Chocolate then and now - why we're really all so outraged by the 'shrinking' Quality Street tins

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Anna Pollitt
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When it comes to chocolate, size really, really matters.

A woman who pointed out how Quality Street tins have been "shrinking" over the years in a picture on Facebook this week has tapped into a very real discontent - nay, rage - over the changing face of the nation's beloved confectionery.

The bright foil-wrapped chocolates, 40% of which you probably don't even like, are a Christmas staple for many families. Some have been passing them round since the 1930s, when they were produced by Halifax firm Mackintosh (RIP).

Which is why thousands of people have shared, liked and commented on Charlotte Stacey Hook's picture of Quality Street packaging from different eras, in which she suggests the sizes of the tins have become progressively smaller.

These days (well, since 1988) they're made by Nestle and the suggestion is we're all unwittingly getting Scrooged by the international conglomerate. 

The only problem with this outpouring of irritation is, you can still buy the larger sized tubs similar to the one shown in Charlotte's picture:

Nestle responded to the uproar with this statement: "This image does not compare products like for like. As well as the 780g tub pictured, we also have a 1.3kg tin available which lovers of Quality Street might like to try this Christmas".

"We want to give the best possible value for money and we believe that this product is still extremely competitive".

Still, Charlotte, from Washington in Tyne and Wear, clearly struck a chord with chocolate lovers across the country - for many reasons:

1. Britain is a nation of die-hard chocolate lovers

2. The biggest tin in her picture is 1.7kg, rather than the measly 1.275kg offering Nestle refers to

3. A quick scout of the big-name supermarkets shows that while all of them have plenty of 780-gram tubs, most don't stock, or have sold out, of the 1.275kg QS tin

4. We're addicted to nostalgia

5. People always want what they can't have

6. Everyone prefers a tin. Even when it takes four minutes to get the lid off

7. We feel annoyed and powerless when an iconic food product changes in size, shape or taste

Yes, we can order the big sturdy tins from Amazon or direct from the supplier, but as well as the inconvenience of having to be in when they're delivered, it suggests they're a specialist, novelty item - a quirky rarity rather than the proper sweets we're so very much entitled to.

Of course, there is a chance that the devastating lack of keepsake tins in supermarkets is down to these very same aggrieved chocolate lovers switching to smaller tubs (possibly so that they can also indulge in Roses, Celebrations, Heroes etc.), thereby encouraging Nestle to produce fewer large tins.

But now we've been reminded of the Quality Street offering of yesteryear, we suspect Nestle of quietly phasing out the super-size products, sullying our childhood memories with their flaccid plastic tubs that surely mean no-one is going to have quite as merry a Christmas.

Customers want to see the giant '80s tins back on supermarket shelves. They may not want to buy them when they're there, but they definitely want that option.

Of course, the disproportionate response to Charlotte's picture is symptomatic of a bigger problem - the incessant modification of our childhood chocolate. Big firms can't seem to stop messing about with its size, taste, texture, appearance and packaging. 

Cadbury's Dairy Milk is a prime example. Once chalky, tough to snap and square-edged, since the firm's US takeover in 2010, the bar is now smoother, silkier, sweeter and with a slick bevelled edge.

Yes, it really does sound much better. But that doesn't stop cravings for a solid dry square that takes time to melt and leaves an ever-so-slightly cloggy residue.

How our favourite cocoa solids have changed over time:

Cadbury's Dairy Milk

Everything's rounder and smoother - even the font. The 'S' from Cadbury's is gone, as is the "glass and a half" tagline.


The big name change caused a stir in 1990.


A treat for children of the '80s and '90s. Gone, but not forgotten:


Chocolate with nuts, raisins, crisp cereal and fudge pieces inside it. Where could Cadbury's go wrong? Still, it was axed in 2006.


Lest we forget, we suffered four long years without Wispa - Cadbury's discontinued it in 2003, and it was only through the power of the internet that it was relaunched in 2007.


Since 2001, Nestle has been antagonising half the population with its "It's not for girls" tagline. The biscuit and raison one is quite nice, so get rid, please.


In 2008, Dreams and Crunchies were dropped from the Heroes selection - in favour of the cheaper Bournvilles and toffee Eclairs. Controv.

Creme Egg

There was an Easter scandal earlier this year when the Creme egg shrank in size and Cadbury's tweaked the chocolate used in its shell.


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Anna Pollitt

Anna is a freelance writer and editor who’s been making her dime from online since 2007. She’s a regular at, ITV News and Emerald Street and moonlights as a copywriter and digital content consultant.