Britain Loves NostalgiaRemembering retro sweets
See that Opal Fruits wrapper? Those sweets were made to make your mouth water. Others from days gone by were designed to knock your teeth out. Who hasn’t got nostalgic about sweets that have been confined to the great corner shop in the sky?
Pink Panther bars
With his own TV show and a movie franchise revival starring Peter Sellers, it was difficult to avoid The Pink Panther in the mid-70s. His legendary status was sealed when he got his own chocolate bar. Nor was this any ordinary chocolate. It was the pinkest thing ever, with the possible exception of Penelope Pitstop’s jumper, and tasted like strawberries were meant to taste. Mysteriously discontinued in the eighties, when it morphed into the largely unloved mint-flavoured Contessa bar.
In the days before five-a-day became a strict dietary requirement, an Opal Fruit was the closest some 70s schoolchildren ever got to consuming fruit. We knew Opal Fruits contained real fruit juices because it said so on the packet. The adverts weren’t fibbing when they claimed that Opal Fruits were made to “make your mouth water”, a slogan invented by F1 commentator Murray Walker. Everybody loved these cuboid-shaped taffy candy chews and it was a seismic shock when in 1998, they were renamed Starburst in order to standardise the brand in the global market. In 2008 Opal Fruits made a surprise return to the supermarket shelves but their comeback was tragically brief.
You knew you’d had a toffee when you’d had a Toffo. Tough as old boots, they required patient sucking until the chewing could commence. The traditional toffee Toffo endures to this day, but the Assorted variety, complete with strawberry, chocolate and banana flavours are, sadly, a distant memory.
The Aztec Bar hit the shops in 1967 in a blaze of glory. Life-sized cardboard Aztec warriors crowded the supermarket aisles. A hugely expensive TV ad was filmed in a genuine Aztec temple in Mexico. The bar, an inspired blend of milk and chocolate nougatine with caramel, effortlessly lived up to the hype. However, it disappeared in the mid-70s. Its comeback in 2000 was all too short-lived.
Fry’s Five Centres
The successor to Fry’s Five Boys, the chocolate bar that helped win WW1, Five Centres delivered nothing less than what was promised. For your money you got five succulent fondant centres (orange, raspberry, lime, strawberry, and pineapple) enrobed in an exotic dark chocolate. Half the fun was guessing which centre you’d bite into next. It was chocolate’s answer to the roulette wheel before being phased out in 1992.
A bubble gum and a comic all in one, Bazooka Joe launched in the US shortly after WW2, and became a sensation among British kids looking to adopt some American cool. Such was its dry, flaky consistency that blowing bubbles with it was a highly prized art. The miniature comic strip always raised a laugh. As if that wasn’t enough, wrapper coupons could be collected to secure tantalising, state-of-the-art prizes. X-Ray specs that enabled the wearer to see through clothes was, unsurprisingly, a hugely popular choice. With a Bazooka Joe movie in the planning stages, a triumphant return to the nation’s tuck shops should not be ruled out.
“A man’s gotta chew what a man’s gotta chew,” proclaimed the TV ads, featuring a cartoon cowboy tied to the stake. Offered a last request by blood-thirsty bandits, he chose a Texan bar, taking so long to devour it that the bandits fell asleep and he was able to make his getaway. This chocolate covered nougat/toffee delicacy lived up to its billing as the bar that lasted longest, easily outpacing its mid-70s rival, the Yorkie. The Texan sadly faded into obscurity in the 1980s. Relaunched as a limited edition in 2005, it then returned to that great conveyor belt in the sky where it remains to this day. Gone but never forgotten.
“Comes up peanuts slice after slice,” boasted the adverts. If you preferred your peanuts buried in layers of nougat and caramel, then encased in a tranquil milk chocolate, you couldn’t go wrong with Marathon. Then, in 1990, the Mars parent company renamed the bar Snickers to align it to their global brand. Marathon die-hards swore blind that the new bar was smaller and less nutty though there is absolutely no evidence for this.
Originally named Opal Mints and launched as the sister product to Opal Fruits, these ultra-chewy spearmint-flavoured sweeties only really took off when renamed “Pacers”. When a green and white stripe design was incorporated in the late 70’s, Celtic FC were briefly nicknamed “The Pacers”. Meanwhile, the mustachioed Pacer waiter in the TV ad went on to become kit-man for Bristol Rovers. Some claim that the Spearmint Mojo chew is an acceptable substitute for the long-gone Pacer, but the jury remains out on that.
Everyone who was at school in the 80s remembers the mighty Wham bar but fewer recollect its rare sister sweet – the Gorgo bar. Measuring in at the same gargantuan proportions as the Wham, the Gorgo was a sour lime green strip of chewy toffee laced with black incendiary fizzy bits. The wrapper depicted a giant lizard creature, which was fitting really because this slab of confectionary was a real monster. You would go to work on it at first break, revisit it at lunch and then again at home time, but the beast would always live to fight another day. Sadly, the Gorgo is now extinct. All that’s left of it are fond memories, a fair amount of dental treatment and a handful of nostalgic pleas for its return online.
By Jon Wilde