Having a whole chocolate bar to myself when I was younger was always an enjoyable indulgence but if you got the chance to have a Curly Wurly then it felt like that much more of a treat; to a child they were HUGE! In fact the makers, Cadbury’s, refer to their bar as a ‘chewy caramel ladder, draped in delicious milk chocolate.’
(Although, as with all chocolate bars nowadays they seem to be a lot smaller than they used to be…)
The Curly Wurly was invented almost by accident. A research confectioner at Cadbury’s Bourneville factory, David Parfitt, was examining some left over toffee that had been used for another sweet when he inadvertently invented the unique shape that is now iconic in the British chocolate range.
It was never the greatest tasting confectionary snack you could buy (in my book that award obviously went to the Crunchie – yum) as the chocolate layer was far too thin and the taste of the caramel didn’t set your palate alight but the fun was definitely in the eating of it. As you bit into it the caramel elongated into long, thin, gooey strands and the chocolate cracked off into little pieces in your mouth.
First sold in 1970 its looks haven’t changed in the forty plus years since but the recipe has, just slightly. Cadbury’s changed the texture of the caramel inside the curly treat so it was softer, meaning that the chocolate on the outside stuck more firmly to it.
Now Cadbury’s, I can’t speak for everybody else but while I still enjoy eating Curly Wurlys (to be fair, however, you could coat wood with milk chocolate and I’d have a fair go at eating it), the treat for me, as a little girl was catching all the bits of choccy that fell off, before getting my teeth firmly stuck into the sticky, incredibly chewy caramel. You could stretch that stuff for miles. Kept me quiet for ages, a Curly Wurly did. I didn’t see the need for that change.
Anyway, there are – or have been - versions of the Curly Wurly throughout the world: in the 1970s Canada had the ‘Wig Wag’, the United States had their own ‘Marathon’ (not the same as the UK peanutty one) through that decade and into the 1980s, as well as the original Curly Wurly that Cadbury’s took there in the 1970s. France and Germany had ‘3 Mousquetaires’ and ‘3 Musketiers’ respectively (how those names are relevant to the bar I’m not sure). Germany also had the more pleasingly named ‘Leckerschmecker’, while Sweden was recently in receipt of the ‘Loop’.
A UK advertising campaign from the 1970s had brand representative Terry Scott (Terry and June, the Carry On films) dressed up as a school boy to sell Curly Wurlys – with the bar at that time costing all of three pence! Terry’s kid character also appeared on the wrappers themselves as a cartoon, often offering exciting gifts such as a Curly Wurly t-shirt or a ‘Flip ‘n’ Fly’ toy.
A 1973 wrapper promised a ‘Creepywurly Ghost mobile’ if you sent off six Curlywurly wrappers; another had a ‘pre-historic monster’ card offer attached. In 1975 Cadbury’s were obviously looking to reel in the screaming teenage girl market by enticing them with 6 free ‘exclusively autographed’ Bay City Roller cards ‘plus rosette and scarf offer.’
And every youngster’s badge collection would be sure to have included one of the garish Curly Wurly badges with phrases such as ‘Hands off my Curly Wurly’ or ‘I’m mad about Curly Wurly’ on them.
I have to say I don’t remember the 1997 ‘Cool Orange’ version of the sweet – the caramel inside was laced with the citrusy taste and I’m actually quite glad that I never got the chance to sample the fleeting banana flavoured atrocity that Australia dallied with in the late 1990s.
If taking on the whole bar is too much for you then you can always settle for a packet of Curly Wurly Squirlies: tiny segments of the chewy ladder in a packet. There’s not the satisfaction of tearing the caramel into long stretchy, pieces of course but if you are eating them in public then you won’t suffer the embarrassment of gluing your teeth together with caramel.