Simpkins is one of the UK’s oldest and most beloved producers of hard candy drops. It offers up to 50 flavors, from classic fruit and berry candies to herbal ones like rose and lavender to more unique ones like strawberry cream and mulled wine.
And yet, while the candies are beloved, it seems people know next to nothing about their origins, the company that produces them, or even the candies themselves.
We’re here to rectify that. In the article below, we’ll be answering the most searched questions about the Simpkins candy.
What is Simpkins Candy?
Simpkins candy, or, more precisely, A. L. Simpkin & Co. Ltd, is one of the oldest confectionery companies in England. Established in 1921 in Sheffield, England, by Albert Leslie Simpkin, its main product line consists of hard-boiled sweets packed in easily recognizable round metallic tins, often with main flavoring ingredients displayed in bright colors on black backgrounds.
A. L. Simpkin & Co. Ltd focuses on manufacturing high-quality glucose sweets from natural ingredients. Their products are rarely embellished with additional flavorings; instead, the candies are more subdued in their sweetness than most other high-sugar sweets. In Simpkins candy, the main flavor ingredient (be it fruits, barley, coffee, herbs, or something else) is always carefully highlighted to be as close to the original as it can be with candy. This strategy often leads to more natural flavor but moderate sweetness levels.
Who Invented Simpkins Candy?
Simpkins candy was invented by a man called Albert Leslie Simpkin, who established the company in 1921.
Albert Leslie Simpkin fought in World War I. He apparently grew quite a sweet tooth after being given liquid glucose to recover from his wounds while he was on the front. He decided to throw his lot into candy-making once he returned home and found liquid glucose wasn’t so readily available.
Albert Simpkin viewed the sweets he made not as simple candies but as beneficial to health and marketed them as such from the get-go. He focused on natural ingredients that had already acquired a reputation for being fit for treating specific symptoms, sold his sweets via pharmacies instead of regular stores, etc.
The unconventional marketing strategy did turn out to be profitable: by 1924, Simpkins candy had established 80% coverage through the UK territory.
Why are Simpkins Candies Called Candy Drops?
The name “candy drop” isn’t exclusive to Simpkins candy; it’s often used to refer to hard-boiled sweets from all manufacturers.
Despite this, figuring out where the name came from is still a little tricky, as more than one theory has sprung up.
One popular theory refers, of course, to the way candy looks. Most hard-boiled sweets are small and, often, oval-shaped. It’s not far-fetched to assume that someone took a look at them and likened them to water drops in centuries past, though who this mysterious person was is long lost to history.
Another, a lesser-known but still realistic theory, refers to the way hard candies like Simpkins are made. The candies’ sugary base is mixed in a particular machine. Once the candies are mixed and formed, the device drops them on rollers and sends them off to be packaged. So the hard candies are literally candy drops because they’re dropped once ready. There’s no slight chance that the candies were already called candy drops once machinery got involved in the making process, but it’s a sound theory nonetheless.
Why are Simpkins Candies Called Travel Tins or Traveler’s Candy?
Simpkins candy didn’t start out as a confectionery company, per se. Albert Leslie Simpkin did have big dreams of becoming the best candymaker in England. But he knew he stood little chance of competing with established confectionery giants from the get-go. So he focused on one item to begin with: barley-flavored drops that he would distribute exclusively through dispensing chemists (pharmacies).
Barley was long thought to be beneficial for alleviating traveling sickness and easing nausea and dizziness. They were usually packed in small boxes that people could easily keep on hand when people were on the move. So no, being packaged into metallic tins had nothing to do with the name of the candy; it was all flavor.
While Simpkin wasn’t the one to invent barley drops, per se, he is known as the inventor of Traveler’s Tins due to the way he packaged and marketed his product.
Who Owns Simpkins Candy?
Unlike many famous confectionery establishments, A. L. Simpkin & Co. Ltd isn’t secretly owned by a mega-corporation behind the scenes.
A. L. Simpkin & Co. Ltd is still fully family-owned. Today, a century after the company’s establishment, the third generation of the Simpkin family runs the business.
Is Simpkins Candy Halal?
Unfortunately, the tins themselves are not marked as halal. While that is unfortunate, it doesn’t mean the candy isn’t halal. According to Wehalal.co, halal sweets either mustn’t contain gelatin or must only contain vegetarian gelatin or gelatin from beef that was slaughtered in the halal way (i.e., the butcher followed guidelines for Zabihah).
The main ingredients in Simpkins candy are sugar, glucose syrup, natural flavors, natural colors, and citric acid. It doesn’t seem to contain any gelatin (or alcohol, for that matter), so it should by default be halal.
Still, as the tins are not marked halal, one should always examine the label for ingredients to make sure.
Is Simpkins Candy Sugar-Free?
Not all Simpkins candy is sugar-free, but some certainly are! Simpkins has a separate line of sugar-free & gluten-free products. Unfortunately, it’s not very vast as of right now (and certainly doesn’t offer as many flavor options as the classic hard candy line). But you can get some of the traditional flavors, including Citrus, Tropical Fruits, Forest Fruits, and Ginger, along with some more novel flavors like Cappuccino candy drops and Rhubarb-Custard traveler’s sweets.
They might not be as readily available as classic Simpkins candy, but if you’re looking for sugar-free candy options, they are well worth your time and effort.
Is Simpkins Candy Vegan?
Similar to the “Is Simpkins Candy Halal?” question, the answer here is a tad tricky: the tins themselves aren’t labeled or marketed as vegan, but if you look at the ingredient list, the candies don’t seem to contain any dairy. Even the classic Strawberries and Cream or Rhubarb and Custard don’t contain any cream or eggs, respectively.
In fact, on the official A. L. Simpkin & Co. Ltd, there’s even a category tag “dairy-free” you can follow to check if the candy flavor you’re interested in contains any animal products.
However, the website also claims that while they try to keep their nutrition information as accurate as possible, the ingredient list may change if the candy formula ever changes in their continuous process to improve their products.
So yes, while as of right now, Simpkins candy drops seem to be vegan, you should always check the label and ingredients list before purchasing anything, to make sure there have been no animal products added to the candy.
What is the Most British Simpkins Candy?
There can be some debate on this, but apparently, the Rhubarb and Custard candy flavor isn’t particularly famous outside the UK, even though within the country, it’s a beloved classic.
There’s even some debate on whether you can get Rhubarb and Custard flavored candies that a British-based company does not make for export.
What is the Best-Selling Simpkins Candy?
According to the A. L. Simpkin & Co. Ltd.’s official website, their #1 product globally is the Mixed Fruit Drops traveler’s tin!
How Long Do Simpkins Candies Last?
Here’s the real kicker: hard candies essentially have an indefinite shelf life! At least, as long as they’re stored properly.
That said, as with many similar products that technically have no expiration date, they do have a “best-by” date. No matter how long they’re suitable for consumption, the candies can maintain prime flavor quality for only so far.
Usually, hard candy packages have the best-by date printed on the label, typically a year or two (but sometimes longer) from the packaging date. Check your Simpkins tins for further information.
How Do You Store Simpkins Candy Tins?
The biggest enemies of hard candy are oxygen and moisture. For Simpkins candy to maintain its fine flavor qualities, you need to keep it in a dry place, with the package closed. Humidity and moisture break the sugar down and damages the textural integrity. Improperly stored candy is likely to become sticky, grainy, and overall simply unappealing for consumption.
Fortunately, the traveler’s tins were invented to do the hard part of the job for you! The metallic containers are an excellent protector!
See, for sweets similar to Simpkins candy drops, with natural ingredients and high fruit juice content, the proper storing is particularly important, as they can become sticky if exposed to oxygen for too long, even if humidity levels are moderate.
The company switched to no seem tins after their invention in the 1950s specifically to avoid such problems (the seemed cans they were using before weren’t completely airtight).
Basically, all you need to do is make sure the tin is tightly shut, not stored under direct heat, and not being rained down upon. The tin will do the rest to maintain the candy’s texture and flavors.
Can You Re-seal Simpkins Candy Tins?
Yes! The great thing about Simpkins candy tins is that they’re easily re-sealable. You can keep your candy there indefinitely; just make sure to put the lid back on tightly after you’re done.
You can even use the tin to store other candy once you’re out of the original Simpkins candy drops!
Are Simpkins Candy and Cavendish & Harvey Candy the Same?
Nope! They’re often mistaken for each other, as they package their candies similarly, in round metallic tins with dark backgrounds and colorful images of main flavoring ingredients.
But while the main product line is the same - both produce high-quality sugar candy drops - their origins are entirely different and not linked to each other whatsoever.
Cavendish & Harvey was initially established as a completely different company in 1932, added the English confectionery line (including the hard candy drops) in 1959, and changed their name to Cavendish & Harvey Ltd. in 1977. Since 1991, Cavendish & Harvey Ltd. has been owned by Dr. Wolfgang Boettger’s group of brands.
Despite similar products (traveler tin sweets), they have nothing in common besides producing high-quality hard candy.
But this is one of those cases where competition is a good thing. The more options we, the customers, have, for gourmet candy made with natural ingredients, the better for us!
Are Simpkins Candy and Tavener Candy the Same?
Again - nope! It might be an even more confusing case than Cavendish & Harvey, as A. L. Simpkin & Co. Ltd.’s official website does feature Taveners fruit drops on their homepage, but a completely different company manufactures the product!
Taveners was established in 1904 by William Henry Tavener and turned into the confectionery giant it is today by his son Herbert in the 1920s. It’s a Liverpool-based company owned by Irish food conglomerate Valeo Foods under the Valeo Confectionery subsidiary.
Check Out Yummy Bazaar’s Online Candy Store for More!
Yummy Bazaar hosts a carefully curated collection of gourmet-grade confectionery from all over the world! Visit our online candy store and explore the wide range of hard candy drops, soft gummies, chewy pastilles and jellies, bouncy marshmallows, sweet toffees, and more! Or choose via country and explore authentic assortments from France, Italy, Britain, Japan, Taiwan, and more! Simply select the candy you wish to try, stock the cart, and Yummy Bazaar will ensure it gets delivered to your doorstep ASAP!
Image sources: all Simpkins candy images taken from A. L. Simpkin & Co. Ltd.’s official website.