Polo Mints are a brand of confectionery whose defining feature is the hole in the middle. The peppermint flavoured polo was first manufactured in the United Kingdom in 1948 by employee John Bargewell at the Rowntree's Factory, York, and a range of flavours followed. The name ‘Polo’ is reportedly from the word ‘Polar’, which symbolises the cool and fresh feeling one gets from sucking a Polo.
Polo mints were developed by Rowntree's in 1939, modelled on the US confectionery Life Savers, but their introduction to the market was delayed until 1947 by the onset of the Second World War. Polo fruits followed soon after.
Polo is still Britain's best selling mint brand with approximately 20 million mints produced every day and an average of one hundred and fifty Polos eaten every second.
Over the years Rowntree and Nestlé have come up with variations of the Original Polo mint. Some of these have been successes, whereas others have failed. None has been as successful as the Original Polo mint.
- Spearmint: "Cool look, cool taste." These Polos have a strong spearmint flavour and aroma. The original design of the sweets had turquoise flecks on them and were mildly triboluminescent, but now they are clear white to reduce E numbers.
- Fruit: These are boiled sweets in several fruit flavours, all in one tube. Flavours include strawberry, blackcurrant, orange, lemon, and lime.
- Polo Gummies: Fruit-flavoured soft gummy sweets in the polo shape.
- Sugar free: Sugar free version of the Original Polo containing sorbitol.
- Mini Strong Polos: Tiny Polos (about 0.5 cm in diameter) with a strong minty flavour. They were packaged in a box shaped like a Polo Mint. They were also available in a not so successful orange flavour (known as Super OJs) which is no longer available.
- Smoothies: These creamy sweets came in flavours such as blackcurrant, sunshine fruits and strawberry.
- Citrus Sharp: Lemon and lime flavoured. Discontinued in the UK.
- Butter Mint Polos: mint-flavour butterscotch.
- Strong/Extra Strong: "We like them strong, but silent." A rival for Trebor, these were very hot. Discontinued in the UK.
- Ice: These came in a shiny blue wrapper, and had a cooler mint taste.
- Cinnamon flavoured.
- Paan flavoured (previously available in India).
- Mint O Fruit: (available in Indonesia). These come in the following flavours: Raspberry Mint, Blackcurrant Mint, Peppermint, Lime Mint and Cherry Mint. These polos come with the following slogan "Think Plong! Masih Ada Bolong!" These are also sold in the UK in some Poundland stores.
- Holes: These were a plastic tube of small mints approximately, but not exactly, the size of the hole in a standard polo mint.
Before this Rowntree had already experimented with different Polos in the 1980s. Polo Fruits were always available but they briefly made:
- Lemon: Similar to the citrus flavour that Nestlé put out around ten years later, but not identical.
- Orange: similar to the lemon, but in an orange packet.
- Tropical Fruit: included Banana, Melon, Coconut and others
- Globes : small capsules filled with mint-flavoured liquid in a small box with a flip lid
A Polo is approximately 1.9 cm in diameter, 0.4 cm deep and has a 0.8 cm wide hole. The original Polo is white in colour with a hole in the middle, and the word 'POLO' embossed twice on one side around the ring, hence the popular slogan The Mint with the Hole.
Polos are usually sold in individual packs of 23 mints, which measure about 10 cm tall. The tube of Polos is tightly wrapped with aluminium foil backed paper. A green and blue paper wrapper, with the word ‘POLO’, binds the foil wrapper, with the Os in ‘Polo’ represented by images of the sweet. For the spearmint flavour, the paper wrapper is turquoise in colour, and the Extra Strong flavour is in a black paper wrapper.
When the Trade Marks Act 1994 was introduced in UK, Nestlé applied to register the shape of the Polo mint. The application featured a white, annular mint without any lettering. This application however was opposed by Kraft Foods, the then owner of Life Savers, and Mars UK because of the lack of distinctive character of the mint in question. Nestlé’s application was allowed to proceed if it agreed to narrow the description of the mint i.e. the dimensions of the mint were limited to the standard dimensions of the Polo mint and that it was limited to ‘mint flavoured compressed confectionery’.
Kraft Foods and Swizzels Matlow (owner of British Navy Sweets) have made similar applications for annular sweets bearing the mark LIFESAVERS or NAVY. Nestlé has tried to oppose these trademark applications but has failed as the court ruled that customers would be able to distinguish between a Polo, a Lifesaver and a British Navy mint as all of them have their marks boldly and prominently embossed on the mint.
In 1995 the company launched a major advertising campaign produced by Aardman Animations, which showed animated Polos on a factory production line. In one, a scared Polo without a hole attempts to escape, but is restrained by the hole-punching machinery.
Polo experimented with other forms of advertising in the late 1990s. In 1998 they collaborated with PolyGram for a compilation album, Cool Grooves, which reached #12 in the UK Compilation Chart on 5 September that year.
- Triboluminescence – An optical phenomenon in which light is generated when material is subject to mechanical breaking, especially noticeable when crushing Wint-O-Green Life Savers in the dark.
- List of breath mints
- "Polos". h2g2 at the BBC website. Retrieved 5 June 2010.
- Bennett, Oliver (9 August 2004). "Why we love things in mint condition". The Independent. "When US troops were stationed over here during the war, Rowntree started to manufacture Lifesavers for them under licence. When the war drew to a close, the licence was withdrawn. So in 1947, Rowntree came up with its own brand of holey mint, the mighty Polo"
- Fitzgerald, Robert (1989). "Rowntree and Market Strategy". Business and Economic History 18: 54.
- Rowntree History[dead link]
- "Meet the rest of our products". Rowntree's. Retrieved 5 June 2010.
- Ward, David (27 July 2004). "A legal case with a hole in the middle". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 June 2010.