I’ve long been uncertain of how the name of this bar should be written. Is it two separate words as in Curly Wurly, one word but with an oddly-placed capital like CurlyWulry, or is it simply a single name like Curlywurly? While I still don’t know for sure, I do know I love this chocolate bar.
Cadbury introduced CurlyWurly in the United Kingdom in 1970. It was a long flat braid of chocolate-covered caramel, and it was a hit. Similar bars would soon appear from other confectioners – my childhood favorite Marathon bar among them. So it was that childhood recollection of Marathon that first led me to the CurlyWurly as an adult.
The best news about CurlyWurly is that it is still produced and sold in the UK, Europe, and Australia. If you’re in the US, and have ever gone hunting for a way to recapture your Marathon bar memories, you have inevitably been directed to the import of CurlyWurly bars. If you’ve done so, you’ve likely been pleased you did. They’re delicious.
All Those Wonderful Wrappers
The first CurlyWurly wrapper I encountered was the one that came on the import bars I ordered back in 2007 or 2008. It was also the first CurlyWurly wrapper in my collection:
A year later I’d find my first vintage CurlyWurly wrapper. It came to me when I acquired a vintage packaging collection dubbed “The Munktiki Collection”. It was a good one and I believe it dates back to the first years of the brand:
With that wrapper in hand, I had the humble beginnings of my vintage CurlyWurly collection in place.
One of the coolest tie-ins done during the early years of CurlyWurly has to be the CreepyWurly Ghost Mobile mail-away. I would eventually find both the wrapper and the awesome mobile itself:
As I’ve gotten to know British confectionery items of the 70’s, it’s clear they fed the kids’ love of monsters.
Another cool CurlyWurly piece in my collection is this five-pack outer wrapper that featured a mail-away for dinosaur cards. I don’t know if the individual wrappers featured dinos on them as well – they might have and if they did, one day I hope to find one.
Not long after I started collecting CurlyWurlys, I learned of British actor Terry Scott who in the 1970’s was the brand’s mascot/spokesman. His zany television commercials made quite the impression on English youths. [I highly recommend seeking the commercials out on YouTube and the like. They might seem a bit dated and odd at first - especially for non-UK viewers, but they've grown on me. I find them quite delightful when I see them now.]
When I’d first seen this ad, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be neat to find that wrapper?”
Terry’s character did more than just commercials, he was also featured on the CurlyWurly wrappers themselves:
For the Flip N’ Fly wrapper, I also received a set of that actual Flip n’ Fly mail-away premiums.
Terry didn’t appear on every wrapper during this period, but even if he wasn’t on a wrapper for a promo, he often found his way onto related advertising.
The Leo Burnett company helped launch and subsequently market the CurlyWurly with Cadbury, and beyond marketing to kids, they also targeted the parents that were buying. Here’s an ad designed to do just that:
Cadbury stretched the concept of CurlyWurly when they released this orange-flavored variety in 1997:
Along my collecting way, I’ve discovered that CurlyWurlys produced in other countries often feature fun and different designs. The contemporary Australian CurlyWurly has its own unique wrapper:
Cadbury-Australia also released a short-lived banana-flavor CurlyWurly sometime in the late 1990’s – though I don’t have a wrapper for that one.
Germany’s own contemporary wrapper for CurlyWurly still sports the brand’s original logo style:
Display boxes for the 2009 German CurlyWurly featured a pair of animal mascots that do not appear on the wrappers themselves:
Using the same design as the UK at the time, this was New Zealand’s wrapper for their early 1990’s CurlyWurly launch:
As a collector, I’ve enjoyed the variety of designs that CurlyWurlys have provided from their various international incarnations. While on a trip to Paris just last fall, I convinced my girlfriend to take detour through a Monoprix store to look for candy and found this wonderful new French edition:
Circling back to CurlyWurly UK, there have been several major revisions and evolutions of the wrappers as well as countless on-pack promotions which I expect I’ll be finding for many years. For a time in the UK there were also CurlyWurly Squirlies, small squiggles of caramel-covered-chocolate – but I’ve yet to find one of those packages.
Most unexpected in this collector’s journey are a variety of wrappers that have proved to be incredibly elusive – the CurlyWurlys produced for the United States market.
For a period in the 1970’s, CurlyWurly bars were actually packaged and sold by Cadbury’s US division. I’ve never found an actual wrapper – but I do have this small image of one:
Until recently, I’d assumed that was the only CurlyWurly style sold in the States, but just two months ago, I found this ad from a 1973 Chicago newspaper. Based on the timing, one can speculate that Cadbury rushed CurlyWurlys into US markets to deal with the release of Mars’ Marathon bar (a similar bar which also launched in the US in 1973):
Though I don’t recall ever seeing these US CurlyWurlys in my youth, both are on the top of my long want-list. Someday I hope to track these down and add them to my collection. For now, I’ll have to keep looking.
That brings us to my CurlyWurly timeline. I’ve included my own UK wrappers which range from the earliest sold, up to the current designs. Unfortunately, where UK wrappers are concerned I am missing large gaps, mainly from the early 80’s through the mid 90’s.
I’ve also included the various international wrappers I own, or have images of.
Closing out today’s coverage of CurlyWurly are these fun stills from the UK’s acclaimed series “Life on Mars” (I’m a huge fan). Seen here, the character Gene Hunt enjoys a CurlyWurly while using it to stir his tea.
The CurlyWurly wrapper seen in these shots is vintage (the chocolate is not). During a 2009 interview, Phillip Glennister (Gene Hunt) was quoted:
“We’ve still got the wrapper, it’s possibly the most important prop in Life on Mars, and it’s found its way onto the set of the Ashes..as well.”