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Forgotten Confectioners, Disappearing Chocolate Bars

The Christmas tradition of putting a plastic net bag of gold-foil wrapped chocolate coins in children’s Xmas stockings along with a satsuma or clementine took a bit of knock in 2014. Cadbury’s announced in October that year that it had stopped making its chocolate coins. The chocolate-maker said shoppers had switched to cheaper, own-brand versions sold at supermarkets such as Aldi, Lidl and Poundland, leaving its own sales in decline.

As well as declining sales, Cadbury’s said that wrapping the foil around the coin-shaped chocolate was ‘quite fiddly’. Wasn’t fiddling with the foil and trying to remove it intact, part of the attraction of the coins at Christmas. Apparently the last remaining box of 24 bags of coins were snapped up on eBay for £100, well before their sell-by date.

A spokesperson explained that the coins, which were made by a ‘separate contractor’, had proved difficult to sell and that the process of wrapping the foil around the coins was not easy, adding ‘we are sorry to see the coins go, but that’s business’. Making chocolates has always been a business where continuous reinvention seeks to repeat the success of earlier forever popular chocolate bars.

The first company to make a moulded chocolate bar as we know it today was J S Fry & Sons in 1847 at their factory in Bristol, England. Joseph Fry found a way to mix cocoa powder and sugar plus a little melted cocoa butter extracted from the beans, to produce a paste that could be moulded into a chocolate bar suitable for large-scale production. It was coarse and bitter by today’s standards, but it was still a revolution. The paste could also be poured over fillings and in 1866, Fry’s Chocolate Cream was launched (image below).

During the late 1800s, and early 1900s, the manufacture of cocoa and confectionery in Britain was largely dominated by Cadbury’s in Birmingham, Fry’s in Bristol, and Rowntree’s and Terry’s both in York, all of whom were Quaker families. This wasn’t just a coincidence. The Quakers were social reformers, and extracting cocoa from cocoa beans to make drinks was a reaction against the perceived misery and deprivation caused by alcohol. Then the companies turned to the making of chocolate. But today these names exist only as brands owned by international companies. Cadbury (the ‘s’ was dropped in 2003) and Terry’s are now owned by US-based MondelēzInternational, the second-largest confectionery manufacturer in the world after Mars (though Mondelēz is looking to sell the Terry’s brand). Fry’s was taken over by Cadbury’s in 1919, and Rowntree’s is owned by a Finnish company, Raisio Group.

Confectioners Are Swallowed Up

Sharp’s introduced Sir Kreemy Knut in 1919 to promote their Super-Kreem Toffee, a dapper aristocratic character with cane and bowler hat. After WWII, Knut was resurrected as a live diminutive sales rep Nobby Clarke, a regular visitor at shows and seaside resorts during the 1950s, who arrived in a Rolls Royce. Sadly none of the brands made by Sharp’s survived for long after its sale to Trebor in 1961.

Though Fry’s was swallowed up in 1919 it wasn’t until the 1960s that other major confectioners went the way of Fry’s, or merged, often a euphemism for a take-over.

Trebor bought Sharp’s in 1961, and Clarnico in 1969. Bassett’s bought Pascall in 1965, and Barratt’s in 1966. Bassett’s then merged with Maynards and Trebor in 1990, and were then bought by Cadbury Schweppes in 1998, and finally by Tangerine Confectionery in 2008 (now the largest independent confectionery company in Britain).

Mackintosh’s bought Wilkinson’s in 1964, Fox’sin 1969, and then merged with Rowntree’s in the same year. In 1988, Rowntree-Macintosh was bought by Nestle, and Paynes was bought by Northern Foods. Fox’s (still owned by Nestle) was bought by Northern Foods in 2001, then Fox’s and Payne’s were bought by Big Bear Confectioneryin 2003, which was then bought by Raisio in 2011.

Cadbury’s and Terry’s came to be owned by Mondelēz as a result of Kraft Foods buying Terry’s Suchard in 1993, and Cadbury’s in 2010. A year later, Kraft Foods split in two with the confectionery arm, which included Cadbury and Terry’s, becoming part of Mondelēz.

Some Sweets Still Live on

Though the original confectioners have long gone, their names live on as brands as do some of their most popular lines. Each sweet and each company has its own story, but here are a few snippets.

When Tangerine Confectionery, owners of Barratt’s Sherbet Fountain, updated the sweet’s packaging in 2009, they faced a predictable backlash from customers. The new, hermetically sealed fountain may have protected the product from moisture and avoided spillage on newsagents’ shelves, but generations of kids delighted in its original, eccentric, sherbet sucking and tongue tingling form. Tucked in the back pocket, the yellow paper tube looked pleasingly like a stick of dynamite.

Barratt’s Sherbet Fountains was first sold in 1925, the sherbet contained in a paper wrapped cardboard tube with a liquorice ‘straw’ stuck in the top. The tip of the straw was bitten off so as to suck up the sherbet, though it could get clogged up and the stick was then used a dip. The traditional packing was replaced in 2009 by a plastic tube and a solid liquorice stick which caused a media outcry. The Barratt’s factory was in Wood Green, London. By the early 1900s it had become the firm’s custom to give every worker a Christmas present. In December 1913, this took the form of an alarm clock, and it is said that Mr G W Barratt, son of the founder, personally presented about 2,000 of them.

When sales representative for Bassett’s, Charlie Thompson, in 1899 spilt a tray of liquorice and cream paste samples of chips, rocks, buttons, cubes and twists samples in front of a shopkeeper in Leicester, Bassett’s Liquorice Allsorts was born. The resulting colourful mix impressed the chap who placed the first order for ‘allsorts’. Bertie Bassett, Bassett’s promotional mascot was introduced in 1929. Bertie has remained a popular figure ever since and to celebrate his 80th birthday, Cadbury arranged in 2009 for Bertie to marry his sweetheart Betty Bassett in the Sheffield factory where Allsorts were then produced.

Fox’s Glacier Mints were first made in 1918, and from 1922 the sweet wrappers displayed Peppy the polar bear standing on one of the mints so as to resemble a block of ice. Hard to believe, but a polar bear was shot, which, after it was stuffed, was used to promote the sweet. The stuffed bear remained lost in a factory in Leicester for 40 years until it was re-discovered in 2003. By a strange co-incidence, Fox’s was owned at the time by Big Bear Confectionery but they refused to put Peppy back on display. The firm’s brand manager explained ‘we didn’t want it in reception because it’s so gory and we feared it could scare the customers when they visited’ adding ‘it’s not the most politically correct thing to have a giant bear hanging around when they’re facing extinction because of melting ice caps.’ The bear was donated to a local museum where it has been restored.

Turkish delight is said to have been invented in 1777 and by the early 1900s every confectioners in Britain were making their own versions. Rose-flavoured Fry’s Turkish Delight was launched in 1914, though the advertising slogan ‘full of Eastern promise’ didn’t appear on television until the late 1950s. The adverts became increasingly sensuous, and some would say ridiculous, in competing with adverts for Cadbury’s Flake and Milk Tray, and for Mars Bounty and Galaxy.

Maynards wine gums were promoted in 1993 using the song Hoots Mon which was a number-one hit single in 1958. The commercial featured every imaginable Scottish cliché with the line ‘there’s a moose loose aboot this hoose’ changed to ‘there’s juice loose aboot this hoose’.

When Charles Gordon Maynard introduced Maynards Wine Gums in 1909, it took him some time to persuade his strict Methodist and teetotaler father that the sweets did not contain wine. The gums come in five different shapes and despite Maynard Senior’s reservations, they have been ‘labelled’ with six names: port, sherry, champagne, burgundy, gin and claret. There was press report in 2011 that the gums had been targeted by the European Union over the use of the appellations, though this is likely to have been another euromyth.

James Pascall & Co Ltd had a factory in Mitcham, Surrey where they made their popular boiled sweets which were displayed in apothecary jars in sweet shops. The family were Quakers like many other confectioners (a former press officer of the present day Quakers was Eudora Pascall). Pascall Fruit Bonbons were created around 1910 and were sold in cylindrical tins. Bonbons, meaning doubly good, originated in the court of Louis XIV, and it’s not surprising then that Pascall also made Court Fruit Drops and Versailles Chocolates. In 1922, Cadbury’s, Fry’s and Pascall set up a company in Australia, and today, Pascall, still owned by Cadbury, makes Fruit Bonbons. Pascall’s main line here in Britain though is Pineapple Chunks. But Fruit Bonbons are sold here under the Bassett label, the reason being that Pascall in Britain merged at some point with Murray’s, a local confectioner, and Bassett’s bought Murray Pascall in 1965 so acquiring their brands. As Murray’s made mints, Murray Mints, so today you can buy Bassett’s Murray Mints. The mints were the first product to be advertised on TV to have a jingle: ‘Murray Mints, Murray Mints: the too-good-to-hurry mints!’. Here is the 1955 advert.

A 1955 advert for Paynes Poppets. Adverts for Paynes Poppets at the time all carried the slogan ‘Stop! at the Shop that has Poppets’. Priced variously at 1s/1½d, 1s/6d, 1s/10d (that’s shillings and pence), converted to decimal the prices would be 6p, 7.5p, and 9p.

Paynes Poppets were first introduced in 1937 by George Payne & Co, and are best known for retaining their iconic packaging in small cardboard boxes when other confectioners moved to plastic wrappers in the 60s and 70s. The box has a little half-moon hatch in one corner that can be pressed in or torn open to dispense the sweets one at a time, and it is this ‘popping out’ that gave the sweet their original name. The ability to dispense single sweets in the dark, made them a popular sweet in cinemas. I was going to mention that the non-rustling properties of the box also helped, but today many people would not see this as a benefit. Pass me the maxi tub of popcorn please.

Terry’s Chocolate Orange was first launched in 1931 as Dessert Chocolate Orange, price 2 shillings (that’s 10p, which is worth about £6 today). For seventy years it was made in York until the factory there was closed by Kraft Foods in 2005. The orange-shaped ball of chocolate of 20 segments, plus some orange oil, is sold across the world. It has always been associated with Christmas often being put into children’s stockings. Even now almost two-thirds of sales are at Christmas. And the marketing slogans have been a little comical. As well as ‘it’s not Terry’s, it’s mine’, there’s been ‘tap it and unwrap it’, ‘don’t tap it … whack it!’, and ‘smash it to pieces, love it to bits’!

Trebor first started selling their Mints in 1935, and Trebor Extra Strong Mints two years later. Mint was popular as a medicine for all kinds of ailments in the middle of the 18th century, and as anyone who has had several Extra Strong Mints at once can testify, as an anaesthetic. People who worked in mint sweet factories claimed they never got colds, but the pharmaceutical and confectionery uses of mint went their different ways. Today the leader in the extra-strong-mint sector is the Trebor product. When Cadbury’s made the mints, a spokesperson explained their attraction. The mint market has been predominantly male. Some mints have that macho element to them. It’s the vindaloo syndrome.

Some of Cadbury’s Lost Chocolate Bars

Despite the survival of these popular brands and lines, thousands of other chocolate bars and sweets have disappeared. Not surprisingly, given that it lasted the longest as a separate manufacturer, the list of chocolate bars that Cadbury’s has withdrawn is almost endless. Sometimes Cadbury’s has relented and brought a chocolate bar back such as Wispa. First launched in 1983, with the most original slogan ‘Have you heard the latest Wispa?’, Wispa was phased out in 2003 and replaced by Dairy Milk Bubbly. As a result of a host of internet campaigns, the bar was re-released in 2007. There were uncharitable claims that some of the campaigns had not been spontaneous, but orchestrated by Cadbury’s.

Here are just a few of Cadbury’s lost bars.

Not many people are likely to remember Ration Chocolate. During the Second World War, Cadbury was forced to remove Dairy Milk from shelves as the government banned manufacturers from using fresh milk. Instead, Ration Chocolate made with dried skimmed milk powder took its place. Sweets were rationed however because sugar was rationed, and rationing continued until 1953, eight years after the war ended. This was one bar though that customers were pleased to see the back of.

‘Imagine a box of Milk Tray Chocolates. Imagine eight Milk Tray Chocolates in a bar’ was the slogan when Milk Tray Bar was first launched in 1947. Even though it was more expensive than an ordinary chocolate bar, it was a favourite right up to 1981 when it was discontinued.  The lime cordial chocolate in the shape of a little barrel was a favourite. There was also a non-milk chocolate version called Plain Choice.

There can’t be many who remember the Skippy bar. Launched in 1960, Skippy was a milk chocolate bar with a caramel and wafer centre, with the forgettable slogan ‘it’s got a crunch in the biscuit and a munch in the middle’. A classic 60s TV commercial shows a Swinging London couple getting off their scooter and going into a trendy coffee bar to pick up their Skippys. The actress is Janice Nicholls who was a teenage star of the Spin-a-Disc section of ABC Television’s pop show Thank Your Lucky Stars. In the advert, Janice, who came from the West Midlands, says Skippy is ‘fab’ and then ‘Oi’ll give it foive’, the catchphrase from the TV show for which she became a household name. Wasn’t life much simpler then?

Rowntree introduced the four-finger Kit Kat in 1935 but it wasn’t until the 60s that Cadbury’s launched a rival, Bar Six, a chocolate-coated, crispy hazelnut cream wafer bar.  It looked bigger than a Kit Kat and you got six fingers instead of four, but that was because the six pieces broke across the bar, rather than lengthways. The TV advert had a young boy asking his dad how many bars are in a Bar Six. The father would eat each bar one at a time and then he would tell his disappointed son that there were six bars. For some, it was the thinking man’s Kit Kat. Something to do with being able to count to six and not just to four perhaps? The bar disappeared in the 80s.

 

The chocolate nougatine and caramel Aztec bar was marketed as a rival to the Mars Bar when it was launched in 1967. They were a halfpenny cheaper than Mars (that’s about a fifth of 1p). Some thought the caramel was chewier than Mars. Advertising for the bar was filmed in a real Aztec temple and promotional cardboard cut-outs of an Aztec warrior were placed in supermarkets. Mars won the battle though, and Aztec was pulled from shelves in 1978, though it was briefly brought back for the Millennium as the Aztec 2000.

The Amazin’ Raisin chocolate-covered nougatine and caramel bar with raisins was launched in 1971 and withdrawn in 1978. It was very chewy and hard going, but the slogan ‘It’s Amazing What Raisins can do … all the goodness and it’s just for you!’ says it all. The promotion of the bar as an alternative healthy snack just didn’t catch on.

New production processes in the 80s allowed chocolate to be produced in different shapes without the need for moulds, and Spira was one of the first to use the new process when it was launched in 1989. Spira had two hollow twisted spiral milk chocolate fingers in each pack, and it proved very popular, so popular in fact that factories couldn’t keep up with demand, and the bar was withdrawn briefly from the market. Despite this early success, Spira was discontinued in 2005.

 

The caramel-filled Taz chocolate bar was released in the mid-90s around the same time as Freddo bars, which were shaped like a cartoon frog, were re-launched after an absence of 15 years. The cover featured the Looney Tunes Tasmanian Devil character. Freddo had more fans, Taz was discontinued and replaced with a caramel Freddo instead.

Fuse exploded into the marketplace on in 1996. It was a solid slab of chocolate into which nuts, raisins, fudge and rice crispies were ‘fused’. Within eight weeks it was Britain’s favourite confectionary. In 1997, Nestlé launched Maverick, a rival to the Fuse bar, as well as to Mars’ Snicker bar, but Maverick didn’t sell well and was dropped in 2000. Fuse eventually fizzled out in 2006 to the fury of many consumers. There are about 30 Facebook groups with titles that are variations of the words Bring back Cadbury’s Fuse. The largest has 275 members but almost all have less than ten members, many of only one or two. It doesn’t say a lot for the power of collective protest when people continue to set up Facebook groups that replicate the aims of larger existing groups.

Was Dream a white chocolate version of Dairy Milk or Cadbury’s answer to the Nestlé’s Milkybar? Dream was launched in 2001, but many thought the chocolate was a bit sickly, others that is was nice and creamy. Different versions of chocolate bars are nearly always released to capitalise on the hopeful success of the original. This time there was Strawberry Dream. The advert ‘let the taste take you away’ has a women dreaming of a cruise ship and then enjoying life with dreamy friends in a ski chalet. Quite an annoying advert really. Though Dream is still sold in Australia and NZ, it was discontinued in Britain around 2010.

 

Media Outrage

Media indignation never seems to be far away when it comes to manufacturers making changes to chocolates and sweets, and Cadbury’s has been in the headlines more than most since Cadbury’s was bought by Kraft Foods in 2010 (it’s now owned by Mondelez, the confectionery arm that was split off from Kraft in 2012). As well as axing its chocolate coins, Cadbury substituted the Dairy Milk chocolate used on its Creme Egg for a cheaper alternative, and rounded off the corners on Dairy Milk bars ‘to improve the ‘mouth feel of the chocolate’.

Roses chocolates with flow wrappings and twist wrappings. The new flow wrapping has been compared with the sort of wrapper you find on mints in a bowl at the reception desk at cheap European hotels.

Cadbury has just announced that Roses chocolates will now all have ‘flow wrappers’ with an easy-tear jagged edge rather than twist wraps. This is ‘to address customer complaints’ by keeping the chocolates fresher for longer and to ensure that none accidentally unwrap in the box. So another loss of festive traditions. The fun of Roses chocolates was digging into the box or tin looking for your favourite Golden Barrel caramel, then untwisting the wrapper to find your reward.

Here’s the full story in the Telegraph of why Cadbury changed the wrapping of Roses chocolates. Incidentally Roses is named after Rose Brothers, the Lincolnshire packaging equipment firm that manufactured and supplied the machines that wrapped the chocolates when they were first launched in 1938.

And it’s not just the wrapping that’s changed. Roses hazel-in-caramel and coffee chocolates have been ‘re-designed’ with smoother contours to ensure that they ‘melt in the mouth easily and result in a longer moment of joy’. I wonder how much longer my moment of joy will be?

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