ollowing the crash of 1929, optimism was in short supply, and the 1930s were strained by increasing political tension as unemployment rose from 1.5 million in January 1930 to three million by January 1933.
The sense of unease was hardly improved by Edward VIII’s abdication in 1936 as he waltzed off with American divorcée Wallis Simpson. Small wonder packaging of the late 1930s tended towards nostalgic designs. And it was in this era that chocolate arguably became the nation’s favourite pick-me-up.
Dairy Milk and Fry’s Five Boys had been around for years, but the 1930s created the countline as we know it. New names included the Mars bar (1932), Terry’s Chocolate Orange (1932), Black Magic (1933), the Kit Kat (launched as Chocolate Crisp in 1935 before a change of name in 1937), Milky Way (1935), Aero (1935), Maltesers (1936), Quality Street (1936), Milky Bar (1937), Rolo (1937), Smarties (1937) and Roses (1938).
Innovative brands were also transforming other areas of grocery. Birds Eye (1938) brought frozen food from the US, joining a market pioneered in the UK by canning company Smedley’s - but the untimely interruption of World War II ensured the concept failed to take off in any meaningful sense until the 1950s.
Another game-changer was Nescafé instant coffee (1939), developed in Switzerland to counter a surplus of coffee in Brazil and included in US forces’ wartime ration kits.
In 1932, protective trade tariffs of 10% on imports were introduced - good news for British manufacturers, but not for those of foodstuffs and raw materials, which were exempt. Dairy farmers, however, were given their own protection the following year, when the Milk Marketing Board was established. Acting as a buyer of last resort, it gave milk producers the assurance of a guaranteed minimum price for the first time.
When war broke out in 1939, it did at least put an end to the unemployment issue. Evacuation of children from UK cities began in August, and paintings from the National Gallery were moved to a safer place: Bangor. On 1 September, the army was officially mobilised - ahead of war being declared on 3 September. The prospects for the country, and its brands, was bleak.
History of Brands
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History of brands: the 1930s