Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Do nuts make us cleverer? Why does chocolate make us happy? Who tops the popularity stakes among consumers – is it Father Christmas or perhaps the Easter Bunny? Do I have to leave out sweets and snacks if I want to keep to a balanced diet?

The answers to these and other fascinating questions are provided here.

When were “sweets” invented?

The two key components in many confectionery products are chocolate and sugar. Chocolate is made from cocoa. And we know that cocoa was already enjoyed by the Aztecs. Spreading out from Mexico, cocoa reached Spain in the 17th century, from where it then conquered the world. Initially reserved for the higher echelons of society, over the centuries cocoa made its way into the hearts of people from all walks of life. 

We have the French to thank for sugar-based confectionery and “bonbons” (sweets and candies). But sweets and candies could not be invented until cane sugar and the art of sugar boiling had come to Europe from Asia Minor. Exclusive to aristocratic circles, chewy sweets and candies were consumed from “bonbonieres” (confectionery boxes). Around the end of the 19th century this handmade confectionery became an industrially manufactured product. 

Germany does, however, have one curiosity worth mentioning: a product popularly called “Bamberger Bärendreck” (i.e. bear poo from Bamberg) sprang up here as of the mid-19th century, a delicacy now known everywhere as liquorice. At that time, liquorice roots and sugar beets – the main ingredients of liquorice – were already being grown throughout Bamberg. Bamberg citizens were hence able to enjoy this delicacy both very early on and at very affordable prices.

Do people tend to snack more or less intensely in summer and in winter?

That is very difficult to say. The main difference lies in what is being snacked. In summer the choice falls more on ice cream and in winter more on chocolate. Flavours also tend to reflect the different seasons: In summer, light and fruity flavours tend to be more on offer. In Winter, things get darker, more nutty, more caramelly, with more spicy flavours.

Why do we speak of “sweet-talking” someone?

Sweet-talking means turning on the charm with blatantly overdrawn compliments and being full on. And in German the equivalent idiomatic expression is “grating liquorice root”.

Liquorice is a perennial herbaceous plant (Glycyrhizza glaba). It is used, for example, in making the like-named confectionery liquorice. Glycoside glycyrrhizin is a key contributor to its taste. The glycoside’s sweetening power is about 50 times that of cane sugar. “Grating liquorice root” is hence a perfectly appropriate German idiomatic expression for “sweet-talking”.

Since when has it been a German custom to give school beginners a cone of sweets?

The cone of sweets still given to first-time German pupils on their first day at school has been a custom in Germany only since the 1950s. The practice began in the cities and then spread to rural areas as well. However, the story of a “sweets cone” can be traced back even further in Germany’s history. At the start of the 19th century, it was mainly children in Saxony and Thuringia who were given sweets on their first day at school, e.g. in Jena (1817), Dresden (1820), and Leipzig (1836). Children there were told that a sweets cone tree was growing in the teacher’s house, and that when these sweets cones were big enough, it was time for the first day at school.

Is it true that having a “sweet tooth” is a congenital thing?

Yes. Babies are born with a fondness for sweetness (they develop a “sweet tooth” later!). Nibbling is a primordial urge that is deep-rooted in every human being. This preference for “sweetness” has ensured mankind’s survival throughout the course of evolution. This is because sweet-tasting plant parts are frequently edible. As opposed to the bitter-tasting ones. The latter are often poisonous. The sweet taste comes from simple carbohydrates. Our body needs these as a very important energy supply. Studies show that newborn babies respond to sweet tasting stimuli by showing satisfied and relaxed facial expressions. By contrast, sour and bitter tastes make them grimace in a disgruntled way.

Can one eat confectionery and snack products as part of a varied diet?

Yes. Confectionery and snack products are part and parcel of a varied diet. This is shown by the nutrition pyramid published by the German Nutrition Society (DGE), which includes confectionery and snack products. The important thing is that one consumes confectionery and snack products in a mindful manner and with pleasure. They should by no means replace a fully nutritious meal.