Archive for the 'Food and Drink' Category

Virgin Cola

Fair play to Richard Branson, he gets most things right. The madcap entrepreneur owns the world famous Virgin brand and runs successful airlines, train networks, music festivals and even now his own Formula One racing team. But Virgin Cola was a mistake.

Branson decided to take on the American giants of Coca Cola and Pepsi by releasing his own drink in 1994. It came in curvy bottles called “the Pammy” to continue with Virgin’s jovial image, but just like Miss Anderson’s bra size throughout the decade Virgin Cola went tits up.

It did achieve initial success with Branson gaining a 50% market share in Britain when it was first launched and looked to be a serious threat to the established American brands. He even managed to get Monica, Chandler and co to drink it in “Friends” as he aimed to take the battle of the beverages Stateside.

Never one to do low-key launches, the silver-haired billionaire rode into Times Square in New York on a tank, declaring war with the red and blue brands. In similar fashion to his attempts to circumnavigate the globe in a hot-air balloon in the 90s, sales of Virgin Cola crashed and quickly disappeared across the pond.

It then began to fizzle out over here as people realised that it just wasn’t as nice as Coca Cola. I didn’t particularly mind it but it was a poor man’s Coke, after all why would you date Alexandra Burke if you could get with Rihanna?

And slowly but surely it began to disappear. The only major supermarket to keep selling it was Asda, and it was even stopped being sold on Virgin Trains as no-one would buy it. Apparently it is still forced upon people on board Virgin flights, but that’s only because there’s no-where else to buy a drink 20,000 feet in the air.

And yes you did read that correctly, Branson hasn’t put a lid on Virgin Cola just yet. Even though I haven’t spotted a silver shaped bottle in the shops for years on end it is still available from most bad newsagents, and there have been quiet attempts to re-introduce it to America too.

Many Virgin brands have taken a while to take off (a bit like his planes) but gradually become successful, but surely nearly 20 years of trying to break the drinks market is enough? If Branson is too stubborn to scrap his attempts it could leave him, just like those who drank it, with a bad taste in the mouth.

Secret bar

I am a massive fan of chocolate, and everytime I head to Tesco and push my trolley past the confectionary stand I have to grab a Snickers, Whole Nut or a KitKat Chunky. Unfortunately I cannot enjoy the delights of the best chocolate of all time.

Nestle Secret bars were absolutely gorgeous, and one of my earliest chocolate memories is munching on one whilst walking past Gateway (even before Somerfield!) with my mum.

If you don’t remember it, it was a nest-like chocolate structure with a mousse filling like a Walnut Whip, and it came in a gold wrapper which also had cardboard in it to protect the fragile bar. I was addicted to them and pestered my mum to buy me one regularly.

They were only around for a few years before Nestle pulled them in 1996 as they cost too much to make and strangely didn’t sell well enough. Whether or not they were advertised properly I don’t know but it seems strange seeing as they were so damn tasty.

Since a petition to bring back Wispas led to Cadbury’s re-launching it a couple of years ago, a number of similar ones have been made for the Secret bar. If like me you have a 14 year craving for one, head here and add your name to the masses already on there.

It’s no secret that a lot of people want them back in their lives and surely it would be in Nestle’s best interests to listen to the nation? It’s got to be more popular than Caramac, which I see all the time clogging up the shelves but never have the urge to buy as it tastes like crap.

Hopefully they do listen and bring it back sooner rather than later. Back in the day it probably cost like 25p whereas now you struggle to find a Mars Bar for under 50p, but I would gladly pay much more to chomp on my favourite treat of all time once again.

Sunny Delight

Now I know you can still get Sunny Delight in the shops today, but to me it’s not a patch on when it was first launched in 1996 in the UK.

It was packed full of sugar and although it looked like orange juice and hinted that it was a healthier alternative to fizzy drinks it was just as bad. But kids everywhere guzzled down Sunny D not caring that it was basically syrup, just that it tasted so good.

Parents thought that the drink was healthy and were chuffed that their kids were gulping it down in large amounts. As I am not a fan of fruit juices I didn’t want to try it at first and stuck with my Coca Cola, but after trying a little bit in our fridge one day I was hooked.

I remember me and my sister finishing off bottles like George Best and demanding more from my mum. But it was not so much because we were hooked on the drink, no we wanted enough tokens to get ourselves a Sunny Delight basketball!

When the ball had been delivered we kept drinking it anyway, after all it was rather refreshing to have a fruity/sugary drink that was also chilled in the fridge after a long day playing outside in the summer holidays with our new toy.

But then there was the report that a girl had actually changed colour after drinking so much of the stuff. The chemicals in it had gotten into her skin and she started glowing yellow. Parents were horrified, especially as at the time their advertising campaign was of a snowman drinking Sunny D and turning yellow himself.

After such a promising start sales slumped and they were forced to relaunch it with a new recipe. By then I’d gone back to Coke and if I wanted a bit more fruitiness in my beverages then I’d go for a Fanta, safe in the knowledge it wasn’t going to make me look like a character from “The Simpsons”.

After spotting it in the supermarket last summer I wondered whether it could still be the same syrupy drink that I had crave all these years, so I shelled out some of my hard earned cash (well, student loan) to find it was now 70% fruit juice. Three sips later it was thrown in the bin knowing I’d never enjoy the original taste again.

The nation on the whole agrees with me and no-one pays too much attention to it any more. Sunny Delight is unloved and has seen better days, just like the deflated basketball in my garden shed at home.

BN and Trios

One week after BN biscuits were launched in the UK in the late 90s, everyone was singing the theme tune – “BN BN do dooo do do do, BN BN do doo doo do”. It was wedged in everyone’s minds and as such sales went through the roof.

It was marketing genius. Whoever decided to change the words to “Mah Na Mah Na” is probably single-handedly the man who allowed BNs to compete in a highly competitive biscuit market at the time. David Brent and co even sang the theme on “The Office” to much hilarity.

The biscuits themselves were damn tasty, and it was refreshing that everytime I opened my plastic Sonic the Hedgehog/Super Mario/Newcastle United plastic lunchbox I was greeted by a biscuit smiling at me.

It didn’t stop me biting his face off and enjoying the gorgeous chocolaty filling sandwiched between the two biscuits, which provided me with plenty of energy to go kick a ball around in the yard five minutes after demolishing my packed lunch.

They weren’t around for long though, as Clubs, Montanas, Triples and Jammy Dodgers regained their market share, and BNs were taken off British shelves for good, only to be sold on the continent. Screw booze cruising, I’m tempted to rock up in Calais and buy myself heaps of the happiest biscuits ever!

Before BNs my favourite snack would be a Trio bar – think of a Club but with the added bonus of toffee in the middle. No disrespect to Clubs, after all I do like a lot of chocolate on my biscuit, but if given the option of toffee as well who’s going to turn that down?

But just like so many of the chocolate bars I liked, including Nestle’s Secret bar (which is probably the greatest chocolate bar ever) Trios were discontinued apparently only six years ago but I haven’t sampled the three-flavoured sensation for at least a decade, unlike this guy who decided to do something about it…

So I say if you like me want more variety in the biscuit section of your favourite supermarket, head to this site to bring back BNs and here to get some more Trios in your life. Forget the general election, this is where your vote counts in 2010.

Opal Fruits and Fizzy Chewits

Opal FruitsIf you are under the age of 15 then you may have never heard of Opal Fruits but you would have almost definitely sampled the incredible fruitiness of them. Yes, Opal Fruits are now Starburst since changing its name back in 1998 because that’s what they’re called in America.

However except the name nothing else changed and they still taste just as good as they did back in the day, but for some reason I’m not as big a fan of the fruity sweets. It was like when Coco Pops changed to Choco Crispies around the same time and sales actually fell, and after a telephone poll Kelloggs reverted the name back.

Something just didn’t seem right about buying Starburst, and even before I understood the concept of globalisation aged 10 it seemed to me that things were becoming too American. The name itself was mysterious, and I still don’t know why they were called Opal. Indeed I went many years calling them Opral Fruits blissfully unaware that Opal is some sort of gel that forms into a stone…

So I still rarely buy Starburst, one for the name and also because the sweets are still individually wrapped which is just a pain, especially if they’ve melted slightly and you end up eating the paper because it’s still stuck to the sweets.

And just a quick mention for Fizzy Chewits. Wow these sweets were amazing! Me and my sisters used to love them, in fact I can still remember getting some for Christmas (no we weren’t deprived, that’s just how much we loved them) and I ate all mine before breakfast. Cue a hyperactive child twice as excited on Christmas Day.

For those who don’t remember them, they were just like regular Chewits but were lemonade and cola flavoured, and fizzy like cola bottles but in a Chewit form. They also came in sparkly packaging which obviously attracted me in the first place, and with a picture of a creepy looking dinosaur on the front they were the perfect sweets.

P.S. On a similar line, I recently found a packet of Chewits from 1999 in an old Shoot magazine in my house, and during a pre-lash with my mates we decided to try the ancient sweets which were well past their sell-by date. At first they had seemed to last the test of time, but later in the night we discovered that maybe not all was well… a lesson to you all!


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Hi I'm Jonny, creator of this blog. Like most people in my generation, I feel that the 90s were indeed an epic decade and this is my tribute to all the things that made it great!