Created by a company with a long-standing history in the confectionery industry, Rowntree's Jelly Tots are a favourite among people of all ages, not just children! Let's uncover some golden nuggets about the delightful history of these tiny, sugar-coated jelly sweets.
Rowntree's journey began not with Jelly Tots, but with cocoa. In 1862, Henry Isaac Rowntree purchased the cocoa works in York, England, intending to expand and improve product lines. Little did he know that this decision would pave the way for the creation of beloved confectionery items like Jelly Tots.
Jelly Tots wrapper from the 1970s
It was 1965 when Rowntree's introduced Jelly Tots to the world. The sweets were an initiative to use up the broken and rejected pieces from their Jelly Slabs. Although they are dome-shaped today, any child of the 1960s, 70s or 80s will remember them as being disc-shaped. The "tots" of jelly were sugar-coated, and although the packaging was clearly aimed at younger children, the sweets were enjoyed by people of all ages!
What really stands out about Jelly Tots is their creation story. Dr. Brian Boffey, a young scientist working at H.I. Rowntree & Co., discovered the method to create Jelly Tots while conducting a failed experiment aimed at creating powdered jelly. Instead, he discovered a method of creating tiny droplets of jelly that didn't need refrigeration.
Rowntree's brought various product variations to the market over the years, including the sister products Candy Tots and Tiger Tots. These were particularly popular in the 1970s, but both are no longer made.
In 1973, Rowntree's launched a TV advert (see above) which featured a group of smartly-dressed chilldren playing musical instruments in a white bandstand. They also sang a catchy "Jelly Tots" song, which young viewers could sing along to, and this made the advert very successful.
Jelly Tots come in a variety of five fruity flavours and vibrant colours. The assortment includes strawberry (red), lemon (yellow), lime (green), blackcurrant (purple), and orange (orange). Each tot is approximately 1cm in diameter, and the packaging is as vibrant and delightful as the sweets themselves.
They are currently made with with 25% fruit juice and contain no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. However, this hasn't always been the case.
While Jelly Tots originated in the UK, their popularity spread worldwide. Today, you can find these sugar-coated delights on the shelves of shops across numerous countries. In South Africa, Jelly Tots are so popular that their packaging and flavour assortment are specific to the region.
In 1988, Swiss confectionery giant Nestlé bought Rowntree's. While many feared that the brand would disappear under Nestlé, this move marked significant growth for Jelly Tots. Under Nestlé, Jelly Tots continued to thrive and remain a beloved jelly sweet around the world.
Giant Jelly Tots were launched in the 1990s, but failed to capture the public's imagination and were soon withdrawn.
In January 2023, Rowntree's launched their new Tropical Tots range, which includes the exotic fruit flavours of passion fruit, peach, pineapple, grapefruit and mango. They are vegan friendly and are avialable in different sized pouches.
Each year, during the weeks leading up to Christmas, fans of Jelly Tots eagerly await the reapperance of the giant tubes, which are made available especially for the festive season. Each tube weighs 130g and contains the same sized Tots that are available in the bags, but with many more of them to devour!
In line with the growing consumer preferences towards animal-free products, Rowntree's switched to a vegan recipe in 2007. The natural ingredients of Jelly Tots make them a popular choice for those desiring a sweet treat without any animal-derived ingredients.
The brand remains a popular choice in the jelly sweets sector. Their small size, fruit flavours, and vegetarian recipe make them suitable for children's and adults' palates. As the product evolves, Jelly Tots promise to remain a household favourite for many years to come.
In conclusion, the delightful history of Rowntree's Jelly Tots is one filled with innovation, adaptation, and enduring popularity. A sweet born out of a failed experiment, Jelly Tots mirror the essence of any successful product - an ability to evolve and meet the changing demands of the consumer, while retaining their unique charm. Here's to many more years of enjoying these delightful tots of jelly!
Share pouch from 2023
Jelly Tots bag from 2010