There are many chewy sweets of note from my childhood: Mojos, Fruit Salads, Pacers etc. but Chewits always stand out in my memory because of their really fruity flavours. And they’ve been a firm favourite of children (and adults) for the entirety of their existence as well for, as one of their former slogans went: "No fruit chew chews chewier"!
They’ve been around for a long time. Invented as ‘Chewzits’ by J Arthur Holland in 1963, they were first manufactured in a Southport factory and sold nationally from 1965 via Swedish confectionary giants Cloetta, with just one original flavour: orange. This quickly rose to four flavours: orange, strawberry, banana and blackcurrant. Their popularity began to rise over the coming years, leading to a large international presence and an expansion of the flavours (and extremely groovy packaging in the psychedelic 70s). In 2000 they launched their Sour range, with Apple and Tutti Frutti making eyes roll and cheeks implode because of that weirdly uncomfortable but not painful feeling you get with certain sharp tastes.
Lots of prominent brands have a distinctive mascot to advertise with and Chewits are no exception. Chewie the Chewitsaurus is a friendly, big-eyed, green dinosaur who was first used in 2009 and appears extensively on both the packaging, website and in the Chewit’s marketing campaigns. And talking of marketing, before Chewie came another large, scaly creature…
There have been many Chewit’s television adverts over the years but perhaps the most memorable were the first. Featuring what was possibly an early incarnation of Chewie (although not quite so loveable) ‘the Muncher’ appeared in New York City in 1976; huge, eating buildings and terrifying the nearby citizens (‘Run for your life – the Muncher is coming!’, ‘He’s eating everything in his path!’). Looking out of a nearby window a scientist in a white coat predicts the ‘end of civilisation as we know it….’ The hero of the hour, a suited man tosses a packet of Chewits in his hand and replies ‘Not quite Professor. It’s a long shot but it might just work.’ He gets up and purposefully strides from the room, leaving a glamorous lady scientist to utter mournfully ‘Come back Chuck…come back!’ The man drives a handily enormous packet of Chewits to the creature on the back of a flatbed lorry, which proves to be a lot more palatable than the concrete and steel it was previously tucking in to. So much so that he pronounces the building he was chewing on to be ‘yuck’. The strapline for that advert was ‘Chewits: Even chewier than a 15 storey block of flats.’
A second advert saw the Muncher being taken around the world to take bites out of famous buildings such as the Taj Mahal and the Empire State Building but none apparently compared to the taste of Chewits. Another campaign saw a parody of the war-time ‘Dig for Victory’ propaganda – can you guess what the strapline was changed to? Yep, that’s it – ‘Chew for Victory’!
(‘Chew for Victory 2’ had the Muncher stomping about in London trying to sneakily get hold of Chewits by eating the Piccadilly Circus Eros statue and then disguising himself as it.) Chewie’s presence in later years gave a more modern feel to the adverts: one showed an animated Chewie bopping along to the strains of ‘I Like to Chew It, Chew It’ (instead of ‘I like to move it, move it’ of course).
In 2006 the Southport sweetie factory was closed and the production of Chewits moved to Slovakia. Three years later the brand was updated and the packet and logo were redesigned, along with the introduction of new flavours and pack formats.
Limited editions are produced from time to time (Rhubarb & Custard, Blue Mint etc.) and the range currently features the four initial flavours, plus Fruit Salad, Ice Cream (my personal favourite and it would seem much of the nation’s too – a Facebook campaign brought the flavour back from extinction in 2009), Cola and the expanded Sour range: Xtreme Apple, Xtreme Tutti Frutti and Xtreme Pineapple. There are also now also other variations: Jelly Whips are long fruity strips (a bit like penny sweet favourite Strawberry Laces) and there are tie-ins with British fizzy drink Vimto, with chews, Sweet & Sours and Tongue Ticklers. Chewmix is a bag of random flavoured Chewits and Cloetta also produce seasonal ranges: Halloween sees the introduction of Vampire Fangs and Freak Face chews and there’s the inevitable Christmas selection pack of eight different variety stick packs. For a while there was also Chewits Chewie Gum (chewing gum, obviously) but this is no longer available.
And if your Chewit obsession isn’t sated with all those products, you can now even bath in the stuff. Well, nearly; Cloetta have branched out into shower gels and hand soaps in three flavours, Strawberry, Fruit Salad and Orange and Chewie features on his own branded sponge too. And as if you need more motivation to give into a sugar craving you can also buy a Chewit-smelling car air freshener. Personally, I would have thought that having this in my vehicle would hinder me somewhat; if all I could smell while driving was the nostalgic aroma of a favourite childhood sweet, isn’t it likely that I would continually be veering off course to the nearest corner shop to stock up on the fruity chews?!