Monday, 8 February 2016

Restrictions on Sugar Consumption

From the Aberdeen Express, 9th February 1916.

War Thrift for Sweet-Mouthed.


Aberdeen Confectioners and the Prospect.

The proposed restriction of the importation of sugar mentioned in the statement by the Royal Commission on Sugar Supply brings the necessity for the practice of war economy into the homes of the mass of the people much more directly than any other proposal of a restrictive nature that has hitherto been mooted.  Pulp for paper manufacture, tobacco, fruit are all very important articles, but sugar, like bread, is one of the prime necessities of life.  Naturally, therefore, there is more than a passing interest being taken in the Sugar Commission's report.

Inquiries in Aberdeen bear out the fact that seems to be generally entertained that the large increase in the price of sugar since the outbreak of war has had little effect upon the demand.  Some of the retailers have fixed a maximum quantity to be supplied to their customers at any one order, but it is the case that any quantity of sugar can be purchased either wholesale or retail.

Regulation of Sales.

The head of a wholesale grocery firm in Aberdeen stated to an "Express" representative that any appreciable restriction on sugar imports would necessitate the regulation of the sales, while it would almost certainly mean a gradual further increase in the price if the ordinary laws of supply and command were to operate.

A leading retail grocer said that while the restriction of imports seemed to be intend to curtail the use of sweetstuffs that might be regarded as luxuries, such as sweets, candies, toffees, caramels, chocolates, and so on, it was probably also intended to prevent waste at the breakfast, dinner, and tea tables.  Sugar for household use was as necessary as bread, and any further increase of the price would inflict a hardship on many people who were just now exercising every economy and finding enough to do to make ends meet.  It was, however, quite true, and every grocer knew it, that sugar was not so thriftily used in many households as might be expected for the price paid for it.
One family might use twice as much sugar as another family of the same size.  This was very commonly observed by grocers.  It was probably due to allowing children to help themselves at the table, as the young folks were exceedingly sweet-mouthed and would put spoonful after spoonful of sugar into a cup of tea if they were not being closely observed by their parents.

Partial to Jams.

The youngsters were also the chief consumers of jams, and a more general use of butter or margarine would result in a large economy in the consumpt of sugar.

The proposed restriction seems to be intended more to reduce the enormous consumpt of confectionery.  It is apparent to anybody passing along the streets that a large section of the shopkeepers depend for their livelihood upon the trade in confections.  The women and children are probably the best customers the confectioners have, just as the men are the mainstay of the tobacconists.  The amount of money spent by youngsters in what old-fashioned people who use the Doric somewhat contemptuously describe as "smacherie," if it could be totalled would probably "stagger humanity."  So long, however, as pennies and ha’pennies come the way of the young folk, so surely will they be invested in some toothsome sweet.

Confectionery Boom.

An interview with a leading Aberdeen wholesale manufacturing confectioner confirms the prevalent opinion that you cannot make people economise in the use of things they like if they have the money to buy them.  He says that practically since the outbreak of war the demand for sweets, instead of decreasing, has increased by a long way, notwithstanding that the prices have gone up considerably.  This is simply due to people having more money to buy a thing they are fond of.  The increased demand is particularly noticeable in centres where there are large numbers of soldiers stationed, and where there is plenty of work.  The manufacturing confectioners were kept fully occupied and could dispose of all they could produce, even although prices for certain classes of confectionery had doubled.  Roughly speaking, sugar had jumped from 15s 6d per cwt. to about 36s since war broke out.  Boiled sugar confectionery that was sold at 4d per lb. before the war is being sold now at 8d.  Other kinds that were 8d are retailed at 1s. Chocolates retailed at 1s are now 1s 4d per lb., and so on.
If the Government were to seriously restrict the supply of sugar to confectionery manufacturers it would throw many thousands of workers out of employment, and a complete restriction would spell ruin; manufacturers would have to close up.

Rice for Children.

Some doctors hold that the reduction in the supply of sugar would mean improved health for many people who invite indigestion by over-sweetening tea or coffee, many women in particular destroying their appetite for more necessary food by eating too many sweets.  Sugar is undoubtedly an admirably foodstuff for children and young active people, but it is not indispensable, as its place can be taken by a little more fat or starchy foods.

[Would anyone now say that sugar is "one of the prime necessities of life"?   It is now mostly regarded as an unnecessary part of the diet, and generally bad for us.  Interesting that even the doctors quoted who say that too much sugar is bad, only give the reason that it destroys the appetite for more nutritious food.  Nothing at all about the effect on teeth. 

'Doric' means the dialect of North-East Scotland.    'Smacherie'  is this context seem to mean an assortment of confectionery. 

For interpretation of the prices, e.g. 15s 6d, see A Note on Prices.]

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