We’ve already looked at the life of George Bassett, a man who died before his most famous product, Liquorice Allsorts, was created.
Bassett’s Liquorice Allsorts came about by accident in 1899, when Charlie Thompson, a salesman for Bassett’s visited a wholesaler with a sample of liquorice and cream paste specialities – chips, rocks, buttons, nuggets, plugs and twists.
Each item was offered to the wholesaler and in turn was refused. The salesman clumsily gathered his samples boxes together, knocking them over and spilling the colourful sweets on the floor.
The wholesaler saw more attraction in the ‘mixed’ sweets and placed an order. The salesman named them Liquorice Allsorts.
Made of liquorice, sugar, coconut, aniseed jelly, fruit flavourings, and gelatine, allsorts are now produced by many companies around the world, but are most popular in Britain and continental Europe (especially the Netherlands where they are called Engelse drop, meaning English liquorice). They are also common in Scandinavia, where they are called Engelsk onfekt or Lakridskonfekt.
In 1929, the George Bassett company created Bertie Bassett, a mascot for Liquorice Allsorts, designed to appeal to young and old, and he’s been going strong for 90 years.
In the 1950s, visitors to the factory at Owlerton were confronted on the main staircase by the friendly figure of Bertie Bassett, serving as a reminder that “the important and unchanging things in life are the human things, and as a challenge to any who would subjugate those human things to the changing dictates of expediency.”
Such waffle plays a secondary role now.
Indeed, Bertie Bassett is under threat, reeling from the double blow of declining sales and the war on sugar.
Last month, it was reported that sales of Liquorice Allsorts had shrunk by nearly 8 per cent to £23.5million in the past year, the only type of confectionery to see a downturn in demand.
And new rules that sweets contain less than 50 per cent sugar could spell the end of Bertie Bassett.
According to The Grocer: “That’s bad news for liquorice allsorts, which are made almost entirely of sugar.”