The 1940’s were a time of austerity with the Second World War and Rationing. The sweets that were available were in short supply and flavours and textures were limited to those available here in the UK. There was very little chocolate and coconut but more in the way of flavoured sugar and liquorice. Woolworths tried to buck this trend by importing fudge from the Irish Republic, which being neutral during the war and with a surplus of full cream milk was able to provide some sweetie supplies. Not all sweets were rationed. If it was considered to be medicinal, as in the case of Koff Candy (renamed Cough Candy), your sweetie supply was technically more reliable. The 40’s sweets still form many of the dependable and traditional standbys, with Pontefract Cakes, Jelly Beans and Pear Drops routinely hitting the top 10 despite huge competition from modern tastes and textures.
Many sweetie manufacturers that we know and love today were around in the 40’s, and in some cases a lot earlier. Bassetts were first established in 1842, Greys go as far back as 1826 and Dunhill’s to 1760. Cadbury’s can be traced back to 1824 when John Cadbury started selling tea, coffee and drinking chocolate. By the same token many sweets we are familiar with today go way back. Pontefract Cakes, as we know them, were invented in the early 17th century. Sherbet Fountains were first made in 1925 and Rowntree’s Fruit Gums first hit our taste buds in 1893. Some experts say that Jelly Beans have been around since Roman times and even get a mention in the Bible! True or not, they have a long and distinguished provenance, particularly in America where they were sent to the Union army during the American Civil War in 1861.
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.
On 26th July 1942 sweets were rationed to 2oz (57g) per week. This changed later that year to 12oz per month until 1946 when it was halved down to 6oz per month. Sweet rationing continued until February 1953.
In July 1942 the Personal Points system was introduced and it applied to sugar-based confectionery. Children did not get a larger share as sweets were not considered as essential, but parents could, of course, share their ration if they wished. The personal points first appeared in a separate booklet but were incorporated into the next food ration book. Personal points also meant that vending machines could no longer contain sweets or chocolate.
All points coupons had to be cut out of the ration book even though the main coupons were now only crossed out; this was so the shop could be allocated fresh supplies based on the number of coupons they collected.