The stories behind quirky food names like ‘Violet Crumble’ to ‘Jatz Crackers’

Aug 12, 2023
I do have recollections of the occasional Polly Waffle (or Picnic bar) being tossed into the public swimming pool just to liven things up a bit. Source: Facebook Sue Smith.

Next time you are chowing down on something delicious, spare a thought for the bloke / bloke-ess who had to come up with a catchy name for that morsel.  There are of course plenty of self-explanatory names like Gingernut, Monte Carolos, Twisties or even Choo Choo Bars but what about the more obscure ones?  Let’s have a look at a few.

Violet Crumble was named after Mrs Hoadley’s favourite flower. Hoadley’s was the first manufacturer of this treat that shatters … and matters.

Salada Biscuits are supposedly a bastardisation of See-ya-layta. Not convinced about that one.

Kingston Biscuits are said to be named after a town 12km south of Hobart, Tasmania.

Arnott’s Tim Tams were named by Ross Arnott after the winning horse in the 1958 Kentucky Derby,  which is probably better than calling them after the Australian horse Drongo that didn’t win a race out of 37 stars.

Wrigley’s PK Chewing Gum was named after Phillip Knight Wrigley (1894-1977) who was known as PK.  He was the son of William Wrigley Jr, founder of Wrigleys and known as the American chewing gum industrialist

Tab Soda cashed in on the weight loss hysteria by being originally sweetened with cyclamate and saccharin and was for those who wanted to keep a ‘tab’ on their weight.  

Milo was developed in 1934 and named after Milo of Croton, an ancient Greek athlete known for his legendary strength.  That always confused me when we drove past crops of milo on the Darling Downs.

Hubba Bubba bubblegum developed in the USA was named, with a little poetic licence, borrowing the military jargon ‘Hubba Hubba’ as a sign of something good.

SAO biscuits – theories abound for this one from being named for the Salvation Army Officer son of William Arnott, to the name of a sailing boat to being named after a mysterious Catherine Sao. The Salvation Army Officer one seems to hold the most credence.

Ovaltine, when first developed in Switzerland in 1904,  was called Ovomaltine (ovo for egg and maltine for malt – the two main ingredients). Apparently, due to a spelling error in the shipping documents when sent to the UK, it became Ovaltine which stuck. It is still called Ovomaltine in European countries.

Arnotts Marie Biscuits are actually named after the Maria biscuit which was developed as a tea-time biscuit in England in 1874 to mark the wedding of Queen Victoria’s son, the Duke of Edinburgh, to the Russian Princess Maria Alexandrina.  Many manufacturers make a version of the Maria/Marie biscuit. 

Jatz crackers.  This one has got me stumped so if anyone out there knows, please share the secret.  Of course, you can always have a giggle at the rhyming slang for Jatz crackers.  Jatz Crackers = Knackers = Male bits.  So when someone cops it in the Jatz you know what they mean.

Polly Waffle, another of Hoadley’s much-loved creations, first adorned the shelves in 1947.  As for the name, due to company takeovers, the origin seems to be lost in time. Perhaps its creator, Hoadley’s company accounts supervisor Mayfield Anthony, had a bit of tongue-in-cheek humour about him as  Polly Waffle seems to be what emanates from the big house on the hill at Canberra.

I do have recollections of the occasional Polly Waffle (or Picnic bar) being tossed into the public swimming pool just to liven things up a bit. I always thought it was such a waste! Rumours abound that the Polly Waffle is to be reincarnated sometime this year. 

We must give thanks to these entrepreneurs who worked their wonders with both ingredients and marketing panache.  I can’t leave without the beautiful, poignant quote from George Weston, manufacturer of Weston Wagon Wheels – ‘People will eat horse %&^#  if it has enough icing on it.’  

A true entrepreneur. 

To read more nostalgia articles from Pam Van Der Kooy, head here. Or you can find her brilliant nostalgia book Stuff We Had in the 50s and 60s here.

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