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Revealed: The nation's favourite classic sweets

9th June 2021

Lots of people still remember those sweets that would line the sweet shop shelves in jars, were weighed out in front of you and then put into a paper bag. There were confectionary classics and traditional sweets that came in very British flavours.

Some people will also remember going over to their grandparents home to find a treasure trove of sweets that would range from Liquorice to Rhubarb & Custards. If you were lucky your grandparents may even have given you a sweet if you had been well behaved or helped them out.

Helmsley Traditional Sweet Shop talks about how old-fashioned sweets are still incredibly popular today: “As a traditional sweets shop, we try to find all the sweets that have such powerful memories for people, nostalgia always makes people smile as they remember going out with a long-gone relative and eating sweets. There are still some old-fashioned manufacturers out there so it is possible to match the taste of yesteryear, and that taste and smell trigger the memories. I love listening to the stories people tell us. 

“Favourite sweet is a very personal choice and it is impossible to guess what people will buy on entering the shop, could it be the much-loved sherbet lemons, pear drops or perhaps aniseed balls. Maybe it’s a jelly baby (how do you eat yours?) or the ever-popular Lions midget gems? Chewing nuts that are not nuts but hard toffee, good old mint imperials and of course Yorkshire Mix (still made in Yorkshire).” 

As June in the UK is National Candy Month, which celebrates over 100 years of sweet production, this article takes a look at some of the most popular sweets from years gone by.

Most popular old-fashioned sweets


•Jelly Babies

•Fry’s Chocolate and Peppermint Cream bars

•Werther’s Original

•Sherbet Lemons

•Rhubarb and Custard sweets


Liquorice sweets have been popular across the UK for decades, but do you know about the history of this old fashioned sweet?

According to All Things Liquorice, there are records of Liquorice being consumed by the Pharaohs, Alexander the Great and Caesar, meaning the sweet has been around longer than the likes of cars or a stair lift. The site also says that Liquorice originated in southern Asia before spreading through the Middle East and into southern Europe and it was only first reported in the UK as growing at a monastery in Pontefract. The popularity of the sweet then spread to the United States and beyond.

It was in Pontefract in Yorkshire that is also believed to be the first place where liquorice mixed with sugar began to be used as a sweet in much the same way as it is today. Nowadays liquorice sweets range from the well-loved Allsorts and Spogs to Aniseed Balls, Wheels and Cream Rocks.

Grandpa's Sweet Shop are an independent sweet business that sells traditional favourites and retro sweets, and they spoke about how liquorice is one of the most popular sweets among the older generation.

“What better way is there to bring a smile to someone’s face than with a delicious bag of sweets… what’s even better is when those sweets promote a trip down memory lane. At Grandpa’s we never tired of hearing our customers reminisce about their favourite childhood sweets and we’re pleased to say that many of these favourites can still be found! We find in particular liquorice is a favourite ranging from pure liquorice pieces to the colourful comfits as people remember buying ‘a quarter’ from the local shop.”

Martin Peet, the managing director at MR SIMMS, who are the UK’s largest family of traditional sweet shops, also says that liquorice is one of the most popular old-fashioned sweets.

“Liquorice Allsorts made famous by a sweet salesman Charlie Thompson, selling an array of liquorice sweets on a tray to a buyer in Leicester in 1899 and slipping on his way in. Gathering up the mix of sweets the buyer says ‘We’ll take them muddled up as they are!’ Liquorice Allsorts were born by mistake! 

“Aniseed balls, date back to Julia Caesar’s days in 1450 that rounded layer ball with the liquorice pip in the middle. It is claimed that the aniseed ball was used in the Second World War in the bombs designed by Barnes Wallis used on the Mona Dam as a dissolving fuse between the callipers, once the bombs hit the water and began to sink.”

Take a look at the chart below to see the search trend for liquorice sweets over the past 12 months in the UK:

Jelly Babies

Another common sight in any old-fashioned sweet shop in the UK are containers full of Jelly Babies as for decades now they have been a hugely popular sweet across the country.

These soft sugar jelly sweets are produced in the shape of plump babies and are sold in a variety of colours. They were first manufactured in the nineteenth century in Lancashire, but have since been mass-produced in Sheffield in Yorkshire since 1918.

Martin Peet from the MR SIMMS sweet shops explains a little more about the history of this sweet. He said: “Remember the Jelly Baby? It started off as an ‘unclaimed baby’ after the purchase of a sweet factory that couldn’t sell this fruit jelly and crusted delight before becoming a ‘Peace baby’ after the 1st World War and then a Jelly Baby not until 1953 made unique by its belly button!”

The sweet remains as popular as ever with a poll of 4,000 adults in Britain voting Jelly Babies the sixth most popular sweet back in 2009.

Take a look at the chart below to see the search trend for Jelly Babies over the past 12 months in the UK:

Fry’s Chocolate and Peppermint Cream bars

Fry’s Chocolate and Peppermint Cream bars are a long-standing British classic, with many people probably remembering their grandparents eating these sweet-tasting chocolate bars.

Made by Cadbury’s since 1866, this chocolate bar comprises rich dark chocolate and a peppermint flavoured fondant centre. As well as being a popular sweet in the UK, it is also popular in France, the USA, Italy, Greece, Germany, Canada, South Korea, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Grandpa's Sweet Shop says the Fry’s Chocolate and Peppermint Cream bars are still popular with older people: “For those that aren’t so much into the liquorice then the Fry’s Chocolate Cream bars and Peppermint Cream are still a huge hit in their iconic blue and green wrappers respectively. The distinct tastes of these sweets really seem to hold happy memories for many people. The good news is you don’t have to simply remember them – you can still get them plus many more.”

Take a look at the chart below to see the search trend for Fry’s Peppermint over the past 12 months in the UK:

Werther’s Original

This list of popular old-fashioned sweets just wouldn’t look right without including Werther’s Original caramels. The recipe for the delicious Werther's Original Butter Candies, which is made with real butter and fresh cream, dates back to 1909.

These deliciously smooth and creamy caramel sweets are named after the little village of Werther, where they were first created, and today they are still made with the same care, expertise and know-how that has been passed through the generations.

On top of the Butter Candies, Werther’s now also produce slightly different alternatives to their original sweet such as Creamy Toffee, Creamy Filling, Eclairs and Soft Caramel sweets.

Take a look at the chart below to see the search trend for Werther’s Original over the past 12 months in the UK:

Sherbet Lemons

If you are a fan of sweet, sour and fizzy tastes, then you will have undoubtedly enjoyed Sherbet Lemons. These hard-boiled fruit sweets are famed for their sherbet centres.

Many older adults will have remembered these sweets from their childhood as they have been extremely popular for a while now.

A Quarter Of, a well-known online sweet retailer, talks a bit more about the iconic Sherbet Lemons: “We take our sherbet lemons very seriously here at We're still mourning the loss of Pascalls Sherbet Lemons... THE sherbet lemons that we all used to remember from our childhood.

“On a warm day (or after enough time on any day) they used to get sticky and it was nigh on impossible to pop one into your mouth without a bit of the little white paper bag, the one that the little old lady used to put your sweets in at your childhood corner sweetshop, getting stuck to it... and finding its way into your mouth too.”

Take a look at the chart below to see the search trend for Sherbet Lemons over the past 12 months in the UK:

Rhubarb and Custard sweets

Virtually all old-fashioned sweet shops will stock Rhubarb and Custard sweets as these red and yellow boiled sweets have been an extremely popular choice for many years now.

These red and yellow boiled sweets offer you the perfect balance of sweet and sour, and they are covered in a sugar coating too. The rhubarb part of the sweet has a sharp and strong taste, while the custard side is creamy.

Although the boiled sweets are still one of the most popular old-fashioned sweets that you can enjoy in the UK, there are now lots of alternatives such as lollipops and pencils which have the same distinctive flavour.

Take a look at the chart below to see the search trend for Rhubarb and Custard sweets over the past 12 months in the UK:

Other popular retro sweets

Here are some other popular retro sweets that you can enjoy which did not feature in the list above:

•Rolo chocolate


•Pear drops

•Lions midget gems

•Chewing nuts (not nuts but hard toffee)

•Mint Imperials

•Yorkshire Mix (still made in Yorkshire)

Many older adults love old-fashioned sweets, and these are just some of the most popular retro sweets that older people have enjoyed from years gone by. If you want to read more articles like this, then check out the Mobility News section of the site. If you or someone you know suffers from a mobility problem, then you can look at the new and used stair lifts on our website to find a solution for your home.

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.