Candy Facts and History: Jelly Babies and Liquorice Allsorts

Liquorice or licorice allsorts
Liquorice or licorice allsorts | Source

English Candies or Sweets

Jelly babies and liquorice allsorts are popular British candies or sweets. Liquorice allsorts in particular have become a widespread treat enjoyed by people in many countries. Jelly babies are soft, gelatinous candies that are produced in a mold that resembes a baby. Liquorice or licorice allsorts are firmer, brightly coloured candies with a wide variety of appearances, accounting for the "allsorts" name.

The exact ingredients of the candies depends on their manufacturer and the country in which they're sold. In general, jelly babies are made from gelatin, sugar, citric acid, water, flavours and colours. Jelly babies have a softer surface and a much softer centre than the typical gummy candies made in North America. They were created by the Bassett's confectionary company in Sheffield, England, but are now made by other companies in addition to Bassett's.

Liquorice allsorts are usually made from a base mixture of gelatin, sugars, starches and flour and have added colour. Like jelly babies, the candies were first made by the Bassett's company, but other companies around the world now produce liquorice allsorts. Despite their name and the fact that most of the candies have black as well as coloured sections, some brands don't contain liquorice. They may contain anise (or aniseed), though, which is a natural substance with a flavour that resembles liquorice.

Bassett's Liquorice Allsorts bought in Canada
Bassett's Liquorice Allsorts bought in Canada | Source

Jelly Babies

The Bassett's confectionary company was formed in 1842 by George Bassett in Sheffield, England. In 1918 the company created the forerunner to jelly babies, which they called peace babies to mark the end of World War One. In 1953 the product was relaunched as jelly babies. Bassett's was taken over by the Trebor company in 1992 and is now part of the Cadbury Schweppes company, but their jelly babies and liquorice allsorts still bear the Bassett's name.

Bassett's jelly babies are soft and squishy. They don't have the rubbery texture of gummy candies and can be easily torn into pieces. Jelly babies don't require much chewing, so it's easy to eat too many of them!

The stores near my home don't sell jelly babies, but one does sell organic fruiti bears, which have a similar texture. The photo of fruiti bears below shows the paler colour of candies with natural colours compared to those with artificial colours. I've cut some of the candies open to show the soft, moist interior.

Organic Fruiti Bears
Organic Fruiti Bears | Source

Jelly Baby Trivia

The fourth version of Doctor Who (played by Tom Baker) was a particular fan of jelly babies and often offered someone one during a tense situation.

Jelly Babies and Doctor Who

Artificial Colour Concerns

In 2007, artificial colours and flavours were eliminated from Bassett's jelly babies due to concerns about their safety. Artificial colours may increase hyperactivity in children, although this is a very controversial claim. Some scientists and members of the public believe that artificial colours do affect children's behavior, while other scientists say that there is no link. The flavours in the new version of jelly babies are produced by fruit juices.

Each colour of Basset's jelly babies has its own flavour, colour and name, as shown in the following table. This results in a rather strange situation in which someone is eating a candy which has a seemingly personal identity!

Bassett's Jelly Baby Colours, Flavours and Names

Big Heart
Baby Bonny

A Screaming Jelly Baby and Elephant Toothpaste

Screaming Jelly Babies Chemistry Experiment

Jelly babies are used in a popular chemistry experiment often called (somewhat macabrely) the "screaming babies" experiment. When a jelly baby is added to a strong oxidizer, a rapid and strong chemical reaction occurs. The reaction produces light and a "screaming" sound. An oxidizer is a chemical that causes a reaction by taking electrons away from another substance. In this case the oxidizer is reacting with the sugars in the jelly babies.

Please note that this reaction is not safe to do at home. It's potentially dangerous and can be a violent reaction - which is why it's so interesting to watch when professional chemists perform it!

An Exploding Jelly Baby

More Jelly Baby Trivia

George Harrison of the Beatles reportedly said in an interview that he liked jelly babies. As a result, fans often pelted the group with jelly babies during their public appearances, which the musicians understandably disliked.

Creation and Description of Liquorice Allsorts

Liquorice allsorts were created in 1899 as the result of an accident (or so the story says). Charlie Thompson was a salesman at the Bassett's company. He tripped while he was carrying a tray of separate liquorice and paste candies to show a potential customer. The candies became jumbled up, creating odd combinations. The customer was impressed and placed an order for the mixed-up candies - the first liquorice allsorts.

Most liquorice allsorts assortments contain the following types of candies.

  • a sandwich made of two layers of pink, orange, brown or white candy with a black, liquorice-flavored layer in the middle
  • a double-decker sandwich made of white and black layers
  • a short cylinder of pink or yellow, coconut-flavored candy that surrounds a central black, liquorice-flavored cylinder
  • a long, black, liquorice-flavored cylinder surrounding a cylinder of white candy
  • a long, black, solid cylinder of liquorice-flavored candy
  • flat, circular pink or blue candies covered with little balls and surrounding a gelatinous, anise-flavored interior.

Liquorice allsorts (unknown brand)
Liquorice allsorts (unknown brand) | Source

Coconut and Liquorice

My favourite variety of liquorice allsorts, which always seems to be the least abundant in the bag, is the coconut one. Other members of my family have the same preference. The person who gets a coconut candy (without looking at their candy selection before they get it) is considered to be the lucky winner in the candy lottery. My second favourite is the brown and black sandwich because the brown layers have a mild cocoa taste.

It's important that buyers check to see if their brand of liquorice allsorts actually contains liquorice. Liquorice has some health benefits (although probably not when it's mixed with sugar and the other ingredients in liquorice allsorts), but it also has a potential danger. It contains a substance called glycyrrhizin, which may raise blood pressure.

Liquorice Allsorts Trivia

A villain called the Kandy Man appeared in some of the 1988 episodes of Doctor Who. The Kandy Man was a life-size figure who looked as though he had been made from candies joined together. The candies looked very much like liquorice allsorts.

Bertie Bassett

Bertie Bassett is the mascot of Bassett's liquorice allsorts. Reportedly, he owes his existence to a copywriter named Frank Regan. Frank created the first Bertie out of liquorice allsorts joined by pipe cleaners. Today, a bag of U.K. liquorice allsorts always contains a single piece of soft candy shaped like Bertie Bassett. He is said to taste like anise.

Bertie has been the company's mascot since 1929 and has become a popular figure. In 2009, Bertie married Betty (another mascot with a body made of liquorice allsorts) as a publicity stunt for Bassett's.

A Liquorice Allsorts Ad From the 1990s - Turning Bertie

Where to Buy Jelly Babies and Liquorice Allsorts

I buy both liquorice allsorts and jelly babies (or the equivalent to jelly babies) occasionally. I've enjoyed them since childhood. While they certainly aren't health foods, they are very nice for an occasional treat. Bassett's liquorice allsorts (and other brands) are always available in my local stores. For genuine Bassett's jelly babies I have to travel further to get to a store that imports British candies and other foods. The journey requires a fifty minute drive, but it's definitely worth it! Both candies can be bought online at various websites.

© 2013 Linda Crampton

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Comments 34 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

I have never heard of Jelly Babies....sheez, I must live in like a cave or something. LOL Thanks for the education.

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Bill. Liquorice allsorts are much more common outside of the UK than jelly babies, so don't feel bad that you've never heard of jelly babies before! Thanks for the visit.

theraggededge profile image

theraggededge 3 years ago from Wales

Ah... sweeties from my childhood! Love jelly babies, not so keen on Allsorts - there are some I like and some I can't stand. Was surprised to learn that there is flour in them, never would have guessed, but yes, now I realise that the paste part is not pure sugar.

Awesomely interesting!

kashmir56 profile image

kashmir56 3 years ago from Massachusetts

Hi Alicia, I heard of Jelly babies before and also Liquorice allsorts, I've had liquorice allsorts before but not jelly babies. Tom Baker was my favorite Doctor Who . Thanks for this interesting facts on jelly babies and liquorice allsorts. Well done !

Vote up and more !!!

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, theraggededge. Thank you very much for the comment! My preference is the other way round - I prefer liquorice allsorts to jelly babies, although I like them both.

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Tom! Tom Baker was my favorite Doctor Who in the old series. In the new series my favorite is David Tennant. Thank you for the comment and the votes!

drbj profile image

drbj 3 years ago from south Florida

Although licorice flavor is not one of my favorites, Alicia, I did enjoy learning about liquorice allsorts and jelly babies. The latter seem to be similar to gummy bears which are firmer and very popular with children in the U.S. Thanks for this imported candy education.

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks for the visit, drbj! Jelly babies are made out of gelatin, like gummy bears, but as you say gummy bears have a much firmer consistency. Jelly babies are a soft candy.

peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 3 years ago from Home Sweet Home

I love gummies and so does my child. They are chewy and great for exercising the jaws. Never heard of jelly babies. Another knowledge to add into my memory bank. Thanks

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, peachpurple. It's nice to meet you! I know that gummies are very popular, but I prefer the softer texture of jelly babies. I like their taste, too. Thanks for the comment.

truthfornow profile image

truthfornow 3 years ago from New Orleans, LA

I love to eat liquorice allsorts. I have to see if i can find some jelly babies now.

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

I enjoy eating liquorice allsorts, too, truthfornow! Thanks for the visit.

Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 3 years ago from San Francisco

Thank you for this. P.S. send all unwanted black liquorice to me. :))

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Martin. It's great to hear from someone who loves liquorice! Thanks for the comment.

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

Even though hate Liquorice it didn't stop me from enjoying this one Alicia and I vote up.across and share all around. Have A wonderful day my friend.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you so much, Eddy. I appreciate the votes and the share. I hope you have a wonderful day too!

SINewsome profile image

SINewsome 3 years ago from New York

These candies remind me so much of my childhood! Nice hub.

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you, SINewsome. The candies remind me of my childhood, too!

aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Definitely a winner! I remember the allsorts for the Christmas holidays when I was a kid, but the Jelly Babies, that sounds great, too. Now, here's the deal with me and candy...if I have it, I eat it. I have a voracious sweet tooth. I loved the history of the candies, too.

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Deb. I have to be careful that I buy candy only occasionally, because like you if I have it in my home I find it hard to resist it! Thanks for comment - I appreciate it.

BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 3 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

We used to have allsorts here in the US decades ago - and of course I ate them. But I haven't seen them since. Ah, but my US cousin has citizenship also in the UK and I visit him in England. He was so thrilled to find the allsorts that he uses them for decoration when he sets a table; very pretty and very colorful.

As a lover of candy - thanks a million for a fun hub - yay!

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks for the visit and the comment, BkCreative. Liquorice allsorts do look nice as a cake decoration. I like your cousin's idea of decorating the table with them, too!

lemonkerdz profile image

lemonkerdz 3 years ago from TRUJILLO, PERU

I used to live in sheffield very close to the bassett factory and used to get a mix of sweets from the staff shop, i never knew that the belly babies were peace babies, especially when people bite the heads off first. thanks

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

It must have been very tempting to buy sweets when you lived so near to the sweet factory, lemonkerdz! Poor jelly babies - they lose their heads and they scream! Thanks for commenting.

lemonkerdz profile image

lemonkerdz 3 years ago from TRUJILLO, PERU

yes just the smell from that factory was enough to get your mouth watering. Lets hope we never lose these iconic sweets no mater what new ones come along.

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

I agree, lemonkerdz. There are several interesting sweets from my childhood that I still enjoy. I hope they continue to be made for a long time.

Greensleeves Hubs profile image

Greensleeves Hubs 3 years ago from Essex, UK

AliciaC, nice fun page about sweets which were common in my childhood and which are still around today. I like the adverts and the videos (especially the little jelly baby in the 'exploding jelly baby video which sneaks away unnoticed). All round an article with lots of interesting facts but ...

Too bad I've always hated jelly babies! I've never much liked liquorice allsorts either (tho' the coconut ones were bearable because they didn't seem to have proportionately so much liquorice in them!) Voted up. Alun.

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Alun. Thanks for the comment and the vote. I enjoyed seeing the jelly baby sneak away, too. I like liquorice myself, although I know that some people share your opinion about it!

epigramman profile image

epigramman 3 years ago

Such is the power of advertising and hub presentation, my esteemed fellow Canadian, I wish I had, at almost 2 in the morning, some delicious Licorice All-sorts right now - lol lol

This is an endlessly fascinating and brilliant work of research and enlightening information - yummy yummy I wish I had some of that love in my tummy - lol lol

Sending to you warm wishes and good energy from Colin and his cats, Tiffy and Gabriel, at lake erie time ontario canada 1:55am and how has your winter been so far? Here, it's been a mix of cold and snow then mild with rain

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 3 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Colin. Spring is coming here. I saw my first crocuses in bloom today, even though there was a chill in the air. Our days seem to alternate between being rainy and sunny. Thank you so much for the kind comment. I'm sure that my cats - Bennie, Nevin and Smudge - would love to send you, Tiffy and Gabriel their best wishes, too! I send my best wishes as well.

DDE profile image

DDE 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

Candy Facts and History - Jelly Babies and Liquorice Allsorts I was browsing through your hubs and came across many which I haven't stopped by before I enjoy eating liquorice

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

I enjoy eating liquorice too, DDE! Thanks for looking at my hubs.

Craig in Portland 20 months ago

jelly babies go back to the second Doctor. Not the fourth. In the 1973 episode "The Three Doctors", the second Doctor offers the Brig some Jelly Babies.

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, Craig. You're a great Doctor Who historian! As you say, the second doctor did like jelly beans. The fourth doctor was a special fan of the treats, though.

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    Linda Crampton (AliciaC)1,242 Followers
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    Linda Crampton is a teacher with an honours degree in biology. She enjoys exploring nutrition as well as the culture and history of food.

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