Produced in the British city of York, and allegedly inspired by US brand Life Savers (a mint with a hole designed to look like a life-saving rubber ring), Nestlé/Rowntree’s Polo is 70 years old this year.
The iconic Polo mint was conceived by confectionery legend George Harris, who was also behind some of Rowntree’s biggest inter-war brands including KitKat, Smarties, Aero, Black Magic and Dairy Box.
The idea for the mint was developed in the late 1930s, but due to the Second World War and sugar rationing, it was shelved. But after the war, Harris was determined to resurrect the idea.
Company legend has it that he chose the name Polo because it derived from Polar and he thought that this implied the cool freshness of mint.
The pre-war years have been described as ‘a golden age of confectionery’. In his blog, Nestlé historian and UK archivist Alex Hutchinson said:
“Rowntree’s of York were at the vanguard of companies who were trying to make their products affordable to everyone (they were paying a living wage, and they were giving their private wealth to help rehouse people from slums). They transformed themselves from a company that made very fancy confectionery in packaging that cost more than the product, to the market leader in affordable products and confectionery innovation.”
When war ended, production didn’t return to its pre-war levels immediately; nor did innovation, Hutchinson writes. “Rationing and sugar shortages kept the confectionery industry in a sorry state until well into the 1960s. However, there was one exception: Polo.”
Polo was launched on April 15 1948 in London and South East England, and then gradually crept out to the rest of the country by 1952, and then the world.
Polo facts and figures
- Polo is made at the Nestlé York site where is has been its home for 70 years. York is also home to KitKat, Aero, Milky Bar and Yorkie.
- The Polo plant can produce up to 22,000 sweets per minute and that is equivalent of over 32 million single Polo sweets per day or 1.37 million packs!
- Nestlé’s Consumer Services team receives hundreds of calls a year about Polo. Favorite question is what the factory does with the middle of the Polos. The answer is that there never is a middle, each Polo is made with a hole in it.
- The pressure Polo is put under when formed is 75 kilonewtons, which is equivalent to the weight of two elephants jumping on it.