Today is unofficially my 100th article for CollectingCandy.com, so I wanted to make it a big one. [Note: This is actually post 105, but several of those were directing readers to other things, so this would be my 100th real candy article, give or take a post.]
Though I only launched this site back in February, it’s been a whirlwind few months, and as much as I thought I knew about candy, I continue to learn more and more as the weeks and months go on. It’s been great sharing this little corner of consumer and pop culture with everyone these last hundred posts, and I hope that the next several hundred are going to be even more fun.
Today’s piece is a bit of a beast. I spent the last three days scanning and digging through my files to bring it together, and when I sat down to start writing yesterday, I had over sixty different photos and scans to present. I trimmed it down as much as I felt I could, and I hope you enjoy what I came up with.
The Rolo was first sold in the UK by Mackintosh’s in 1937. Checking my calendar, that means that this simple little chocolate covered caramel treat is celebrating its 75th birthday this year. A perfect time to have a big Rolo Roundup, don’t you think?
Before 1937, Mackintosh’s were apparently best known for their toffee treats, and the Rolo was simply a chocolate covered version of one of their classic toffee rolls.
The earliest Rolo wrapper I’ve ever tracked down is one from 15 years after their introduction, a wrapper from 1952. It’s simple and elegant, sporting the design that would continue to be used without much alteration for the following three decades. This early Rolo wrapper is a beautiful example with an almost Art Deco Mackintosh’s logo. It’s a confectionery classic:
Though that 1952 Rolo wrapper is a UK variety, you might be surprised to learn that I found it in a scrapbook from Parker, South Dakota and assembled throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s.
I’ve often stated here that finding old candy wrappers is not easy, so you have to sort of get lucky to find the odd place where they were tucked away. This scrapbook is a great example of that. Shortly after World War II, a girl in Parker signed up for a European pen pal. In addition to photos and letters, she and her pen pal from England would spend a number of years exchanging sweets with each other. Fortunately for me, that girl in South Dakota kept a record of what she received by saving the wrappers in a scrapbook. Eventually the scrapbook would end up on eBay and in my collection.
Another wrapper from that scrapbook that I want to share today is this early Mackintosh wrapper, likely for the brand that predated Rolo:
So the Rolo was a British creation, but it wasn’t long before it made its way across the Atlantic to the United States. At first, it appears to have been sold directly by Mackintosh’s, but soon it was produced and distributed (under license) by the New England Confectionery Company – of Necco Wafers and Sky Bar fame. Here are two early American Rolo wrappers. These date somewhere from the late 50’s to the early 60’s:
It’s interesting to note that the New England Confectionery Company must have brought production stateside fairly rapidly, as I believe those two early American Rolo wrappers aren’t separated by too many years. That Necco licensed version is also notable as we see the inclusion of an illustrated Rolo candy, a design element that would be carried on for American Rolo packaging, and persists to this day.
Right around this same time, the Mars company must have taken notice of Rolo’s success and introduced their own take on the treat. They called their version of the chocolate-covered caramel, Marsettes (and what a beautiful wrapper they designed for them!):
Necco was still producing Rolos here in the United States up to the very early 1970’s, though they would eventually lose the license to the Hershey Company (who still produce all of the Rolos for the United States today). Here’s an example of what was probably the last style of Rolo wrapper to come out of the New England Confectionery Company:
I have not been able to suss out the details of how Hershey ended up becoming the US licensee for Rolo, but while Necco had been producing the product locally for over a decade, initial Hershey Rolos were produced in the United Kingdom and imported. Here’s the earliest Hershey Rolo wrapper I’ve been able to turn up:
That early Hershey Rolo wrapper indicates that the contents were “Made in England”. That again makes me curious how this all went down?
If you’re wondering why Hershey simply didn’t acquire Necco’s Rolo-producing machinery; well, Necco had other plans. They may have lost the license to sell Rolos, but apparently they felt they could still sell the confection they’d been making all those years. They just changed the name, as you can see here:
By 1978, Hershey was also producing its Rolos stateside, as indicated on this 20-cent wrapper:
That 20-cent wrapper would change to a 25-cent version, and eventually lose the printed-on price altogether.
With Hershey’s marketing power behind it, Rolo’s reach in the marketplace expanded in the late 70’s and into the 80’s. The way the product was merchandised was also expanded. Here’s a larger multi-bag that would have contained individually foil-wrapped Rolo candy pieces:
From here, my roundup of Rolo could get a little sketchy if I’m trying to go chronologically, as I’ve got UK Rolos, American Rolos, Canadian Rolos, and even a cool German Rolo flavor variant.
In order to keep this somewhat clear, I’m going to go forward focusing just on the evolution of American Rolo packaging, then come back around to the vintage pieces I have from other parts of the world.
Early on in the 1980’s, Hershey increased the size of their packages across the board, so things like Reese’s Pieces and Hershey bars got larger, and this also applied to Rolo. This may have been a response to inflation and an attempt to appeal to value concerns of consumers. Here’s what the Rolo wrapper from that promotion looked like:
The look of the Rolo logo had remained the same since at least the early 1950’s, but later on in the 80’s or early 90’s, it would be redesigned to become bolder. [This change occurred earlier in the UK, but I'll get to that a bit further down...]
Soon after the addition of Nutrition Facts to all US packaging, Rolo still sported this design and look:
In the early 2000’s, American Rolo packages would get their most significant redesign yet with a change to this look:
And that brings us finally up to the modern American Rolo package, seen here:
And that’s my evolution of Rolo wrappers, focused on the American versions. But there’s more… Here are some highlights of Rolo packaging from around the world.
Rolos from Around the World
As I said, the bulkier Rolo logo was introduced in the UK much earlier than it was in the United States. Here are a few of those:
This next wrapper is the earliest I have to sport the Nestle ownership:
In the mid-1990’s Rolo would get the candy bar treatment as you can see here (the Nestle name also takes top-billing now):
1995 must have been the end of the sharper-edged Rolo logo, as 1996 saw the introduction of the more fluid look for Rolo Bar:
Here are a few other fun late 1990’s and early 2000’s UK Rolo packages:
This next wrapper is for Rolo Cookies. They basically added a cookie core to the caramel center. Sounds a bit like little bite-size Twix.
Rolo isn’t known for having mascots, and truth be told, I’ve only ever found mascots represented on a Rolo package once. It was for the UK’s “Little Rolos” which were first put on sale in 2002 – the mascots are featured on the reverse of the package and they’re quite fun:
The evolution of Rolo in other English-speaking parts of the world like Canada and Australia has followed that of the UK more closely than the USA. Following is a selection of packaging from those two countries:
Not sure what makes this next one a “Special Edition”, as there’s nothing that points out just what is special about it. Anyone see something I don’t?
This next version of Canadian Rolo looses the individual makeup of the Rolo and turns it almost into a bar of sorts.
And here’s a wrapper for a roll of Jumbo Rolos I picked up a couple of years ago:
And now for some of the Australian/New Zealand pieces:
In Australia and New Zealand, they put out something called Rolo Smooth. I’m not exactly sure what differentiated it from a standard Rolo – if anyone knows, please leave a comment:
Australia also seems to have the corner on the oversized European style versions of Rolo, as evidenced by the following pair of big 200g wrappers:
And that’s the end of the standard Rolo wrappers. Whew! I’m going to round out today with a selection of other Rolo branded items that I’ve come across in the UK and Canada. In the United States, Rolo is a time-tested favorite, but in the UK and Canada it is a brand that has been attached to so many other things. It’s a bit like the way our Reese’s is here. So there are countless Rolo items in the UK and Canada, but here are just a few:
And no, I didn’t end up getting the Doughnuts. The next time I make it back to the UK, if I find them, I’ll make it a point to sample these exotic treats. While I didn’t try those, I did manage to put away a few Rolo infused cookies. Here’s the evidence:
And that’s all I have for you today…well, one more thing. This is the most unusual piece of Rolo packaging I’ve ever come across, and it’s the only example I’ve ever seen. Released in Germany sometime in the late 70’s or early 80’s, this is one of those near-mythical pieces. It’s certainly one of my absolute faves. A wrapper for a Rolo Mint…
How cool is that?
I wanted to assemble a big timeline for today’s piece, but just ran out of time, and I’m not quite sure how all of this material would fit together in a timeline anyway. I may still do it, and if I do, I’ll post a link to it here.
With that, I hope you’ve enjoyed this extensive look at the history of Rolo and Rolo packaging through the decades and around the world. It was a big task to bring it all together, so I hope it makes up for the last few days without posts. I spent all weekend working on this one.
See you back here tomorrow for another edition of CollectingCandy.com’s Wacky Wednsedays!