Customers in a fizz over sweet-shop favourite

Author: By Jerome Taylor

Then Smarties swapped its tubular packaging for the modern but
preposterous-sounding “hexatube”.

Now the makers of Sherbet Fountain are dispensing with the sweet’s iconic
paper packaging.

Tangerine Confectionery, the Blackpool-based manufacturers of Sherbet
Fountain, are abandoning the cardboard tubes that have housed the fizzy
concoction and liquorice straw in favour of resealable plastic tubes, which
they believe will be more hygienic.

The change means that children will no longer have fond memories of wrestling
with soggy paper packaging as they try to work out how to suck the sherbet
through the ever-useless straw. Many fans and nostalgics say they are
mourning yet another rebranding of an iconic sweet.

In a letter sent to suppliers, seen by The Independent, Tangerine explained
they had decided to redesign the packaging because “consumers wanted a
more hygienic pack that can also be resealed”. They start shipping the
sweet in its new packaging next month. The manufacturers have slightly
tweaked the ingredients, replacing any artificial colours and flavourings
with natural ones, as well as making the famous dipping sweet halal.

Michael Parker, who runs AQuarterOf.co.uk, an online shop that stockpiles and
specialises in sweets of yesteryear, says he has been inundated by emails
from customers who don’t want to see the packaging changed.

“The response has been phenomenal,” the Blackburn-based entrepreneur
said. “I’m sure Tangerine have good reasons for changing the packaging
but people are passionate about their sweets and they tend not to react too
positively when packaging is changed. Perhaps it’s because we like
rediscovering our childhoods through sweets, but people cling to nostalgia
when it comes to sweets.”

Mr Parker questioned whether hygiene really was a concern. “No one has
dropped down dead from eating Sherbet Fountains out of paper containers for
the past 70 years so you’ve got to question whether it was really necessary
to swap to plastic.”

The packaging change is a gamble for Tangerine, which bought Sherbet Fountain
from Cadbury last year for £58m. The company makes sweets including
Refreshers and Butterkist Popcorn but Sherbet Fountain, which was launched
in 1925, is one of their core products. Historically, consumers have reacted
negatively when manufacturers modernise the packaging of a confectionery
item, although sales usually pick up again.

One customer of AQuarterOf.co.uk, who replied to a poll as to whether they
approved of the redesign, said: “Leave my favourite sweets alone! The
best bit of sherbet fountains is their very 1970s-ness (I’m sure that’s a
real word) and the slightly stale liquorice. Not to mention the paper and
cardboard tube. Why can’t things just stay the same?” Only 1 per cent
of respondents approved of swapping the cardboard tubes for plastic ones.

Stephen Joseph, Tangerine’s chairman, said he hoped customers would realise
that the new design closely mirrored the old. “I know it sounds a bit
anaemic to say that we changed the packaging for hygiene reasons but it did
need to be done. The new design keeps the sherbet much fresher and means the
liquorice stick no longer pokes out of the top. I hope people won’t mind too
much and we have tried to redesign the new package to looks as much like the
old one as possible.”

Meanwhile, Mr Parker is busily trying to stockpile as many boxes of the
old-fashioned Sherbet Fountains as he can manage to find.

Bittersweet: Rebranded icons

Golden Syrup

Tate and Lyle’s famous green and gold Golden Syrup tin has morphed into a
plastic bottle. It may be more practical, but it lacks the nostalgia factor
of a tin that was surely one of the building blocks of the British Empire.

Kit Kat

Faced with flagging sales and stiff competition from Cadbury’s, Nestlé ditched
Kit Kat’s famous thin foil packaging in 2001 for a sturdier plastic wrap.
Three years later it got rid of the equally famous “Have a break …
have a Kit Kat” slogan.

Smarties

Another Nestlé rebranding. In 2005 the company announced that Smarties would
be housed in a “hexatube” ? the kind of marketing double-speak
that sends nostalgics into fits of apoplectic rage. The old circular tube
and plastic cap, which made a pleasing pop when squeezed, was no more.

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