Revealing the sometimes mysterious stories beneath the shiny wrappers…
Our theory is that, with a tin of Quality Street, people hoard the Green Triangles and The Purple Ones and then judge each other deeply when it comes to selecting Toffee Pennies or Eclairs (“you like those?”).
Alex Hutchinson, archivist and historian for Nestlé, who, under the name Penny Thorpe, wrote historical novel The Quality Street Girls (£12.99, HarperCollins) – she knows her way around a tin. Now certain John Lewis stores have started Quality Street pick ’n’ mix counters where you can fill up on your chosen few and banish the ones that are always left languishing at the bottom of the tin. We asked Hutchinson for the back story behind the wrappers…
The Caramel Cup/The Caramel Swirl
The caramel chocolate was such an instant hit with the public that it became its own product, outside of the tin, just one year after launch in 1937. The new sweets were packaged in a tube, quite a radical innovation at the time. They were called Rolos, “just because you wouldn’t have been able to buy anything else packaged in a roll like that”.
The Purple One
The ambiguously named Purple One has a mysterious history. “When you look at it, the chocolate is shaped like a Brazil nut,” says Hutchinson. “And it used to be a Brazil Caramel Cream. But now it’s a hazelnut inside; less polarising and more uniform – important for manufacturing a standard product. What I don’t know is when the change happened. I’ve been looking into it for 10 years, in the archives and old TV ads. Still unsolved.”
The Strawberry Cream
“These are my favourites,” says Hutchinson. “Just after World War II, they were packaged to look like a strawberry.” The wrapper was twisted at one end and that twist was green. “They were oblong, not round though.” The Strawberry Cream has evolved inside too. “A few years back the recipe was changed to only use natural ingredients.”
The Green Triangle
The Green Triangle has been part of the Quality Street mix since it launched in 1936. “Chocolate was an exotic, foreign ingredient for a long time,” says Hutchinson. “Less wealthy people usually ate toffee. Quality Street were an important part of bringing chocolate to the masses. Mixing toffees and fruit creams that were coated in chocolate, and therefore more affordable, then adding a smaller number of chocolate-chocolates like the Triangle, meant more people could afford the selection. The Green Triangle was probably the first proper chocolate a lot of people ever ate.”
To find out which John Lewis & Partners stores are stocking pick ’n’ mix Quality Street tins visit johnlewis.com