The 80s dawned with a new ruthless "survival of the fittest" mentality and so retro boiled sweets continued to be marginalised while jellies, foams and chewies grew in popularity and sprouted new exotic variations. The 70s had seen the traditional boiled sweet lose its dominance in the sweetie world as manufacturers met growing demand for different sweetie tastes and textures.

"Sweet" was no longer enough, we now wanted fizzy too. Fizzy cola bottles were invented in 1981 and they were no flash in the pan as they are still with us today, up there with the "great and good" and regularly feature in the top 10. McCowans introduced the Wham chew bar with the fizzy middle in the early 80s. Skittles, although introduced in 1974, gained popularity in the 80s. However. a growing array of fizzy and chewy was not enough either. The greed of the 80s was in full control and in 1986 we saw the invention of beer flavoured sweets - Pint Pots. Desperate measures you might say, but they too are still with us, not the fastest moving sweet but with a strong cult following, smelling just like Saturday lunchtime down the boozer.

It wasn’t just our new home grown sweets that challenged the traditional ones but imports were on the increase too. Chupa Chups came in from Spain and Nerds, invented in 1983 under the Willy Wonka brand, would shortly be here too. However the biggest challenge to traditional sweets was chocolate. Chocolate in all shapes and sizes was everywhere and new bars were being introduced all the time. The Whisper bar was a big hit in the 80’s and played its part in taking sales away from traditional sweets.

80s sweetie barsSurvival of the fittest was in for the duration of the 80s while Margaret Thatcher ruled the roost and one of the many casualties were the sweet shops. They were squeezed out of the main High Streets to the peripheries by the super markets where they became a feature of seaside towns to be enjoyed on holidays. "Down but not out" and surviving in the places that represent fun and freedom. Unknown at the time, the remaining holiday locations foretold the current sweet shop revival because at the end of the day us British like fun and even the most aggressive marketing and price cutting will not get the better of our desire for a little of what we fancy. The demise of the sweet shop was only temporary, for a time when the politics of the day told us that greed and wealth was what we wanted never mind the cost. We had Harry Enfield parodying the period by drooling the catch phrase "Loads of money!" every week on our valve powered TVs.

Literature put a positive spin on the demise of the sweet shop in Roald Dahl’s The Giraffe the Pelly and Me. An abandoned sweet shop (The Grubber) is transformed into the best sweet emporium in town by a boy and his animal friends, selling confectionery from the Willy Wonka company.

The 80’s was a time of opportunity when we were given permission and the confidence to go for what we wanted. Success and acquisition was valued and, with the breakdown of some social barriers, was made  more available to all of us as long as you had what it took. Thus was born the Yuppie and Gordon Gekko. However, social change to a child growing up in the 80’s was a side show, what really mattered was if you could do the Rubik’s cube, seeing Blondie singing on Top Of The Pops, your next outfit for My Little Pony or the BMX bike you wanted for Christmas and of course sweets.

I make the claim that you can tell someone’s age by the sweets they buy. Observation tells me that people continue to buy the sweets that they were buying at the age of 10 with their pocket money and first bit of independence.

Memories hang dormant in our minds, waiting to be triggered into activity by prompts of any kind. May these sweets rattle your memory archives and take you back to the 80’s.

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1980s Jar
The 80s dawned with a new ruthless "survival of the fittest" mentality and so retro boiled sweets..