.

Goo Goo Shop and Dessert Bar in Downtown Nashville

The cooking method used to make Goo Goo Clusters has evolved over time, however. The candy used to be hand-dipped and sold without wrappers until the clusters were wrapped in tin foil. Thanks to advances in technology, machinery is now used to automate wrapping, allowing 20,000 Goo Goo Clusters to be produced per hour.

The Supreme Goo Goo Cluster, invented in the 1980s, has all of the same ingredients as the original, but instead of peanuts, contains pecans. The Peanut Butter Goo Goo has just three ingredients: peanut butter, peanuts and real milk chocolate. This addition to the Goo Goo family dates back to 1991 when the three flavors completed the Goo Goo Cluster collection. Recently, the Howie Premium Goo Goo, named after the inventor of the candy, was added to the brand, which is a dark chocolate version of the original.

Goo Goo Cluster Collector’s Tin

The story of how the Goo Goo Cluster got its name varies, depending on who you ask. The one most often told is that it comes from the first thing a baby says, which is “goo goo.” According to Howell Campbell, Jr., his father would ride the streetcar to work every day and would often talk to fellow passengers about his candy venture. He referenced Campbell, Jr.’s first words one day, and a school teacher connected them to the candy, implying that the Goo Goo Cluster is “so good, people will ask for it from birth.” Others theorize that the name Goo stands for the initials of the Grand Ole Opry.

The Original Goo Goo Cluster

Regardless of where the Goo Goo Cluster’s name comes from, the candy is legendary in Nashville. The Goo Goo company has expanded into the Goo Goo Shop and Dessert Bar, which is located in the SoBro area of downtown. In addition to selling Goo Goo Clusters, the shop sells branded merchandise, Nashville-themed gifts and bulk retro candies. Visitors to the shop get to learn more about the history of the Goo Goo Cluster with a timeline that includes artifacts from the company archives. Inside the glass-encased confectionery kitchen, guests can watch Premium Goo Goos being made by hand.

The Dessert Bar features coffee, sodas, milkshakes and other sweet treats, and customers interested in learning more about the Goo Goo Cluster production process can take chocolate classes offered by the store. Classes are offered to the public on most Thursdays and Fridays in the afternoon. Private classes can also be reserved any day of the week.

The Goo Goo Shop offers chocolate making classes on Thursday and Friday afternoons

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