Meiji Chelsea, the Japanese candy with the '70s vibe

Since watching the ’70s edition of The Supersizers last week, I’ve been on a bit of a nostalgia kick. I was lucky (or unlucky, depending on the perspective) enough to have spend my ’70s childhood in three countries due to my father’s job—England, the U.S. and Japan. I have fond memories of food, especially sweet snacks and candy, from all three places, my tastes have changed so much as and adult that I can’t stand many of them anymore. The one sweet from that era that I still love is Meiji Chelsea butterscotch candy.

meijichelsea.jpg

According to the official website (Japanese), Chelsea candy was introduced in 1971. It was the introduction of a new kind of candy, butterscotch, to the Japanese market, and the company wanted a design that was “English (British)” and “expensive” looking. To me the groovy colorful flowers on a black background are very late ’60s-early ’70s swinging London. Remarkably, the design has hardly changed at all throughout the years. Now it looks quite retro-chic. I’d love to have cushions with the flower design on them. (They do have wallpaper and screensavers, as well as printable stationery, available for free download.)

Chelsea comes in several flavors, but the most widely available and popular ones are basic butterscotch (which is very buttery and just slightly salty) and yogurt (yoghurt) butterscotch. They are my favorites, though I do slightly prefer the yogurt butterscotch. Other flavors have been introduced over the years, but these have remained constant. You can also get coffee butterscotch and fruit butterscotch variations. The candy comes either in rectangle or flat oval shapes. Even though the variety packs are a better value, I like to get the boxes because the candies in them are wrapped in a gold or silver foil paper with the same groovy flowers as on the boxes. It’s not overly sweet, and the flat smooth shape melts slowly on the tongue.

The Chelsea song

A special song was commissioned for the first TV commercial for Chelsea. The song became such a big hit that they’ve kept the song for all subsequent TV ads. It’s been recorded over the years by several artists, and there’s even a complication CD of all the different versions! Here’s a Chelsea ad from the ’70s, though I’m not sure if it’s the first ever version.

And here are a few versions from the ’80s. The basic concept remains the same - a cute little blonde girl frolicking in a landscape that is supposed to be English or Scottish. At the end she says “anatanimo Chelsea agetai (I want to give Chelsea to you too)”.

Where to buy Chelsea

You can buy Chelsea from any reasonably stocked Japanese grocery store. The regular mix bag like this one has plain butterscotch, yogurt butterscotch and coffee butterscotch flavors, and the mixed yogurt butterscotch bag has different fruit-yogurt flavored varieties. But if you’re a retro-design fan, do check out the small black boxes too. (Here is their current product lineup).

About changing tastes and snack nostalgia

I think I still like Chelsea because it’s not that sweet. There are other candies and snack from my youth that I can’t eat anymore, mainly because they are just too sweet. For instance, the last time I had a Twinkie was some time in the early ’90s - it was so overly sweet and weird tasting. I used to be able to eat 2, 3 and more at a time if I was allowed to! Sue Perkins was inhaling sherbet fountains on the Supersizers, but I can’t stand those any more either.

Even some Japanese candy varieties, which are generally not as sweet, are impossible for me to eat now - Milky comes to mind. Some other sweet things that I used to love that I can’t eat anymore: Hostess Cupcakes, Pixy Sticks (which are just sherbet fountains in a different format), old fashioned bubble gum, Milk Duds, marshmallows straight (I can eat them in hot chocolate or in s’mores but not just out of the bag).

What about you? What candies or sweets do you still like, and what are best left to childhood memories?

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I love these!

I discovered these little gems in a tiny japanese convenience-style shop about an hour from where I live. I am absolutely addicted to the ‘Yogurt Scotch’ flavor. I adore the little flower print inside of the box, it’s so cute!

As for things that I grew up with that I still love, it has to be candy canes. Every year just after christmas I go and buy a ton of boxes for reall cheap and keep a stock of them in my house at all times :)

anon. | 16 June, 2008 - 14:26

Chelsea was the first

Chelsea was the first Japanese candy I was ever given, it’s still one of my favourites. Thanks for the info, I didn’t realise it was as old as I am!
I’ve always liked milky sweets, particularly butterscotch and toffee, on the other hand I liked incredibly sour things like lemon sherberts and the mouth puckering powder known as “pica pica” in Spain (which is probably why I love kamu-kamu lemon). Best of all was Peta-Zeta (called Spacedust in England), sour, acidic granules that crackled and exploded in your mouth. I’m sure I would have loved ume flavoured things as a child, if I could design my own candy I’d make ume peta-zeta/space dust, as sour as possible.

Loretta | 16 June, 2008 - 14:47

Cheiw

You got me nostalgic about ‘acid strawberry’ (fresa acida) gum from Cheiw. I wasn’t really a gum devotee nor did I like strawberry flavoured sweets, but I was crazy about this stuff.
I’m surprised to see how cool the packaging looks in retrospect:
http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1430/1481769207abbf9eea09o.jpg
&
http://www.teacuerdas.com/images/nostalgia-cosas-cheiw1.jpg

Loretta | 16 June, 2008 - 18:51

Still fond of Marshmallows.

Still fond of Marshmallows. =)

I love milky ways. You might have tried them when you were here in Britain, but in case you don’t know — it’s a chocolate bar that has a fluffy nougat center. I’ve loved them since I was a kid. XD

I don’t tend to do hard candy, so much. They hurt my teeth. x_x

Fiona | 16 June, 2008 - 19:21

Sweets

Those packages are so delightfully funky!

I have to admit, I’m a bit of a sugar-freak. Here in my mid-twenties, I’ve noticed that my sugar tolerance is not what it was (can only mainline about three pixie stix now before I feel nauseous, instead of most of a package), but I still have many favorites.

One, particularly, is the chocolate disdained by foodies everywhere: Hershey’s milk chocolate (just had a s’mores party and really indulged in the gooey, chocolatey, marshmallowy goodness). I love the sweetness, the milky presence, how delightfully melty it gets. I like quality chocolate, too—nothing quite like truffles from Fran’s Chocolates—but for sheer comfort and guilty pleasure, a plain Hershey’s bar and a big glass of milk is just the thing.

And gummi candy of all sorts—red Swedish fish, SourBrite gummi worms, gummi bears, and so on, as well as caramels (like SugarDaddy lollipops and CowTails) and anything one can really sink one’s teeth into. (I can hear my dentist having a coronary from here…)

And since I found out about it, mochi has become another favorite because of its gummi-like texture.

Sheff | 16 June, 2008 - 19:47

Chocolate

Most Americans my age (69) grew up with the taste of Hershey’s milk chocolate along with a variety of sweet or chewy penny candies. Now we’re told that plain dark chocolate has things in it that are good for us, but they’re too diluted in our familiar milk chocolate. However, to me the strong dark Swiss and European chocolate seems bitter in comparison. “Chocoholics” here can either go for the familiar — or get used to the alternative different taste. My favorite these days is M&M Peanuts, which also contain milk chocolate. Or, for special occasions, See’s Candies (nuts and chews variety rather than the creams). My husband’s favorite is butterscotch hard candies. We don’t eat candy very often, however. (Now you’ve made me hungry for some!)

SBS | 16 June, 2008 - 19:56

Dum Dum Suckers

I’m going to go looking for this the next time I got to my local (a.k.a. an hour away) Oriental Food Market. I’m excited to try the different flavors!

Now, I’m not quite 16 yet, but I already have foods I miss that I wish I could have again. For example: my grandma’s oatmeal raisin cookies. Not to say that my grandma’s dead or anything, but she just doesn’t make them anymore. When I was little, every time I would go to her house, there would be some cookies cooling on paper grocery bags. I stopped coming so often so she stopped making them so often. Every Christmas I beg her “Grandma! Make oatmeal raisin cookies!”

And there are already things that I used to love but now can’t eat. Blue Raspberry and Rootbeer Dum Dum Suckers are two of those things. My father used to work for a hardware store and every time I came in the store, he’d give me either a rootbeer DumDum sucker or, if I was lucky enough, a “blue one!”.
Now, when I think about it, I’ll say “Oh, one of those flavors sounds great!” but when I go to taste it, I decide against it after one lick.

I too can’t eat marshmallow’s straight out of the bag anymore. Or Marshmallow Creme ._.

Meggy | 16 June, 2008 - 21:32

Chelsea Candies

I remember that my mom liked to carry a box in her purse seemingly at all times when I was a kid. Fond memories :)

MasPinaSarap. | 17 June, 2008 - 07:58

Blast from the past

I used to love these when I lived in Hong Kong, I’d totally forgotten about them until now!

Lizzie | 17 June, 2008 - 12:55

Rice paper candy

When I was growing up, there was a really tiny hole-in-the-wall market which was just called the Oriental Market. We had to drive into the main part of town to get there since we lived kind of on the outskirts of the city but on shopping days, Mom would always pick up a couple of boxes of Botan Rice Candy for my sister and I for when we got home from school. We would have contests to see who could unwrap more of the edible rice paper off of the sticky millet candy. I still like it very much although now I’m always afraid that it will yank out the fillings in my teeth. The other candy that I loved then that still is one of my favorites was the soft milk candy. I don’t remember the brand (the bag had a picture of a cow on the front) but that was really a treat. I like similar candies now because they’re not quite as sticky as the rice candy.

Reiko | 17 June, 2008 - 17:20

Morinaga milk caramel :)

Hi,

First of all, I really enjoy reading both of your blogs. Thank you for providing such thoughtful and practical writing on food.

I grew up in Taiwan, and the candy that always brings me back to childhood is the Morinaga milk caramel. Even though they are readily available in Vancouver now, I still keep up the tradition of buying a few boxes and bringing them back with me each time I go back to Taiwan.

I remember the Chelsea candies, too. Back them, I considered them fancy little treats! Thanks for bringing back those memories. I will be sure to buy a box the next time I do my grocery shopping!

Sue | 18 June, 2008 - 01:33

I used to love Hershey’s

I used to love Hershey’s and Cadbury’s milk chocolate. Then it became too insipid, with an odd aftertaste, so as a teen I switched to Special Dark. Now that’s too sweet and milky and I only eat the darkest chocolate I can find.

I used to love Brach’s candies, all kinds. Our supermarket may have been one of the last ones in the U.S. to have an honor box on the Brach’s display: you put in a nickel and got to choose (IIRC) three pieces to eat. Now I can taste the artificial flavoring in most of them and the others are just too sweet.

I used to love those little gumdrops coated in crystallized sugar, too, but now they make me ill.

Jenny Islander | 19 June, 2008 - 00:33

All those nickels

All those nickels for Hershey bars ultimately were used for an amazing cause. The Hershey Foundation originally could only fund a home for orphan boys (or some such good use in the “old days”). The directors of the foundation (I think in the 1960s or so) went to court to ask to have the binding Hershey will modified to use the vast fortune that had accumulated for other good purposes. The result is spectacular. Built from scratch in Hershey, Pennsylvania, in connection with The Pennsylvania State University (I’m a grad) there now exists the Penn State College of Medicine (yes — the university previously only had pre-med), the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, and the Penn State Children’s Hospital. The original faculty for the medical college was borrowed from the cream of other prestigious medical colleges in the USA to get it started. The funding continues. I’m sure Milton S. Hershey is proud of how the foundation created this living monument.

SBS | 19 June, 2008 - 02:13

Little Japanese Market

Way back in the ‘60’s, my Dad used to take me to a little Japanese market, now long gone, in Pasadena. Mom and Dad used to throw dinner parties, and sukiyaki and tempura were still considered so elegant and exotic. I was so enthralled by everything at the tiny market, but my favorite thing was the Botan rice candy. I used to think that the little Inu Hariko on the box was a cat. On my first trip to Japan I loaded up on all sorts of wacky Japanese candies. Morinaga Milky being another favorite. Now-a-days, the local Mitsuwa, Nijiya, and Marukai markets are all within an easy drive. But I’ll never forget the tiny little Japanese market.

KMF | 21 June, 2008 - 00:03

Funky Yogurt Flavor...

Mmm! I always wanted to try these, and finally did the other day! The packaging is definitely an instant draw, and the flavor is rich without being too sweet, like you mentioned! I was really kind of disappointed at the yogurt flavor, though…It kind of tastes more like a coconut-lime flavor that was popular in some coffeehouse chillers a few summers ago. Not that it’s bad, but not what I expected from that’s supposed to taste like yogurt! The Japanese are such brilliant packaging designers!!! ^_^ sigh

Nekojiru | 4 July, 2008 - 06:30

I was in a Chelsea commercial!

This is great—I’m so glad to find out more background about Chelsea and its marketing history.

My father was in the military and we were living on a base in Tokyo not long after the candy came out. I was about seven, out playing with some other kids, when I was approached by a Japanese man and an Anglo man wearing suits. They told me to take them to my mother, and asked her if she would let me be in a commercial for Chelsea, and pulled out a pack of the candy (the one with the red design) to show her what they were selling. She said it was all right, so I did.

I wasn’t in the commercial above—the one I did was with several other American kids, and it was set in the present day, I think.

I didn’t really love Chelsea at that age, although I did love the box’s hip design. The candy was too American; I could get butterscotch at the PX or from my grandmother. I preferred the chalky, hyper-sweet Japanese candy in the cool packaging. But I like it now too and am sentimental about it.

anon. | 13 August, 2008 - 06:32

Wow - you must have been

Wow - you must have been blonde and adorable :) Thanks for sharing!

maki | 13 August, 2008 - 10:12

awesome yummy candies

my dad went to japan for a business thing and he brought back some really great candies. my favorites were the chelsea candies (YUMMMM! im trying to conserve whats left of the box!) and plum cake things they were squishy and not too sweet! LOVED IT!!!!! yummy but now i have to find somewhere to buy more Chelsea candies! :)

Jackey | 23 April, 2009 - 03:19

Re: Meiji Chelsea, the Japanese candy with the '70s vibe

I first got these at an Asian grocery store in Vancouver. I got hooked. They were pretty much a clone of Callard and Bowser Butterscotch, right down to the foil wrap. And since Callard and Bowser got bought/messed over by Wrigley, they quit making their Butterscoth. Compared to crummy Brachs and Werthers, Chelsea is wonderful. So nowadays instead of trying to find Callard and Bowser, I hunt for Chelsea.

Jim | 11 November, 2009 - 03:36

Re: Meiji Chelsea, the Japanese candy with the '70s vibe

Apparently, my parents love these candies so much that they named me after them and sent out Chelsea candies for my one-month old celebration.

And I only got to taste them (except maybe when I was a baby, when they might have made Chelsea eat Chelsea?) fourteen years later, and I must say I love them. Too bad it's rather hard to find them in where I come from.

Go Figure. | 1 June, 2010 - 18:36

Re: Meiji Chelsea, the Japanese candy with the '70s vibe

You can get Chelsea at www.tsunami.hk
Also new flavors available and lots of other japanese candy etc.

cindy | 10 June, 2010 - 10:32

White Rabbit Express x Meiji Chelsea

You can buy Meiji Chelsea, and any other Japanese products from White Rabbit Express:
http://www.whiterabbitexpress.com

anon. | 12 July, 2010 - 08:57

Re: Meiji Chelsea, the Japanese candy with the '70s vibe

I was so happy the first time I discovered these since they had my name on them!! Finally I felt connected to Japanese culture in at least one way! I've always had a sweet tooth, so there aren't very many sweets I don't enjoy... Reading your site this late has made me crave so many things that I don't have the ingredients for....And not only that but it's the middle of the night so I already brushed my teeth. Still want to thank you for posting all that you have though; you're a lifesaver! ^^

chelz | 21 July, 2011 - 12:29

Re: Meiji Chelsea, the Japanese candy with the '70s vibe

The whole reason I bought this candy from a Japanese market I visited was because we share the same name hahaha!
They're actually great little candies to keep in my bag when I'm craving something sweet.

anon. | 2 May, 2013 - 21:11

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