There is nothing better than finishing off a long day with a bar of chocolate and a glass of wine. Sweets and chocolate are a luxury treat to indulge in when you need a little pick-me-up or just fancy something sugary. A bar of chocolate or packet of sweets can elevate even the worst of days.
It may come as a surprise that our favourite sweet brands are less than one hundred years old. Crunchie, Mars Bar, Black Magic, Kit Kat and even Quality Street were only launched between 1920 and 1930. However, old-fashioned confections, like toffee, liquorice and boiled sweets, are fairly modern compared to the ancient history of sweets. Our love of sweet treats dates to 8000BC when the cavemen were drawing people with honeycomb in Valencia, Spain.
History of Sweets
Our beloved sweet treats were drawn in various shapes across the world. The Ancient Egyptians in 2000BC satisfied their sweet tooth with fruit, nuts and honey. There was no sugar in ancient times, so honey and sweeter nuts, like almonds, were used to make most sweeties. The sugar cane originates in New Guinea – however, it then went to India, where milk-based sweets laced with sugar first came into history. Sugar slowly travelled across the Mediterranean and later to America, where it would be grown in mass production.
In the XVI century, around the time of Napoleon, France started to obtain sugar from beetroot after the British blocked off their ports. At a similar time, cacao hit Europe’s elite and the combination of cacao and sugar was discovered. The chocolatey blend launched the confectionary trade worldwide, and each country began taking a new unique spin on it. In 1502 Cortez, the Spanish Conqueror of Mexico, combined cocoa, and sugar to make a delicious chocolate drink in Spain. Unfortunately, it took over a century for the chocolate drink to hit the rest of Europe. Do you know chocolate helps in relieving stress?
In the nineteenth century, the confectionary trade started to gain more traction when the industrial revolution brought new machinery. Cadburys was launched in 1824, and most of its efforts were geared towards producing chocolate products – some of which still exist in stores today.
In the Scottish Lowlands, wives began perfecting the art of boiled sweets – including Hawick balls and Berwick cockles. However, these were considered the cheaper versions of confectionary items and chocolate was reserved for the wealthier classes. Rock sticks, chewing gum and toffee were also introduced in the 1800s as the UK explored different areas of the confectionery industry.
As the world war period hit, sweets were rationed, and much of the production was put on hold. In the 60s, loose sweets in sweet jars were sold in quarter-pound paper bags. These loose sweets are still popular today in vintage sweet shops. In the 60s, the intergalactic theme came into force with Rockets, spacemen, aliens and flying saucers. Neon colours and crazy packaging covered the 80s sweet scene, with the ‘penny chew’ being the ultimate sweet treat. Pick ‘n’ Mix was introduced so people could buy all their favourite sweets and make unique combinations.
By the early 2000s, we veered away from hard-boiled sweets and opted for soft chewy ones. Haribo Starmix took off and became a sweet tooth favourite.
Sweet foods have existed throughout history, and chocolate has always been the treat of luxury.