Pear drops are the Chanel bag of the sweet world, followed closely by lemon bonbons. Retro sweets are back in vogue, says Penny Fray
Celebrities such as Madonna and David Beckham have been ‘papped’ chomping on their Chupa Chups lollies, while British Prime Minister David Cameron was spotted last year snacking on a bag of Haribo at an EU summit.
I’m rather partial to fizzy cola bottles myself and know that an increasing number of trendy media types have a secret stash of M&S’ Percys in their office drawer. Despite the recent demonisation of sugar, sweets have made a serious comeback.
Last year, the confectionery market was worth more than RO29 billion, rising 1.6 per cent year-on-year.
And as the market continues to expand, one sweetie specialist claims that the trend for old school candy is set to grow even further to meet adult demand.
“Our recent customer survey confirmed that the retro sweet trend is very much alive and kicking, with 75 per cent of independent retailers and businesses involved in the survey agreeing that the retro trend will be as strong as ever throughout 2014,” says a spokesperson for Hancocks, who stock novelty buys such as Everton Mints and Candy Watches.
According to the expert, the enduring appeal of retro sweets appears to be linked to nostalgia and novelty.
“They help adults reminisce about their childhood visits to the local sweetshop,” he says. “But the sweets also have an appeal among younger sweet lovers, who are not yet fully acquainted with the traditional numbers not always featured in your average pick-and-mix displays – sweets like Bullseyes, Pontefract Cakes, Humbugs and the mighty Rhubarb and Custard, for instance.”
In fact, much has been written recently about the Proustian effect of Rainbow Drops, Spangles and Pink Panther bars. The TV chef Nigel Slater even went so far as to proclaim that Parma Violets smelt like his Aunt Fanny’s handbag, while presenter Jonathan Ross fondly recalls confectionary cigarettes puffed for effect on chilly mornings.
My own early sweet fascination ran to Sherbet Dip Dabs and sticky Fruit Salads, which I’d buy on my walk home from school at a penny store belonging to Auntie Jean. It was our own village version of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory with fancy candy bars lined in a row and giant bell jars filled with flying saucers and extra powdery bonbons. These days, such vintage sweet stores are the height of fashion and chefs are falling over themselves to infuse desserts with popping candy and vintage flavours.
Of course, we admit that most sweeties are very, very bad for you. They rot your teeth, cause wrinkles and incite mood slumps and even depression. Then again, they’re not nearly as calorific as chocolate.
WINE GUMS: You are solid, dependable and so old school that you’re in danger of becoming trendy again.
HARIBO: What can we say? Mutton snacking as lamb. You have delusions of youth and probably go raving to Ibiza once a year despite having teenage kids.
LOLLIPOPS: You’re a thirtysomething Lolita and, quite frankly, it’s a bit creepy.
LIQUORICE: It’s fat free and tastes vile but it looks chic so I’m guessing you’re some kind of skinny fashionista.