In Search of our Throwaway History

Colman’s celebrate 200 years

Posted on May 20, 2014

Congratulations to Colman’s mustard as they join an exclusive club of brands who have survived over 200 years of trading.  As with so many such stories, it has been quite a journey – the bull’s head trade mark arrived in 1855, the Mustard Club in the 1920s, and then in the 1970s the pack design reached an all-time low, but was fortunately restored to its former glory (now with the bull’s head looking the other way).

Colman's mustard through the ages

Colman’s mustard through the ages

200 years celebration mustard pots

Collectors items? 200 years celebration mustard pots

Colman’s promotional items

Like so many major companies at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth century, Colman’s produced a wide range of promotional items to ensure their name was continually in front of customers eyes – a constant reminder.  Apart from posters that appeared on walls and hoardings, and showcards that were placed in shop windows, and advertisements in newspapers and magazines, there were a plethora of other ways to communicate.  Quite often the same image created for a poster, as in the picture below for ‘Returned from Klondyke’ illustrated by John Hassall, would be used in many different situations, whether as a postcard, leaflet or trade card given away by the grocer to customer’s children.

Colman's promotional items

Colman’s promotional items

Colman’s were at the forefront in producing booklets for young folk at Christmas time.  Each year from the 1890s through to the 1930s, a special story or a traditional one was beautifully produced, sometimes with illustrations from a well-known artist such as here with Will Owen for ‘The Adventures of Bingo and the Mustard Tin’.  Promotional novelties like tape measures, pin holders, tooth picks, tobacco holders, pencil sharpeners, puzzles and card games were all part of the message-makers dream.

 200 years and over club

Other brands reaching 200 years include Schweppes (since the1790s), Guinness (1759) and Twinings tea (1706).  The thing that all these products have in common is that they were named after their creators. In Robert Opie’s new two-hour documentary, ‘In Search of Our Throwaway History’, the story of how brand names develop is revealed, along with how much brands mean to us today – sharing memories and nostalgia.  The DVD contains a pulsating 3,500 graphic and colourful items which together tell the remarkable story of the consumer revolution.

Vote for your favourite

Long lasting or not,do you have a favourite brand? Why not vote for your top three in our online poll on this site (click on the Tell us your Favourites tab at the top of the page).


All images on this page © Robert Opie

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Grape-nuts : a Victorian breakfast

Posted on May 15, 2014

Just had a bowl of Grape-nuts flakes, which have recently arrived at my local Waitrose (£2.29).  The flakes are a bit like Force cereal, which has regrettably just vanished from our shelves, but unfortunately they do not have quite the same subtle taste.  Imported from the USA, the original Grape-nuts were created by C W Post in 1897, and Britain was soon getting supplies of this early breakfast cereal.


Grape-nuts past and present

Grape-nuts past and present

Grape-nuts -’fully cooked and pre-digested’

In late Victorian Britain, nobody had seen a ‘fully cooked, pre-digested breakfast food’ before, and the directions on the packet included the warning, ‘Don’t try to cook this food, it is perfectly cooked at the factory’.  That direction has long since disappeared from the Grape-nuts pack, which I hasten to add is still available from selected outlets.

Like so many products,  breakfast cereal is another convenient ready meal.  Its story, along with many others, is told in Robert Opie’s new two-hour documentary that’s stuffed full of memories, nostalgia and fascinating facts.  In Search of Our Throwaway History is like a travelogue of supermarket brands, favourites from our past … and that of our grandparents.  Available from the Museum of Brands and

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May the ‘Force’ be with you?

Posted on May 6, 2014

It would be nice to say ‘May the Force be with you’, but regrettably a year ago the much-loved breakfast cereal Force was discontinued.  Having been launched over a century ago in 1902, it became a firm favourite as the cereal market grew through the first half of the 20th century.

During the Second World War, breakfast cereals were zoned to save on transport costs, so Kellogg’s supplied shops in the North West, Weetabix was mostly available in the Midlands, while Force was zoned to the South of England.

It took time for Force to recover from the austerity years, and loyal fans waited for shops to restock with the delicate taste of those toasted wheat flakes.  But the cereal market was evolving, with the introduction of sugar-coated varieties and other new tastes.  Force was being pushed aside.  Even with the eventual takeover by Nestlé, it was not possible to save this much-cherished brand.

Force breakfast cereal

Force breakfast cereal

Force  - Sunny Jim

In its heyday, Force vied with Shredded Wheat to be Britain’s top breakfast cereal.  They were one of the first to use a self-generated character, Sunny Jim, who appeared on the box, in advertisements and on promotional items such as jigsaw puzzles.  By saving coupons, parents could send away for a Sunny Jim doll, many of which still survive to this day.
The other thing that still survives are all those memories of what Force meant to us.  In Robert Opie’s two-hour documentary ‘In Search of Our Throwaway History’ there over a hundred memory moments.  Force is remembered along with recollections of Lyon’s Individual Fruit Pies, Aqua Manda, Spangles and many more.  Lovers of nostalgia will revel in this colourful parade of over 3,500 packs and ads that trace the evolution of our consumer culture.

Who knows …. one day, the Force may be with us again; after all, we have seen the return of Golden Nuggets, Wispa and Birds Eye Arctic Roll.

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In Search of Our Throwaway History - produced and directed by SIMON J FRITH presented by ROBERT OPIE written by ROBERT OPIE and JIM COGAN executive producer JAMES OXLEY-BRENNAN cinematography PETER CURTIS editing PETER CURTIS and ANGELA MAKEPEACE

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