Jelly Babies

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Jelly Babies
Bassett's jelly babies
Alternative names Peace babies
Type Gummi candy
Place of origin United Kingdom
Region or state Sheffield, England
Created by Bassett's
Main ingredients Gelatin

Jelly Babies are a type of soft sugar jelly sweet, shaped as plump babies in a variety of colours. They were first manufactured in Lancashire, England in the 19th century.[1] Their popularity waned in England before being revived by Bassett's of Sheffield, Yorkshire who were responsible for mass-producing Jelly Babies from 1918.[1]


'Jelly Babies' are known at least since advertisements by Riches Confectionery Company of 22 Duke St, London Bridge in 1885, along with a variety of other baby-sweets including 'Tiny Totties' and 'Sloper's Babies'.[2] But the pricing of these at a farthing each suggests that they were very much larger than the modern Jelly Baby.[3]

In 1939 it was reported that, of all the comforts sent to troops abroad, "the sweets which are in greatest demand are those which we all know as 'unclaimed babies'".[4]

An uncorroborated, but widely reproduced, story is related in The History of Temptation by Tim Richardson (2002)[5] that the sweets were invented in 1864 by an Austrian immigrant working at Fryers of Lancashire and that in 1918 they were produced by Bassett's in Sheffield as "Peace Babies" to mark the end of World War I.[1] Bassett's themselves have supported the "Peace Babies" part.[6] Production was suspended during World War II due to wartime shortages. In 1953 the product was relaunched as "Jelly Babies".[1]

The most noted modern manufacturer of Jelly Babies, Bassett's, now allocate individual name, shape, colour and flavour to different 'babies': Brilliant (red - strawberry), Bubbles (yellow - lemon), Baby Bonny (pink - raspberry), Boofuls (green - lime), Bigheart (purple - blackcurrant) and Bumper (orange). The introduction of different shapes and names was an innovation, circa 1989, prior to which all colours of jelly baby were a uniform shape. In 2007, Bassett's jelly babies changed to include only natural colours and ingredients.[7]

There are many brands of jelly babies, as well as supermarket own brands. A line of sweets called Jellyatrics were launched by Barnack Confectionery Ltd to commemorate the Jelly Baby's 80th birthday.[8]

In popular culture[edit]

Jelly babies

In 1962, Jelly Babies were referred to as "those kids' candies" in a Supercar episode; "Operation Superstork".[9] When Beatlemania broke out in 1963, fans of The Beatles pelted the band with jelly babies (or, in the US, the much harder jelly beans) after it was reported that George Harrison liked eating them.[10][11][12]

In the British television programme Doctor Who, jelly babies were often mentioned in the classic series as a confection The Doctor, an alien time traveller, favoured. First seen being consumed by the Second Doctor, they became most associated with Tom Baker's Fourth Doctor, who had a predilection for offering them to strangers in order to defuse tense situations (and in one episode bluffing another alien into thinking them a weapon). The Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Eleventh, and Twelfth Doctors also offered them up in different episodes. The Doctor's nemesis the Master in "The Sound of Drums" offers them to his wife on board the Valiant. In the series, they were often identified simply by the fact the Doctor (and later the Master) usually carried them around in a simple white paper bag. The Twelfth Doctor, however, once carried his in a cigarette case.

In Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, the country of Djelibeybi (a pun on 'jelly baby', but putatively meaning 'Child of the [River] Djel', and possibly derived from Djellaba) is the Discworld's analogue of Ancient Egypt. The main setting of Pyramids, the country is about two miles wide along the length of the Djel, serving as a buffer zone between Tsort and Ephebe. For most of the book, the country's numerous pyramids causes not only dire financial straits but also disturbances in space-time which keeps Djelibeybian society as it was seven thousand years ago.

In the September 2009 episode of Doc Martin, "Uneasy Lies the Head", Louisa tells Doc Martin that she's eating Jelly Babies because she craves them because she's pregnant.[13]

In May 2013 Australian singer Alison Hams released "Jelly Baby Song"[14] - its content alluding to the consumption of jelly babies by type 1 diabetics to overcome hypoglycaemic episodes[15] - as a way to raise awareness for type 1 diabetes for JDRF Australia (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation)[16] who sell specially packaged jelly babies as the focus of their annual "Jelly Baby Month" campaign.[17]

In 2009, a poll of 4,000 British adults voted jelly babies their sixth favourite sweet.[18]