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1953: Sweet rationing ends in Britain

VIDEO : Children celebrate the end of sweet rationing (mute)

Children all over Britain have been emptying out their piggy-banks and heading straight for the nearest sweet-shop as the first unrationed sweets went on sale today.

Toffee apples were the biggest sellers, with sticks of nougat and liquorice strips also disappearing fast.

One firm in Clapham Common gave 800 children 150lbs of lollipops during their midday break from school; and a London factory opened its doors to hand out free sweets to all comers.

Adults joined in the sugar frenzy, with men in the City queuing up in their lunch breaks to buy boiled sweets and to enjoy the luxury of being able to buy 2lb boxes of chocolates to take home for the weekend.

Stocks 'sufficient'

The government and manufacturers have been quick to reassure the public that there would be no repeat of the first attempt to de-ration sweets, in April 1949, when demand far outstripped supply and they were put back on ration after just four months.

This time, the Minister of Food, Major Gwilym Lloyd-George, has told the House of Commons that he has no doubt that stocks are sufficient. He has ordered a one-off allocation of extra sugar to manufacturers to help them meet the anticipated surge in demand.

Sugar still rationed

Sugar itself, though, still remains rationed, and manufacturers say the Ministry of Food should have freed sugar supplies as well as those of sweets and chocolate.

As it is, they will have to make enough sweets to meet the demand of a de-rationed market, but with only 54% of the sugar supplies they had before the war.

However, overall the industry gave a warm welcome to the news. "We are very glad about it," said a spokesman for the Cocoa, Chocolate and Confectionery Alliance. "We will do all we can to make it work."

So far, despite the heavy sales, there have been no signs of panic buying, even though there are already shortages of the most popular brands.

One reason may be that the price of confectionery has nearly doubled during the war, and many have not been taking up their full 6oz ration.

Sweet coupons, though, will be with us for some time yet: it takes so long to print all 50m ration books that next year's have been designed already, sweet ration and all.

In Context
Rationing came into force on 8 January 1940, a few months after the start of World War II.

All sorts of essential and non-essential foods were rationed, as well as clothing, furniture and petrol. Rationing of sweets and chocolate began on 26 July 1942.

The process of de-rationing began in 1948, but made slow progress until 1953. Then Food Minister Gwilym Lloyd-George made it a priority for his department.

As well as sweets, he took eggs, cream, butter, cheese, margarine and cooking fats off the ration books.

He de-rationed sugar in September 1953, partly as a result of pressure from sweet manufacturers, and finally ended rationing when meat was taken off the ration books in July1954.

The de-rationing of sweets had a dramatic effect on the confectionery market. Spending on sweets and chocolate jumped by about 100m in the first year to 250m - a year which, according to the confectionery industry, was "as dynamic as any in the industry's history".

Consumers in the UK now spend in excess of 5.5bn on confectionery each year.


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