Avoiding festive faux pas for confectionery treats

As one of the most popular times of year to exchange confectionery as gifts, the Christmas period has seen plenty of innovation down the generations.

But as industry expert Andy Baxendale reveals, the big day can be ruined if you give the wrong sweets as presents or for guests at a festive gathering.

In a bid to address the issue, the Confectionery Production board member, who is known as The Sweet Consultant, has drawn up a top ten of the most disliked sweets people receive as seasonal presents.

He said people liked to feel spoiled on Christmas Day and certain sweets, no matter how popular they are during the rest of the year, just don’t fulfil that need when they are enjoying the festivities.

According to Baxendale, people’s failure to consume sweets because they are disappointed in them as a gift means they miss out on serotonin, which is released when consuming sugar and which is called the happy chemical because it contributes to wellbeing and happiness.

As he noted, eating chocolate also releases endorphins – the neurotransmitters that transmit signals between neurons – which can reduce stress, lead to feelings of euphoria. Phenylethylamine is also said to create excitement and alertness, and rises in pulse rate that are similar to those felt when in love.

Andy, from Wigan, said: “Getting people the wrong sweets as presents or even for people to share on Christmas Day can literally put people in a bad mood, not only because they are cheesed off with a naff present but because their brains are missing out on chemicals which can help them enjoy themselves.”

Top Ten Most Disliked Christmas Sweets – with Andy’s comments:

Mints – probably one of the oldest flavours in UK confectionery, from the medicinal days, however nobody wants to suck on a mint on Christmas Day, unless it’s to take away bad breath or if you don’t have time to clean your teeth. Hardly a treat.
Floral Gums – a very traditional UK sweet with a long history – unfortunately the taste you get is a very acquired one and the majority of people don’t like them.
Wine Gums – The son of a London sweetshop owner, Charles Gordon Maynard wanted to create a sweet that could be savoured like a fine wine. The “wine gum” plan nearly backfired because his father, Charles Riley Maynard was a strict Methodist teetotaller who threatened to expel him from the business for introducing wine to his products. If you are old enough to drink most people want the real thing at Christmas.
Sugar Free barley sugars – The polyols which replace the sugar in sugar-free sweets unfortunately do not digest when eaten and cause unwanted laxative side effects. And these sweets just don’t feel like Christmas.
Cheap supermarket chocolate – some of the cocoa butter is replaced with cheaper alternatives giving them a waxy taste and texture.
Olde English Spangles – the worst sweet ever from the 70’s – tasted like they had been at the bottom of the dirty laundry basket. Aniseed, treacle, mint humbug, pear drop and liquorice flavours that just didn’t work when combined in a packet.
Palma Violets – Parma Violets were created in 1946 by the Derbyshire company Swizzels Matlow. They are sweets that are hard, biconcave discs, based on similar aniseed confectionery traditionally consumed in India after a spicy meal – perfumey and powdery and taste like a medicine.
Salty Liquorice (salmiak) – originally a Nordic cure for coughs that became a popular confection – but a very acquired taste and, although becoming more popular in the UK, still very niche and on-trend rather than tasty.
Chomp bar – A great snack for 20p for most of the year but only a cheapskate would put one of these in your stocking. People want to feel spoiled and indulged at Christmas so spend more if you want them to be grateful.
Love Hearts – Great for the “ahhh” factor but are then consigned to a drawer or a handbag in favour of chocolates and other more seasonal treats.

Andy has 24 years’ experience in the confectionery business and a Master of Science (MSc) in Advanced Food Manufacture.

The former product development manager for Chewits is a respected national consultant in every aspect of confectionery production, and will be among the speakers for our World Confectionery Conference being staged in Brussels next September.


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