My favourite list of wartime sweets and the fascinating history of traditional sugar sweets and chocolate during the second world war in UK and USA, including real stories, shortages of sugar and chocolate, government imposed food rationing and sweets invented purposefully for the army.
As you will see the list of wartime sweets is actually quite short. Judging by today’s standards, not having that many sweets was probably a good thing.
But in the times when even the day to day living was difficult and very stressful, it must have been hard to have sugar treats rationed, especially for the children.
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MORE TRADITIONAL SWEETS & CHOCOLATE HISTORY
- Victorian Traditional Sweets History >>
- History of Traditional Sweets in 1920s & 1930s >>
- History of Traditional Sweets in 1940s >>
Sweets & chocolate rationing during the war
Before we get to our list of wartime sweets, lets have a bit of a background. Sweet and chocolate rationing started on 26 July 1942, only finishing 5 February 1953, nearly eight years later after the war ended.
The amount of sugar and, therefore sweets which you were allowed fluctuated during the war, ranging from 16oz (450 grams) a month down to 8oz (227 grams) a month.
Despite the decision to ration the sales of sugar in January 1940, as late as the summer Cadbury’s were still able to advertise that their teatime biscuits were available in ‘all Woolworth stores’.
As raw materials were in short supply, chocolate manufactures were forced to substitute products and improvise ingredients.
For instance, Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bars as withdrawn in 1941 when the government banned manufacturers from using fresh milk. Insted of that, Cadburies started to produce ration chocolate made with powdered milk. There were of course other chocolate bars available, but it was more difficult to manufacture them.
Symingtons Table Cremes (Blancmanges using artificial sweeteners) were rushed to the shelves and sold for sixpence under a ‘just add water’ banner, a forerunner of the instant drinks we have today.
In USA (where sweets and chocolate rationing was in place too), the government also encouraged the production of alternative sweets and candies that could be made with less sugar and other sweeteners. This led to the development of new types of sweets and candies, such as “victory gum” and “war candy,” which were made with alternative sweeteners and had a different taste and texture than traditional sweets and candies.
Another interesting story that really gives you a clear idea how bad sweet rationing was during Second Warld War is something that happened in Docklands Warehouses in London.
During the bombing raids most of the warehouses were destroyed and went up in flames. There was also one warehouse full of sugar which also started to burn. The firebrigade put out the flames with a lot of water and what was left become a sweet smelling toffe!
The workers would chip away parts of the toffee off the road and took it home to their families to eat. The story goes that the supervisor tried to discourage them from taking the toffee saying that it was unhealthy (the toffee was pretty dirty taken off the street and from the colapsed warehouse), but the workers just replied that they washed the toffee when they took it home and it was ‘quite alright’!
When did sweet rationing end?
Although the WWII finished in 1945, the sweet and chocolate rationing in the United Kingdom didn’t finish until February 5, 1953. The only other food item that took longer to de-ration was meat!
Whilst the rationing of sweets was lifted in 1953, it took a few years for sweets to become widely available again. The end of sweet rationing was celebrated by many people in the UK, especially children, who were able to enjoy sweets again without restrictions.
MORE CHOCOLATE & SWEETS HISTORY
Chocolate rationing during the WWII
During World War II, chocolate was one of many items that was subject to rationing in Britain. The rationing of chocolate began in 1942, when the government introduced a points-based rationing system that limited the amount of chocolate that could be purchased.
Each person was allocated a certain number of points per month, and different foods and goods had different point values. Chocolate was given a relatively low point value, which meant that it was not a high priority item and was generally in short supply.
Baked chocolate products also suffered in quality during the war, as UK government introduced so called ‘National Flour,” which was a type of wheat flour that contained both plain and wholemeal flour. This flour, together with war time replacements for cocoa powder was used to bake chocolate cakes and biscuits, which probably tasted very different than cakes and biscuits made with pre-war recipes.
This is why cocoa powder, cocoa solids and cocoa butter were often replaced or mixed with vegetable fat, soy flour, brewing malt or rolled oats. Milk powder and sugar content has also increased because it was cheaper (and more available) than cocoa powder or cocoa solids.
For example in Europe, where there were shortages of chocolate like everywhere else, one German chocolate manufacturer (Mauxion in Saalfel, Germany) started to make milk chocolate substitute called ‘Vitalade’ that didn’t contain any cocoa components at all! It was fairly successful during the war, but once the cocoa-containing chocolate became available again in the mid-1950s, sales of Vitalade dropped significantly. The product was mainly used as a coating in confectioneries.
I also remember my grandmother telling me that she once had a chocolate bar during the war, that contained thin piece of wood coated in chocolate. This was done, so that the chocolate bar had the same size and thickness as the pre-war chocolate bar. My grandmother said that she was very excited to be given the chocolate bar, but when she try to take a piece it wouldn’t break and she had to lick around the wood!
Home cooks also struggled to bake without cocoa powder and chocolate and often replaced cocoa powder with carob power (taste and looks very similar to cocoa powder), beetroot, coffee, cocoa essence flavouring or molasses (thick dark sugar syrup which taste like a liquorice).
It’s worth noting that these cocoa powder substitutes may not have been perfect replacements for cocoa powder or chocolate, and the taste and texture of recipes made with these substitutes would have been very different from the original recipe.
Despite the shortages and rationing, chocolate remained a popular treat during the war, and it was often given as a gift or used to boost morale. In addition to rationed chocolate, soldiers and civilians were sometimes sent chocolate as part of care packages or as a special treat.
Today, ration chocolate from the war is often seen as a nostalgic and collectable item, and it is still possible to find original ration chocolate tins and bars for sale.
Sweets and chocolates specially made for the army during the WWII
There were several sweets and chocolates that were specially made for the army in World War II.
D Ration Chocolate Bar
One of the most well-known examples is the “D ration” chocolate bar, which was developed by the United States Army Quartermaster Corps in 1937. The D ration was a high-energy chocolate bar that was designed to provide soldiers with a quick source of energy and nutrition in the field. The D ration was made with a high percentage of cocoa, which made it resistant to melting in hot temperatures, and it was fortified with vitamins and minerals to provide additional nutrition.
In addition to the D ration, other chocolate and sweet products were also specially made for the army during World War II. For example, the Hershey Company in the United States produced a range of chocolate bars that were specifically designed for the military, including the Tropical Bar, which was made to withstand high temperatures, and the Field Ration D Bar, which was similar to the D ration but also included other food items like biscuits and candy.
M&M’s were also originally invented during World War II for soldiers serving in the military. The candy was developed by Forrest Mars Sr., the son of the founder of the Mars candy company, in partnership with Bruce Murrie, the son of the president of Hershey’s.
The idea for M&M’s came about because soldiers needed a type of candy that could withstand high temperatures without melting. Traditional chocolate bars would often melt in the heat, making them difficult to transport and store.
To solve this problem, Mars and Murrie developed a candy coated in a hard shell that would protect the chocolate inside from melting. The candy was originally called “M&M’s” for “Mars and Murrie’s,” and it came in a small, round shape that was easy to carry and distribute.
M&M’s were an instant hit with soldiers, who appreciated the candy’s durability and portability. After the war, M&M’s became a popular candy among civilians as well, and the candy has remained a favorite ever since.
Ration Bar, Toffee Crisp & Kit Kat (UK)
In the United Kingdom, sweets and chocolates were also specially made for the army during World War II. For example, Rowntree’s produced a range of sweets that were designed to be durable and long-lasting, including the Toffee Crisp and the Kit Kat, which were both popular among soldiers.
The sweets and chocolates that were specially made for the army during World War II were an important part of the war effort, as they provided soldiers with a source of energy and nutrition in difficult conditions.
Sweets and chocolate rations given to soldiers during the WWII
During World War II, soldiers in both Britain and the United States were given a variety of candy and chocolate as part of their rations.
- Soldiers in the British Army were given a ration of 2 ounces of sweets per week during the war. This equals to 55 grams of sweets a week. To give you an idea of the size, this is about 1/2 a regular pack of sweets which are nowadays sold in the supermarkets (they are usually sold as 100 grams packs)
- The types of sweets that were included in the ration varied, but they often included boiled sweets, toffee, and fudge.
- Chocolate was also included in the ration, but it was subject to rationing and was not always available. When chocolate was available, it was often in the form of a 2-ounce chocolate bar (this is about 55 grams, which is about 1/2 of regular chocolate bar you see in the shops today).
- Soldiers in the United States Army were given a ration of D ration bars, which were high-energy chocolate bars that were designed to provide soldiers with a quick source of energy and nutrition in the field.
- In addition to D ration bars, soldiers were also given other types of candy and chocolate, including M&Ms, which were introduced in 1941, and Hershey’s chocolate bars, which were a popular item in soldiers’ rations.
How much did chocolate cost during the war?
In the UK, chocolate bars were subject to rationing during World War II, and the cost of chocolate was fixed by the government. The cost of a 2-ounce chocolate bar was 4d (four pence) in 1940, and this cost remained the same until rationing ended in 1952.
- Hershey’s penny bars of milk chocolate cost from 6.3 cents to 6.7 cents an ounce
- The average price of a pound of chocolate candy in the United States in 1940 was 24.7 cents.
Sweets to celebrate the end of the world war
There were several sweets that were sold to celebrate the end of World War II, but one of the most popular was Victory V, also known as Victory Tablets. Victory V was a type of throat lozenge that was manufactured by the British company, Swizzels Matlow.
The sweets were black in colour and had a strong, medicinal flavour, similar to that of Army and Navy sweets. Victory V was marketed as a “wartime sweet” and was widely distributed to soldiers and civilians during the war.
After the war, Victory V became a symbol of victory and celebration, and the sweets were sold to commemorate the end of the war. The packaging of Victory V featured a stylized “V” for victory, and the sweets were often given as gifts or sold as souvenirs. Victory V remains a popular sweet in the UK today and is still produced by Swizzels Matlow.
What sugar sweets were available during the second world war?
Amongst the popular sweets, you could get in your local sweet shop were lemon sherbets, barley sugar twists, liquorice, pear drops, flavoured boiled sweets and cola cubes and other traditional sweets.
A simple sugary sweets, such as caramels or traditional toffee or bonfire toffee was often made on premises as it was cheap and quick to make.
List of wartime sweets & chocolate bars in UK & USA
Ration Chocolate Bars
These were made with dried skimmed milk powder. It seems it was issued in semi-transparent grease-proof wrappers and was described as about as appetizing as eating cardboard.
The origins of Dolly Mixtures are uncertain, but they are believed to date back to the early 20th century and they were very popular during the WWII. The sweets were originally sold in small paper bags and were often sold loose from jars in traditional sweet shops.
Dolly Mixtures are multi-coloured fondant shapes, such as cubes and cylinders. The mixture consists of small soft sweets and sugar-coated jellies.
Traditional Boiled Sweets
Barley Sugar Twists: often yellow or orange in colour with sometimes an extract of barley added as flavouring. It is similar to hard caramel candy in its texture and taste.
Black Jacks, a type of aniseed flavour chew
Sherbet Dabs – which was dipped into by a dried liquorice root stick and liquorice itself. Liquorice (referred to as Spanish in the West Yorkshire Riding of Yorkshire, where liquorice is traditionally produced in the UK) was available on ration as were other products such as “liquorice allsorts”.
Lemon Sherbets – a yellow boiled, lemon flavour tablet with a surprise of sherbet in the middle
Pear Drops – a combination of half pink and half yellow in a pear-shaped drop.
Army & Navy Sweets
Army and Navy sweets were a type of traditional boiled sweet, or hard candy, that was available in the United Kingdom during World War II.
They were black in colour, lozenge-shaped, and flavoured with liquorice and herbs. Army and Navy sweets were popular among soldiers and civilians during the war, as they were a source of comfort and a reminder of home. The slightly medicinal flavour of Army and Navy sweets was similar to that of cough candy, which was also popular during the war.
During World War II, sweet rationing was in place in the UK, which meant that the amount of sweets that one was allowed to purchase was limited. However, Army and Navy sweets were exempt from rationing, as they were considered to have medicinal properties and were therefore seen as essential for the war effort. This exemption allowed Army and Navy sweets to remain popular throughout the war, despite the restrictions on other types of sweets.
Today, Army and Navy sweets are still available in the UK and are considered to be nostalgic and traditional sweets. They are often sold in traditional sweet shops and are popular among people who remember them from their childhood or who appreciate their unique flavour.
Fry’s Chocolate Cream
Fry’s Chocolate Cream was a popular chocolate bar in Britain during World War II, and it was one of many chocolate products that was affected by rationing and shortages of raw materials. During the war, the production of Fry’s Chocolate Cream was limited due to the shortage of cocoa beans and other ingredients. As a result, the size of the chocolate bar was reduced, and the recipe was altered to use less cocoa and other ingredients. This resulted in a chocolate bar that was smaller and less rich than before the war.
Despite the changes to the recipe and the smaller size of the chocolate bar, Fry’s Chocolate Cream remained a popular treat during the war, and it was often given as a gift or used to boost morale. The chocolate bar was also included in the ration packs that were given to soldiers, along with other food items and supplies.
Quality Street chocolates were first introduced in the United Kingdom in 1936, several years before the start of World War II. During the war, the production of Quality Street chocolates was affected by rationing and shortages of raw materials. As a result, the variety of chocolates in each tin was reduced, and some of the more expensive chocolates were replaced with cheaper alternatives.
The packaging of Quality Street chocolates also changed during the war, with the tins being made from cheaper materials and the designs being simplified to conserve resources. Despite these changes, Quality Street chocolates remained a popular treat during the war, and they were often given as gifts or shared among friends and family
D ration bar
And finally, an America GI might have given his British sweetheart a “D ration bar”, was a blend of chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter, skim milk powder and oat flour, made by Hershey.
It was an essential part of the emergency rations issued to US troops as part of the D day invasion of the beaches of Normandy. It weighed four ounces (112 grams) with 600 calories, was designed to be high in energy for mobile field operations and was manufactured to withstand high temperatures.
Since the D Ration chocolate bar was designed to withstand high temperatures it was so hard that soldiers had to shave bits off with a knife!
Not surprisingly, it was reported that the chocolate didn’t taste very good. The bar was so disliked amounts the soldiers that it earned the nickname “Hitler’s Secret Weapon.” Despite the bad taste, Hershey’s continued to produce and distribute the bars, making more than 3 billion of the D Ration Chocolate Bars by the end of the war to help support the war effort.
The American’s also issued a Hershey’s Tropical Bar designed to withstand the high heat of the Tropics for soldiers fighting in the Far East. But don’t confuse it with a modern day Bounty bar!
The Tropical Bar was smaller than Hershey’s other chocolate bars, weighing just two ounces, and it was packaged in a special wax paper wrapper that helped to protect it from moisture. The bar was also designed to be easy to open, with a pull-tab on the wrapper that soldiers could use to quickly access the chocolate inside.
Despite its lower sugar content, the Tropical Bar was still a popular treat among soldiers, and it was distributed widely throughout the Pacific Theater of Operations. By the end of the war, Hershey’s had produced and distributed more than 380 million Tropical Bars to US troops.
More sweets and chocolate bars popular in the USA during the second world war
- Almond Joy
- Dots Candy
- Fun Dip
- Mike & Ike
- York Peppermint Pattie
- Jolly Ranchers
- Bazooka Bubble Gum
- Candy Cigarettes
Sweets & chocolates not available during WWII
During World War II, many types of sweets and chocolates were either unavailable or in short supply in Britain and USA due to rationing and shortages of ingredients. Whilst there are many chocolate bars and sweets which production has been stopped during the war, here are some examples of sweets and chocolates that were not available or were limited during the WWII
- Imported chocolates – Imported chocolates from countries such as Switzerland and Belgium were not available during the war due to shipping disruptions and trade restrictions.
- Luxury & Liqueur chocolates – Luxury chocolates that contained expensive ingredients such as nuts or liqueurs were not available during the war due to shortages of these ingredients.
- Fudge – sweets made with fresh milk or cream were forbidden by the UK government to be made, so traditional fudge (made with fresh cream and butter) has become difficult to source. Fudge recipes started to be altered to include condensed tin milk and were made without fresh butter which was expensive.
- Marshmallows – Marshmallows were not available during the war due to shortages of gelatin and corn syrup and fresh eggs, which are key ingredients in marshmallows.
- Gumdrops or other gelatin based sweets – Gumdrops were not available during the war due to shortages of gelatin, which is a key ingredient in gumdrops.
- Liquorice based sweets (USA mainly) – Liquorice was in short supply during the war due to shortages of anise, which is a key flavouring ingredient in liquorice.
- Taffy (USA) – Taffy was in short supply during the war due to shortages of sugar and corn syrup, which are key ingredients in taffy.
- Chocolate bars with nuts and dried fruit or other expensive inclusions – Some types of chocolate bars, such as those that contained nuts or other luxury ingredients, were not available during the war due to shortages of these ingredients.
Terry’s Chocolate Orange – example of chocolate production halted during the WWII
One of the very popular sweets these days, especially bought during the Christmas time, is Terry’s Chocolate Orange. This wonderful invention of milk chococolate flavoured with orange and assembled in a shape of an orange with separate pieces that fall appart once you open them was originally introduced to the market in 1932.
At the begining of the WWII the chocolate production was stopped and the factory was taken over by a company that manufactured and repaired airplain propeller blades. Once the war finished the chocolate company got their factory back, but because sugar and confectionery rationing was in place for another 8 years after the end of the war, it was difficult to restart the pre-war production.
This is just one example how WII affected the chocolate production and there were many other smaller chocolate factories that had to close down or let their factories to be used to make more essential goods than chocolate.
German Chocolate bar invented as a bomb
Recently I found this fascinating fact about chocolate during the wartime – a chocolate bar that was invented to explode!
During World War II, German saboteurs developed an explosive chocolate bar that was intended as part of an assassination attempt on Winston Churchill and other high-ranking officials. The bar was designed to look like an ordinary chocolate bar, but it was filled with high explosives and a delayed-action detonator.
The plan was for the German saboteurs to place the chocolate bars in strategic locations where Churchill and other officials were likely to be, such as in their hotel rooms or offices. The saboteurs hoped that the officials would eat the chocolate bars and be killed when the explosives detonated.
However, the plot was foiled when British intelligence learned of the plan and took steps to intercept and neutralize the explosive chocolate bars. The saboteurs were ultimately unsuccessful in their assassination attempt, and the plot became known as the “chocolate bomb” plot.
Today, the explosive chocolate bar is seen as a symbol of the lengths to which both sides in World War II were willing to go in order to gain an advantage. While the plot was ultimately unsuccessful, it remains a reminder of the dangers of wartime espionage and sabotage.
This blog post was originally written on 1 January 2017 and last updated on 3 May 2023