Our fondness of sweets has long played a part in British culture; sweets and chocolate are enjoyed by children and adults of all ages, alike. Sweets not only appeal to our tastebuds but also offer a great source of energy and can be used as a snack, reward, for comfort or as a gift or token of appreciation.
According to Statista.com, 12.7 billion British pounds were spent in 2021 on sugar, confectionary and ice cream – a figure that highlights just how popular sweets are and the role they play in the British economy.
The variety of sweets, chocolate and fudges available on the market today is impressive – there is an incredible range of diversity from classic favourites that vividly conjure up memories of childhood, to newer and more innovative flavours. Most of the brands we are familiar with today are less than 100 years old.
The Origins of Sweets
The earliest known type of sweet is honey. Human use of honey dates back as far as 8,000 years when it was depicted in stone age cave paintings. Honey, fruit and nuts were used to make the sweets and the ancient Greeks, and the Romans were believed to have made sugar candies from honey.
The first known use of sugar cane by man is thought to have originated in Polynesia as far back as 8000 years ago, from there it spread to India. When the Persian King Darius I invaded India in 510 AD, he discovered “the reed which gives honey without bees”.
The cultivation of sugar cane then spread into the Arab world following its invasion of Persia in 642 AD; the Arabs went onto construct sugar refineries and established sugar production in other conquered territories.
Sugar was first introduced to Europe in the 11th century during the Holy Crusades, it became a highly sought after luxury product associated with the wealthy. During the Middle Ages, the use and availability of sugar began to increase in Britain. The Tudors ate sweet foods and were introduced to Marzipan – a paste made from almonds and sugar, which is still used in a number of sweets today, sugar however, still largely only remained available to the elite.
Lithograph of a sugar plantation in the British colony of Antigua, 1823. William Clark.
Colonisation and Sugarcane Trading
In the 1500s Portuguese colonists began to cultivate sugarcane in Brazil on a mass scale and export it to Europe, where it became more widely available. In the 1700s, British colonists of the Caribbean began to follow suit, and like the Portuguese, used slave labour to harvest the sugar cane, which was then shipped back to Britain and refined in what were known at the time as “sugar bakers” a type of industrial refinery. Britain became the leading producers of sweets in Europe, a market that had previously been dominated by the Portuguese and the Dutch.
During the Victorian era sugar became more widely available and not only for the rich; the industrial revolution meant that sweets could be produced on a larger scale, and as a result, mass production was born. Children became significant in the buying market - penny candy was the first material good that children spent their money on.
What Makes British Sweets So Popular?
The penny sweet was integrated into British culture for decades, it offered an affordable way to buy sweets that was accessible to all, as for many, buying a whole packet may have been unaffordable. Independent sweetshops stocked a number of boiled sweets, chewy sweets, chocolates and fudges developing unique recipes and flavours that remain popular today; the taste for British sweets has been passed down through generations.
Pick n Mix
The famous Pick n’ Mix enjoys an iconic status as Britain’s most popular type of sweets. The original household name Pick n’ Mix was coined at Woolworths, where it was referred to as an inhouse name for a weigh out selection of sweets. A bag was filled with as many sweets as desired from numerous trays of different types of sweets and then weighed at the end to determine the price.
The Pick n Mix has never looked back, favourites include cola bottles, flying saucers, fried eggs, sour cherries, milk bottles, white mice, Black Jacks, fruit salad, foam shrimps, fudge, dolly mixture, love hearts, jelly babies, liquorice all sorts, rhubarb custards and fangs amongst others.
Candy Obsession are a premium, independent supplier, of high-quality, fresh sweets, including classic favourites such as Pick n Mix.
Popular Retro British Sweets in Our Pick n Mix
These retro aniseed sweets were originally made by Trebor and remain a much-loved chewy favourite in our pick n mix selection.
Love Hearts are one of Britain’s most iconic sweets. These fruity, fizzy and crunchy favourites were originally created by Swizzels Matlow and continue to be enjoyed by people of all ages.
An undoubtedly British mix of sweets, liquorice allsorts – an assortment of liquorice confectionery - were first produced in Sheffield, England by Geo. Basset & Co and have gone on to become a national favourite.
This classic favourite is a boiled sweet based on a traditional British dessert of tangy rhubarb paired with sweet creamy custard. Rhubarb Custards have been a familiar sight in sweet shops for decades.
This mix of small multi-coloured fondant shapes and sugar-coated jellies has long been a British favourite and plays an integral role in our Pick n’ Mix.
We offer a vast selection of sweets with a rapid delivery service, free on orders over £20. Create your own pick n mix today!