The History of Confectionery and Sweet Making


Did you know that honey is the earliest known sweet? Cavemen reportedly made candy from honey by drying it and forming a toffee-like concoction to satisfy their sweet tooth. It is believed that Indians were the first to use the sweet juice of sugarcane about 3000 years ago. The Aztecs in Mexico used the cocoa bean to make a bitter drink over 3000 years ago. Its wasn’t for another 1500 years that they sweetened it with sugar.

In about 2000BC the ancient Egyptians made sweets by combining fruits, nuts, dates and spices with honey. The Romans, Greeks and Chinese made sweets with sesame seeds.

Around the same time, Greeks used honey to make candied fruits, and they discovered how to make syrup out of figs and dates. The Romans and Chinese made barley sugar candies with honey that was heated or cooked in an oven.

The spread of sugarcane around the world, over the next few centuries, would have a major impact on sweet making, especially in China where they sweetened all their traditional favourites including ginger, liquorice root and nuts with sugar. Around 1000 A.D Arabs had invented caramel, which was originally used for hair removal for the women in a harem. They also built the first sugar refinery in the world on the island of Crete.

During the Middle Ages, sugar candies became very popular and were categorised and sold as a drug. Sugar was used to mask the bad taste of medicine. Candies were exclusively for the wealthy as sugar was very expensive.

In the Victorian era the candy business underwent a drastic change when, in the 1830’s, technological advances of the industrial revolution and the availability of sugar opened up the market. Sweets became a treat not only for the rich, but the working class also. There was an increasing market for children. Penny candy became the first material good that children spent their own money on and sweet shop owners began to rely on the children’s market for their business.

The candy press was invented in 1847 and this made it possible to produce different shapes and sizes of candy at once. In 1851 the revolving steam pan invention meant that sugar no longer had to be stirred continuously and was less likely to burn.

The candy business continued to evolve and grow into the huge and varied industry it is today.

Below is a timeline showing how confectionary has evolved since pre-historic times.

Caveman era – toffee like concoction from dried honey

2000 BC – sweets made from honey mixed with fruits, nuts, dates and spices.

c1000AD - Arabs invented caramel and built the first sugar refinery.

The Middle Ages People eat preserved fruits, jelly (jam) and wafers

1500’s - The Tudors eat sweet foods called sweetmeats, preserved fruit, gingerbread, sugared almonds and jelly. They also eat marzipan.

1700’s - Liquorice sweets are made. Turkish Delight is first made

Early 1800’s - Modern marshmallows are first made

1875 - Milk chocolate is invented

1880’s - Fudge was first made in the USA

1897 -  Candy floss is invented

1899 -  Liquorice allsorts are invented

1905 -  The first Dairy Milk bar was produced by Cadbury.

1908 - The first lolly pops are sold

1915 -  Milk Tray is introduced

1918 - Jelly babies were launched by Bassett as “Peace Babies” to mark the end of the First World War.

1920 -  Flake is introduced

1922 -  Ice cream is sold in the street for the first time

1923 -  Milky Way is introduced in the USA

1929 -  Crunchie is introduced

1930 -  Snickers and Freddo are introduced

1932 -   Mars bars are first made.

1935 -  Aero and Kit Kat are introduced. Milky Way is introduced in Britain.

1936 -  Maltesers are introduced.

1937 -  Smarties and Rollo are introduced. Milky Bar is introduced.

1938 -  Cadburys Roses are introduced

1951-  Bounty is introduced

1957 -  Munchies are introduced

1958 - Picnic is introduced

1962 -  After Eight Mints are introduced.

1967 -  Twix is introduced

1971 -  Curly Wurly is introduced

1974 -  Skittles are introduced

and the rest, as they say, is history!

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