History of British Sweets

INTRODUCTION

Today, whether we like them or not, sweets  play an important role in our lives. Sweets are a quick source of energy, and a great snack, however, they also make great rewards, are a comfort, an enticement, and a token of appreciation. Discover more about the History of British Sweets below :

The British sweet tooth has sunk deep into the economy. Over £3000 million is spent on chocolates, toffees, boiled sweets and bars every year. During a sunny bank holiday weekend, four million sticks of rock are sold at over three hundred seaside resorts. Each one has the town’s name running right through the middle of it, from one end to the other; a feat of confectionery engineering that has puzzles many a child and, the occasional adult!

A DIP INTO HISTORY

Many of us do not perhaps appreciate that the variety and range of sweets on offer today only developed during the last hundred and twenty years or so. Many of today’s leading brands are, in fact, less than one hundred years old. Crunchie launched in 1929, Mars Bar in 1932, Black Magic in 1933 and both Kit Kat and Quality Street in 1937. Conversely, younger generations do not always realise how long such brands have been part of our lives.

We can trace the origins of confectionery back to about 2000BC when the ancient Egyptians satisfied their cravings for something sweet by combining fruits and nuts with honey. Liquorice juice, extracted from the root of the leguminous ‘Sweet Root’, is known to have been used for medicinal purposes at the same time. The forerunner of today’s Turkish delight was an uncompromising confection of boiled grape juice and starch cut into squares. Over 3000 years ago the Aztecs in Mexico used the cocoa bean to make a bitter drink. However, it took 1500 years before that drink would be sweetened with sugar.

SUGAR

The belief that sugar had healing properties, undoubtedly helped the sale of the apothecary's medicines, but they also found a ready market for sugar confections in their own right – for those who could afford them. In France sugared almonds became popular and in Italy, Confetti (small hard, sugar plums), were eaten, especially on celebratory occasions.

COCOA  AND CHOCOLATE

The combination of sugar and cocoa set the confectionery story alight. The Spanish conqueror of Mexico, Cortez, brought cocoa and the chocolate drink back to Spain in 1502. The addition of sugar made this bitter drink more palatable, although it took almost another hundred years for this new drink to reach the rest of Europe. The first shop to sell drinking chocolate in London opened in 1657.

The eighteenth century witnessed the birth of some prominent confectionery manufactures, and the nineteenth century with the advancement in mechanisation saw them rapidly expand.

John Cadbury opened a shop in 1824, in Birmingham, selling tea, coffee and cocoa. His cocoa manufacturing business started a few years later. During the 1840’s both Fry’s and Cadbury’s were producing chocolate made specifically for eating, although the vast majority of  production was geared towards the manufacture of cocoa. It was also in 1853 that Fry’s launched their chocolate cream sticks, the forerunners of chocolate Cream Bars.

Fry’s Milk Chocolate launched in 1902 and employed a most endearing image on it’s wrapper – the faces of five boys showing the transformation of expression when being consoled with a Fry’s chocolate. This popular image had been used since 1886 to advertise Fry’s.

MEDICINAL CONFECTIONERY

Since the Middle Ages, sugar has been mixed with medicines to 'sweeten the pill' and from the beginning of the twentieth century there were many lozenges, gums and pastilles that served as throat soothers, stomach warmers or healthy energy givers. These are still popular today, and act to alleviate sore throats and coughs. Nipits are a great sweet for clearing the voice for example!

CONFECTIONERY IN THE 20th CENTURY

Confectionery has developed rapidly in the last hundred years. Today, for example,  the country consumes 600 million Mars Bars every year, 200 million Cadbury's Creme Eggs and enough Kit Kats to keep pace with a machine that produces 80,000 bars an hour! Unfortunately, to our detriment, we can no longer enjoy the pleasures of Spangles or Texan Bars. Such is life!

Sweet and Confectionery Timeline

1866 Fry’s Chocolate Cream Bar
1902 Fry’s Milk Chocolate (5 Boys)
1905 Cadbury’s Dairy Milk
1910 Cadbury’s Bournville Plain Chocolate
1911 Wrigley’s Juicy Fruit and Spearmint Gum (UK Release)
1915 Cadbury’s Milk Tray

1920 Black Jacks

1921 Cadbury’s Fruit and Nut
1929 Fry’s Crunchie
1932 Terry’s All Gold
1932 Mars Bar
1933 Rowntree’s Black Magic
1935 Milky Way
1935 Rowntree’s Aero
1935 Kit Kat

1935 Refreshers
1936 Quality Street
1936 Rowntree’s Dairy Box
1936 Maltesers
1937 Rolo’s
1937 Smarties
1939 – 1945 WWII
1948 Polo Mints
1948 Spangles
1951 Bounty
1958 Galaxy
1958 Picnic
1962 After Eight Mints
1967 Twix
1967 Marathon
1971 Crème Egg

1976 Yorkie
1977 Double Decker

1980’s Wham Bar

1981 Wispa

and so it continues ... The History of British Sweets.


​​​​​​​At Sweet and Nostalgic we have a great range of 20th Century Gifts, Retro Sweets  and so much more. If you are looking for a gift for a special birthday for friends and loved ones then take a stroll through our categories to find your perfect gift. 

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