The festive season isn’t complete without a tin of Quality Street, a long-standing UK family favourite – but these national treasures aren’t just for Christmas
Is Quality Street British?
In 1890, John and Violet Mackintosh bought a pastry shop in Halifax, West Yorkshire, and created a new type of sweet by mixing hard toffee and runny caramel. Their sweets led to the creation in 1898 of the world’s first toffee factory, and in 1936, their son Harold launched Quality Street. His aim was to sell a box of chocolates at a reasonable price so working-class families could enjoy what had traditionally only been available to the rich. The first box cost two shillings.
What about now?
The brand is owned by parent company Nestlé, but it is still produced in Halifax, where the factory makes 12m chocolates each day and packs 85 tins per minute.
Is it just me or are the tins getting lighter?
It isn’t just you. The tins hitting supermarket shelves this year weigh 650g, while in 2018, they were 720g. The brand has suffered a few times from the high-street phenomenon of ‘shrinkflation’ – in 2014 tins weighed 780g.
Have the chocs always been packaged the same way?
Purple has been a consistent colour through the years of distinctive packaging, with individually wrapped chocolates in foil and brightly coloured cellophane. In the 1930s, the factory used the first twist wrapping machine to package the sweets. This year, Nestlé invested in seven state-of-the-art machines which are twice as fast as previous processes, wrapping up to 750 chocolates a minute.
Wasn’t there a soldier and lady friend on early tins?
After the economic crash in the 1930s and recognising a growing desire for nostalgia, Mackintosh introduced Miss Sweetly and Major Quality, dressed in Regency costumes, to the tin designs. The duo survived until 2000.
How many sweets do you get?
There are around 68 sweets in each 650g tin in 12 different flavours. Supply Management carried out some vital research and found the most common were Orange Creams and Strawberry Creams with eight each. The Green Triangle, Coconut Eclair and Toffee Finger featured the least at four each. But Nestlé also offers QS specials with only purple ones, or strawberry, or the new caramel chocolate brownie ones. And there are even pop-up stalls to choose your own favourites.
Which is the best flavour?
That’s a hotly contested answer, and changes as different flavours join and leave the tins over the years. But a survey by CDA Kitchen Appliances found The Purple One – milk chocolate and caramel with a hazelnut in the centre – is the UK’s favourite, closely followed by the praline-filled Green Triangle.
Quality Street isn’t the only thing the Mackintoshs are famous for. Socialite and Made in Chelsea TV star Millie Mackintosh is the great-great-granddaughter of John Mackintosh, a man who even in the 1890s recognised the power of publicity, calling himself “the Toffee King”, taking out ads in the Daily Mail and handing out promotional leaflets to workers just as they finished shifts with pay in hand.