These budget-priced sweets could have been designed to inflict maximum damage on young teeth. They have the consistency of vulcanized rubber and demand an inordinate amount of chewing, leaving every crevice and cavity compacted with sugary tarry substance primed to corrode tooth enamel and dissolve dentine. And thus a legend was born – the hapless Limey victims of socialistic medicine, their cakeholes disfigured by ravaged, rotting teeth and cack-handed dentistry. What a contrast with transatlantic orifices where a sublime radiance of dental health illuminates serried ranks of armour-plated turbo teeth and weapons grade incisors, all perfectly formed and equal to the task of reducing mountains of donuts, waffles and pancakes to a viscid emulsion.
Rowntree’s Fruit Gums have been in production since 1893 - one of the few Nestlé products to retain Rowntree branding. The height of their popularity seems to coincide with the post-war era of sweet rationing and they were intensively advertised in magazines of the period to children and adults alike. In a decade when prose frequently dominated images these bright and clear messages with their flat colours and simple imagery were certain to stand out. Unsurprisingly, dental devastation went unremarked, in favour of invocations of a sunnier world of fresh fruit and outdoor pleasures. In the monochrome Age of Austerity this was a very shrewd strategy.