Sweets are a big thing when you’re a kid. Sometimes they are the biggest thing in your day or even your life! Oh, halcyon days. Because of this, there are some sweets that I really do look back on with very fond memories. I’m not sure how UK-centric these are. I’m sure a lot of them were made in the US or other countries and were perhaps called different names. There certainly are some classics below though.
Some of the photos below might be from the more recent re-releases of these sweets. It can be hard to source photos of the originals from back in the 80s.10. Pez Pez, in the form we know it, has been around since the 50s. A classic sweet. And such a genius idea in terms of the pez dispenser, because to be honest the actual sweet isn’t amazing. It’s ok but it’s not amazing. But it was the excitement of getting a dispenser that made it cool, and then loading it up like you were loading up a semi-automatic handgun. The main dispensers I remember back in the day were Disney ones like Mickey and Goofy etc and also Star Wars ones. What other ones can you remember?
9. Hubba Bubba I went through a bit of a bubblegum phase at one point as a kid. Hubba Bubba would possibly be looked down on by hardcore bubblegummers, but for me it was the perfect entry point. I used to put about four in my mouth at once in order to give me enough material to play with and form into a bubble. I was never really any good at blowing bubbles but at least Hubba Bubba tasted great. Lots of fantastic flavours including strawberry and apple.
8. Melody Pops whistling lollies Remember these? These were lollipops in the shape of a whistle which actually worked when you blew into it. That in itself was a pretty good novelty factor. But what made it really desirable was that it was so hard to get. For some reason I could only ever find it in chemists. Not sure why, but it did make the trips to get medicine more enjoyable. Maybe it was all a cunning ruse by pharmaceutical companies and the lollies were actually made out of medicine. I feel used! But hey, it was worth it. They were very cool lollies.
7. Fizz Wiz / Space Dust popping candy There’s something about popping candy that is so exciting. You really shouldn’t be having stuff exploding inside your mouth (ooer!). But it was so cool as a kid. And you could do cool things with it like add it to your cereal or your ice cream. I remember once putting so much into my mouth at one time that I honestly thought my ears were going to burst because the popping was so loud. You have to wonder how the person who invented things like this came up with the idea, and who tried it for the first time?
6. Sherbert Fountain You had me at Sherbert. Anything with sherbet in it is a winner in my book. This was an ingenious idea of having a strip of liquorice inside a tube which you could use as a tool to get the sherbert out. The trick was to lick the whole liquorice stick so that more sherbert was stuck to it when you pulled it out. Unfortunately I didn’t really like liquorice so I tended to just bin the liquorice and tip the whole tube of sherbert into my mouth. Happy days.
5. Double Dip This one was pretty exciting back in the day. It felt like a little swiss army knife of sweets. You had one compartment for your candy stick, and two other larger compartments for cherry and orange sherbert powder. You’d use the candy stick to get the sherbert out but if you made the mistake of biting a bit off the candy stick then the task of getting the crystals out would become that bit harder. It always ended with me having to rip the paper bag all the way flat and then lick the crystals off that way, as if I was Zammo from Grange Hill.
4. Dip Dab Dip Dabs were technically simpler than Sherbert Fountains and Double Dips but I’m ranking them higher because they simply tasted better. It was a juicy lolly instead of liquorice or candy sticks, the bag was larger and therefore easier to get the sherbert out, and the sherbert was the best around. Again this all sounds like we’re talking about cocaine, but seriously this stuff was well cut, incredibly fine and really gave you a buzz. This was one of my go-to treats.
3. He-Man jelly Right, we’re onto the big guns now. This was very, very nearly my no.2 spot. He-Man jellies were outstanding. I can still smell them now. There must have been something majorly unhealthy in them because jellies like this nowadays do not smell half as nice as these old He-Man ones. There were several characters you could get. I’m not sure how many but I certainly remember He-Man, Skeletor, Man-at-Arms and Beast Man. I think possibly Stratos and Merman too and I’m getting flashbacks of Evil-Lynn too. They were multicoloured and tasted delicious. A guy in England recently found one which had been unopened for about 30 years. If that was me I would just have to open it to smell it. I probably wouldn’t try eating it. Probably. But I would simply have to have one last smell. Awesome, awesome sweet.
2. Nerds Nerds are still around in several shapes or forms. There are other ones like Dweebs etc too. But I still remember when the original Nerds came out. They were like nothing else. So many genius aspects to them. They were so delicious and sweet. That kind of sherbert mixed with candy flavour. Really sour and tangy sometimes too. I think Grape or Watermelon were my favourite. Great flavours. The marketing and design was fantastic too. I’m not sure if it came out before the computer game Lemmings or around the same time but it always reminded me of that. Or like the Doozers from Fraggle Rock. There was just something about cute little creatures like that which was cool back then. It gave the whole thing some personality. Then there was the fantastic packaging. It felt like you had a toy in your hand. It was such a cool little box. You could slide the compartment open, have some Nerds and then close it up again for later. It was unlike any other sweet. And of course absolutely genius how they had two flavours in one box, so you could experiment and mix up the flavours in your mouth. Unbelievable.
1. Dinasour Eggs We’re now entering the hallowed, mythical world of sweets. This thing really is almost a legend now. Not many people remember it. I think it was only around for a few years. It was the Dinasour Egg (from Willy Wonka I believe). Not many people even realised it was called Dinasour and not Dinosaur. But it was. Because it was sour. Very clever. This thing was un.be.lievable. It was an egg shaped candy sweet, a bit like a gobstopper in the sense that it slowly wore down layer by layer as you sucked on it over time. The colours and the flavours would change every time you sucked away a layer. And then when you reached the end, and it was small enough, you could bite into it and release the sherbert centre. It could last you for days if you were careful with your sucking. You could just pop it back in its cool little box when you had to go into the classroom. The challenge in the playground was always to see how early you could bite into it and break it. One kid in my class tried to do that right out of the box and I think he broke a tooth. Fool. I used to make it last for as long as I could to try to maximise the enjoyment, but that temptation of the sherbert being millimetres away from your mouth was always there. Boy, if that doesn’t teach a young child willpower I don’t know what does. I still remember the newsagent shop round the corner from my school where we used to buy it from. I don’t think I ever got it from anywhere else. And then all of a sudden they stopped selling it! My life quite simply hasn’t been the same ever since. It’s got a kind of mythical place in my head now and not many people I know remember the Dinasour Egg. But trust me, it existed. And it was awesome.
Some of the items above are still being made, although in some cases they don’t quite taste the same as they did back in the day. But some others, in particular the He-Man jellies and Dinasour Eggs I know will never be experienced again. And that makes me a little bit sad. And it’s not like you can dig these up on eBay in the same way you can with a He-Man figure. These sweets are gone forever, to live on only in my gustatory and olfactory memory.
Kinder Surprise – These were so close to being in my Top Ten as they were a huge part of my childhood in the mid 80s. I guess the main reason they’re not is that they have been continuously around since the 80s that they don’t really feel retro any more. They’re still huge and always have been. They really were so exciting as a kid though. Even when the toy wasn’t very good you were still happy that you got some nice chocolate!
Choc Dips – Loved these. Breadsticks which you dipped into a chocolate spread. A real treat back in the 80s and still being made today.
Refresher – These were a mainstay back in the day. The Matlow ones I’m talking about. Not the Barratt ones (although they were great too!) You can still get them now. I had a bit of a love hate relationship with them though I guess. I’m a big fan of sherbert but not a big fan of chewy sweets. So it was always a bit of a mission to get to the good stuff inside.
Wham Bar – Similar to the Refresher bars in that I liked the popping candy bits in this but I found the rest a bit too chewy. They still held some cool sort of aura about them though.
Juicy Fruit – Juicy Fruit was cool. There was something about it that just felt really cool. Like you were an adult, or at least an older kid. Maybe just the silver wrapping around each stick or something made you feel like it was a cigarette pack (which was of course ‘cool’ back then).
Cigarette candies – Speaking of smoking, I can’t believe these were marketed like this back in the day. Nowadays I think they are called candy sticks or something and are pure white, but back in the 80s they were actually branded as cigarette candies and often even had the yellow bit at the end to look like the filter. Crazy. Got to wonder if the big tobacco companies pumped any money into these products. I wouldn’t be surprised.
Chewits – These were great. Very fruity, very chewy, but also very refreshing. I loved the adverts with Godzilla. Great marketing all round.
Opal Fruits – These lost something when they became Starburst. Maybe it was just the awesome jingle from the advert, but these were always a big rival to Chewits and there were some days when I would just have to go for the Opal Fruits. So refreshing.
Cola cubes – A classic from the sweet shops where you would buy bags of sweets by the pound
Cola bottles – Another classic that you can still of course get in cinemas and sweet shops
Fizzy Cola bottles – My favourite iteration of the cola bottle. So sour they made your face screw up!
Flumps – Awesome marshmallow shapes. Perfect name for them too.
Curly Wurly – Another staple part of the 80s diet.
I’m getting hungry now after writing all that. Might pop out for a quick Dip Dab. Can you think of any other sweets that you enjoyed back in the day? I’m also interested in hearing if any of the above were available in the US?