Jelly Babies

Jelly Babies are a type of soft sugar jelly sweets in the shape of plump babies, sold in a variety of colours. They were first manufactured in Lancashire, England, in the nineteenth century.[1] Their popularity waned before being revived by Bassett's of Sheffield in Yorkshire, who began mass-producing Jelly Babies (initially sold as "Peace Babies") in 1918.[1]

Jelly Babies
Bassett's Jelly Babies
Alternative namesPeace Babies, Unclaimed Babies
TypeGummy candy
Place of originUnited Kingdom
Region or stateLancashire, England
Created byFryers of Lancashire
Main ingredientsGelatin


"Jelly Babies" are known at least since advertisements by Riches Confectionery Company of 22 Duke Street, 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 one farthing each, suggests that they were very much larger than the modern Jelly Baby.[3]

The sweets were invented in 1864 by an Austrian immigrant working at Fryers of Lancashire, and were originally marketed as "Unclaimed Babies."[1][4] By 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" name.[5] Production was suspended during World War II due to wartime shortages. The product was relaunched as "Jelly Babies" in 1953.[1]

A line of sweets called Jellyatrics was launched by Barnack Confectionery Ltd to commemorate the "Jelly Baby’s 80th Birthday" in March 1999.[6] Jellyatrics celebrate "all that is great and good about the older generation".[7]


Jelly Babies in the UK are manufactured at Cadbury Trebor Bassett (the former Bassett's factory) in the Owlerton suburb of Sheffield

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. Bassett's Jelly Babies changed in September 2007 to include only natural colours and ingredients.[8] There are many brands of jelly babies, as well as supermarket own brands.

Jelly Babies manufactured in the United Kingdom tend to be dusted in starch, which is left over from the manufacturing process, where it is used to aid release from the mould. Jelly Babies manufactured in Australia generally lack this coating. Like most other gummy sweets, they contain gelatin.

Jelly Babies

Jelly Babies were referred to as "those kids’ candies" in an episode of Supercar in 1962, "Operation Superstork".[9] In October 1963, as Beatlemania was breaking out, fans of The Beatles in the United Kingdom pelted the band with jelly babies (or, in the United States, the much harder jelly beans) after it was reported that George Harrison liked eating them.[10][11][12][13]

In the television programme Doctor Who, jelly babies were often mentioned in the classic series, as a confection The Doctor, an alien time traveller, favoured. They were first seen being consumed by the Second Doctor but they became most associated with Tom Baker’s Fourth Doctor, who had the predilection for offering them to strangers to defuse tense situations (and, in one episode, bluffing an opponent into believing them a weapon).[14] The Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Eleventh and Twelfth Doctors, as well as the nemesis of the Doctor, The Master, also offered them up, in different episodes. In the series, they were often identified simply, by the fact the Doctor (and later the Master) usually carried them around, in a white paper bag.[14]

In the series by Terry Pratchett, Discworld, 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, Djelibeybi is about two miles (3200 m) wide, along the 150-mile (240 km) length of the Djel.

Jelly Baby Family, a sculpture by Mauro Perucchetti, near to London's Marble Arch

In the episode Ottery St. Mary of the BBC Radio programme Cabin Pressure (season 3, episode 4), pilots Martin and Douglas perform a “pre-flight check” bit while preparing to drive Martin’s removals van to Devon. After cross-checking doors, seatbelts, and the piano the crew are delivering, Douglas continues the check, asking “Jelly Babies?”, followed by the sound of a bag crinkling as Martin replies, “Jelly Babies to manual”.[15]

Australian singer, Alison Hams, released the "Jelly Baby Song" in May 2013 – its content alluding to the consumption of jelly babies by Type 1 Diabetics to overcome hypoglycaemic episodes – as a way to raise awareness for Type 1 Diabetes, for JDRF Australia (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) who sell specially packaged jelly babies, as the focus of their annual campaign "Jelly Baby Month".[16][17][18][19]

A popular school chemistry experiment, is to put them in a strong oxidising agent, and see the resulting spectacular reaction. The experiment is commonly referred to as "screaming jelly babies".[20][21]

A poll of 4,000 adults in Britain voted jelly babies their sixth favourite sweet in August 2009.[22] Jelly Babies are the favourite snack of the British children's sitcom character Basil Brush, a puppet fox.[23]

In the 2018 film Johnny English Strikes Again, the titular character (played by Rowan Atkinson) carries a box of jelly babies with him, but they are actually disguised explosives, as in said context, "jelly" is actually short for gelignite, and they blow up whoever eats them.[24]


  1. "Sweet success: Unravelling the Jelly Baby's dark past". BBC. 28 December 2014. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  2. Lloyd's Weekly Newspaper, 23 March 1885
  3. "Jelly Babies". Foods of England. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  4. Sweets: The History of Temptation, Tim Richardson, Random House, 2002, ISBN 9780553814460
  5. "Bassett's". 22 July 2008. Archived from the original on 22 July 2008.
  6. Martin, Nicole (18 March 1999). "Jellyatrics revive those sweet memories". Irish Independent. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  7. "Meet the Jellyatrics". Retrieved 25 January 2021.
  8. "Confectionery giants cut use of artificial additives". 13 September 2007. Retrieved 19 July 2008.
  9. Supercar Episodes
  10. ""BEATLEMANIA!" Is Born". 24 October 2013. Retrieved 18 November 2020.
  11. "Letter reveals The Beatles' fear of jelly baby fans". 15 May 2009. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  12. "George Harrison's 1963 plea: stop throwing jelly babies at Beatles". 14 May 2009. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  13. "The secret life of jelly beans". 14 May 2009. Retrieved 20 September 2020.
  14. "Doctor Who: 10 Weird Things The Doctor Keeps In His Pockets". What Culture. Retrieved 24 September 2021.
  15. "BBC Radio 4 - Cabin Pressure, Series 3, Ottery St Mary". BBC. Retrieved 6 March 2022.
  16. Creations, DigiPro Multimedia. "Jelly Baby Song – the official Jelly Baby Song website..."
  17. Baby Song Lyrics.pdf
  18. "JDRF Media Release (30 April 2013)" (PDF). 30 April 2013.
  19. "Sweet disco for Jelly Baby month". 20 May 2013. Retrieved 11 January 2017.
  20. "Screaming Jelly Baby". 21 August 2018. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  21. "Screaming Jelly Babies". 21 November 2020. Retrieved 21 November 2020.
  22. Irvine, Chris (27 August 2009). "Fizzy cola bottle named Britain's favourite sweet of all time". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 1 April 2012.
  23. "@realbasilbrush BASIL! The dentist told ye to stop eating jelly babies and what did ye do?". 20 July 2018. Retrieved 1 November 2020.
  24. Shattuck, Kathryn (2 November 2018). "For Rowan Atkinson, Comedy Isn't Always a Laughing Matter". Retrieved 5 November 2020.
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