On this day in history : 5th February 1953 – Sweet rationing finally comes to an end after over 10 years of restrictions – children flock to their nearest sweet-shop….

Rationing came into force on the 8th of January 1940 – shortly after the beginning of World War 2…. Initially it was just for petrol but it wasn’t long before it was introduced for food as well….with bacon, butter and sugar being the first…. By Summer 1942 this had extended to include tea, meat, cheese, eggs, lard, milk and jam….

A shopkeeper cancels the coupons in a British housewife’s ration book for the tea, sugar, cooking fats and bacon she is allowed for one week. Most foods in Britain were rationed and some brand names given the designation ‘National’. Image : Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division – Public domain

Of course, it wasn’t just food and petrol that were rationed….pretty much everything was in short supply….coal, clothing, paper, furniture, frying pans, razor blades….even basic commodities such as soap….

The rationing of sweets and chocolate began on the 26th of July 1942….with an allowance of just 12oz every four weeks…. Generally de-rationing began in 1948 but it was a slow process…. An attempt was made to de-ration sweets in April 1949 – but demand far outweighed supply and it had to be reintroduced four months later….

Image credit: Philip Howard via Flickr

Major Gwilym Lloyd-George, Minister for Food, had to reassure the House of Commons that measures were to be taken to deal with the anticipated surge in demand…. Manufacturers were to be allocated a one-off increased allowance of sugar in preparation – but even so, they still only had 54% of the sugar available to them before the war….

On the day of de-rationing it gave cause for celebration…. One company at Clapham Common gave 800 school children lollipops during their lunch breaks – and another London factory opened its doors and handed out free sweets to all….

Image credit: Claire via Flickr

Queues formed outside sweet-shops, many popular brands sold out quickly…. Among the favourites were toffee apples, chocolates, liquorice, lollipops and nougat…. But whatever your fancied ~ lemon sherberts, barley sugar, jelly babies, gob stoppers, pear drops, liquorice allsorts….they were all available again…. Workers queued in their lunch breaks to buy boxes of chocolates to take home to their loved ones….and the BBC reported – “Children all over Britain have been emptying their piggy banks and heading for the nearest sweet shop”….


However, there was no panic buying – possibly people were used to having a limited supply. Or perhaps another reason being the cost….the price of sweets and chocolates having nearly doubled since the beginning of the war….

As well as the de-rationing of sweets restrictions were also lifted on cheese, butter, margarine, cooking fats, eggs and cream…. Sugar itself was not de-rationed until September 1953 – and this was probably due to pressure from the confectionery manufacturers…. Bread rationing had ended in 1948, clothing in 1949 and petrol in 1950…. Rationing officially ended when meat was de-rationed in July 1954….

In the first year following the de-rationing of sweets spending on confectionery went up by approximately £100m to £250m per year…. Nowadays as a nation we spend in excess of £5.5bn…!


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