My sweet hoard
We’ve been buying Polos for 70 years but sweets date back much further, their origins in myth and medicine
Polo Mints are celebrating 70 years in production. Launched by Rowntree’s in 1948, “the mint with the hole” is an old dog in no need of new tricks. Polos are scoffed today in astronomical numbers. Figures from 2004 show that 38 million Polos are produced every day, 140 consumed per second and around 100 million sucked a week. Apparently, this is what it takes to keep our breath fresh.
Tim Richardson, author of Sweets: A History of Temptation and the world’s first confectionary historian, shares Britain’s adoration for Polos. “I love Polos,” he enthuses. “I love taking them out of the packet, using your finger. You can feel the hole and Polo embossing with your tongue. You can suck them down to a delicate ring until it finally breaks or you can smash it up.” It is a process familiar to all.
Polo Mints’ 70th birthday is actually belated. First manufactured at Rowntree’s York factory in 1948, Polos were developed in 1939 – the idea having been borrowed from across the Pond long before that. The company manufactured Lifesavers, an American mint named for its lifebelt-like shape, for US troops stationed in Britain during the First World War. When the war ended the licence was withdrawn, so Rowntree’s developed its own. The result was an
Top: The Oldest Sweet Shop in England, and, indeed, the world, opened in 1827 Above: the Polo has been with us for 70 years; 100 million are consumed weekly