Top 10 retro treats

Posted by
Stylist Team
backgroundLayer 1
Add this article to your list of favourites

We don't know about you, but we can still vividly recall elbowing our way through the ice cream van queue to purchase a 10p Wham bar during lunch hour - and its sharp tang as we attempted to scoff it down (and stop it clinging to the back of our teeth) before the bell went. Or the innate satisfaction that came with tipping our heads back to gorge on the distinctly chemical-tasting powder of a Sherbet Fountain.

It may be years since we last tasted these genius snacks, but they've left a lasting, indelible impression on us - a legacy that's examined in a new book, The Great British Tuck Shop. This tome of confectionary knowledge explores the history and evolution of our favourite childhood snacks, from Love Hearts to Milky Bars and beyond - transporting you straight back to that tuck shop tussle. We've chosen our top 10 favourite treats featured in the book, below, along with an extract for each. Take a look and let us know your thoughts on your childhood snack of choice in the comments section or on Twitter.

The Great British Tuck Shop by Steve Berry and Phil Norman with a foreword from Jonathan Ross is published by The Friday Project and comes out on 27 September. Pre-order your copy here

Follow @CadburyUK on Twitter

1. Wispa

It's a lazy journalist's dream: a chocolate bar from the 1980s that was a triumph of marketing over substance. The Wispa's Aero-meets-Flake texture didn't exactly spark a confectionery revolution when the fluffy ingot made its debut in the Tyne Tees area. What raised eyebrows were the TV ads: wry chunks of two-handed banter between famous celebs of the day. By the end of the decade, Cadbury were packing the edgier likes of Peter Cook and Mel Smith off to ramble in front of a black cloth at Shepperton Studios, under the banner 'You're thinking chocolate, you're talking Wispa', while Noel Edmonds, rather worryingly, demanded, 'Know someone who just has to keep doing it?'

2. Wham

In 1980, in came the lurid, tangy pink of the tooth-rotting Wham bar, with a tingle on the tongue, a rocket on the wrapper and, indeed, a ker-ching in the tills. An astronomical 2 million 10p bars and utterly out of this world 2pm chews were sold in 1982, possibly because Wham had something for everyone. Adventurous kids got off on the chemical fizz and dental danger. Those of a scientific bent pondered on the way it could warp, like space and time, into an infinitely long raspberry superhighway, where the very laws of confectionary break down. Sci-fi nuts, meanwhile, could get off on the adventures of the good ship Wham, as chronicled in a series of 'amusing-dramatic' radio ads.

3. Cadbury's Caramel

You could tell this was a classy bar [on launch in 1976]. For a start, it was frighteningly expensive, even in those times of vertiginous price rises. It was also very neat, each section being a little sculptured pillow of chocolate, delicately engraved with the Cadbury livery. Let there be no idle talk of 'chunks' here. All terribly sophisticated, very grown-up... and a tad dull, to be honest. The product needed sexing up. Enter five-foot jobbing actress Miriam Margolyes, who took one of the least promising briefs ever ('Right, so you're this lazy, but saucy, West Country rabbit with a chocolate obsession...') and turned in thirty seconds of sub-Bristol vocal smouldering that was destined for immortality.

4. Milky Bar

Though pre-dating Alan Parker's much admired all-juvenile Bugsy Malone casting policy by some two decades, the Milky Bar ads were surely made by marketing men both short on imagination and long on memory. A few short scenes were recycled and remade every few years for a new generation of chocoholic tots. To the tune of a honky-tonk saloon bar piano, and the repetitive mantra of the titular song's rhyming couplets, the 'strong and tough' Milky Bar kid would save faux Frontiersmen from some minor inconvenience or other before declaring, 'The Milky Bars are on me,' at which point a cheering crowd of sugar-crazed urchins would surge forward to grab the proffered treats.

5. Sherbet Fountain

When Tangerine, the Blackpool-based owners of Sherbet Fountain, updated the sweet's packaging in 2009, they faced a perfect storm of media outrage. The new, hermetically sealed Sherbet Fountain genuinely did fix some flaws: it protected the product from moisture, avoided spillage on newsagents' shelves and prevented sabotage. But - from the Just Williams to the Adrian Moles - generations of wilful kids had delighted in its original, eccentric form. Tucked in the back pocket, along with a catapult or a secret diary, that yellow paper tube looked pleasingly like a stick of dynamite or a (potentially name-coining) firework.

6. Toffo

That old-timery 'o' on the end betrays the pre-war origins of Mackintosh's venerable roll of 'Toff-O super creme toffees', but after several decades of unfussy plain flavouring, those squat little cylinders which pleasingly moulded themselves to the creases of their individual wrappers underwent a bit of a renaissance. After a brief and ill-fated dabbling with a patently all wrong blackcurrant variant, mint and a sophisticated rum and butter flavour joined the originals on the shelves in 1971. But they struck the mother lode five years later with the dark blue assorted roll, wherein old plainy was joined by the instantly popular chocolate flavour, the rather less popular strawberry and the obligatory pariah flavour, banana with a distinctly chemical tang.

7. Love Hearts

Far from being a sweet nothing, a Love Heart always carried a fizzy kick in its compressed sugar make-up; a mixture of tartaric acid and bicarbonate of soda that made it a close relative of powdered sherbet. The chemical reaction when the ingredients were mixed with water (or saliva) created sodium citrate and carbon dioxide, hence the froth and tingling in the mouth. Another of Love Hearts' strengths was the simplicity of the design (a trademarked visual image staunchly defended by the parent company) and its flexibility. The old-fashioned messages appearing on early editions - 1950s' 'Hey Daddio' - would give way over time to more modern sayings, such as 1960s' 'Gay Boy' or the downright futuristic 'Fax Me'.

8. Space Dust

Like Star Wars, the Sony Walkman, and serial killers, this fizzy sherbet sensation was a huge hit in the States long before the Brits got their tiny mitts on it. US confectionery giant General Foods - that's a company, not a cartoon character - had been sitting on a patent for a process to introduce pressurised gas into candy for nigh on twenty years. It took until 1976 for the manufacturing capability to catch up with the conjecture, at which point Pop Rocks - the first of their kind - literally exploded into the market. Space Dust was the budgie grit to Pop Rocks' fish tank gravel. Less startling than the original, being more tongue-corroding than tooth-cracking, it sparkled in orange, grape and watermelon flavours for the Yanks, or 'orbiting' orange, 'solar' strawberry and 'lunar' lemon for the Limeys.

9. Dime

In 1982, Barker and Dobson and Marabou of Sweden finally brokered a historic deal to distribute the latter's crunchy, buttery, almondy sliver of a bar to a grateful British public. The Dajm had arrived, in the scantiest of chocolate coats (Hurrah! Schnapps all round, etc. Although, er, we're going to have to take another look at that name, guys). Impossible to describe to anyone who hadn't yet eaten their first, the rechristened Dime materialised in tuck shops almost entirely without branding 'push' but with an attractive 15p price tag attached instead.

10. Creme Egg

Though various fondant-filled eggs had been produced by Cadbury since 1923, it wasn't until decimalisation that the Brummie confectioners finally cracked it with the consumer. That consummate assemblage of foil wrapper, chocolate shell, thicky sugary albumen and all-important yolk centre debuted amid precious little fanfare. A short TV spot encouraging the customary Jennings-like schoolchildren to overwhelm shopkeepers with demands for '6000 Creme Eggs, please' failed to take into account the limited means of the audience. But the marketers persisted and eventually hatched a television campaign based around a reworking of Cole Porter's genteel song 'Let's Do It,' which saw all manner of shy debutantes, maiden aunts and girls in France falling for the irresistible charms of the ovoid snack.


Share this article


Stylist Team