Processed Food and Drink of the 1980s and Beyond: The Not So Perfect Ten

A tasty Feast of the M60 Not So Perfect Ten

Many Moons ago (well, the 27 May 2013 to be precise), we did an article on nutritionally incorrect processed food entitled ‘The Tinned Pie’s The Limit‘. In other words, the convenience food you can still get in a lot of supermarkets and discount shops. There was also another post entitled ‘Crimes Against Food‘ from July 2010 which coincided with the launch of Tesco’s Lasagne Sandwiches. This looked at, to some extent convenience food, and meatball butties.

For our Not So Perfect Ten, we have decided to look at some of the processed food you could get in the 1980s and beyond. Some of it has left our shelves unceremoniously with the Turkey Twizzlers, whereas some grace the deepest recesses of your local freezer centre. Others, we look upon with nostalgia and yearn for their return.

  1. Slaters’ Roundas;
  2. Heinz Baked Beans Pizza;
  3. Walls’ Wall Bangers;
  4. Findus’ Crostinos;
  5. Findus’ Crispy Pancakes;
  6. Golden Wonder Pot Mash;
  7. Frozen mini pizzas (McCain and Ross);
  8. Heinz Noodle Doodles pasta shapes;
  9. Birds Eye Supermousse;
  10. Gini lemon soft drink.

1. Slaters’ Roundas

In Australia, Roundas is a pizza based snack with cheese and tomato inside a pizza base shaped like an oven bottom muffin. Meanwhile, in mid-1980s Manchester, Roundas was a breadcrumb based snack with beans and sausage inside each parcel.

Seen in copies of United Review throughout the last part of the 1980s, Slaters’ Roundas was among the sponsors of Manchester United’s short-lived basketball team. The company was famed for its processed meat and convenience food products, with its base in Newton Heath. The company was absorbed by Campbell’s, whose UK arm was taken over by Premier Foods.

2. Heinz Baked Beans Pizza

It’s 1999, you’ve come home from the pub, and after a few scoops, one thing you fancy is a good pizza. You find Domino’s or Gino’s Dial a Pizza had closed but you’re saved by this creation. A Baked Beans Pizza.

The Heinz Baked Beans Pizza was a winning formula of cheese and beans. Though the two are good on toast, it was several times better on a pizza base with a bit of tomato sauce topping. Similarly delicious was the Baked Beans Lasagne (same base, similar cheese, yet equally delectable). There was also the Baked Beans and Sausage casserole which had some moreish sautéd potatoes.

Sadly, the full range of Heinz Baked Beans based ready meals and pizzas only just saw in the present millennium. Perhaps the Health Police came calling due to the amount of sugar from the baked bean juice. Still, they were great while they lasted.

3. Walls’ Wall Bangers

Ever since the dawn of proletarian takeaway food, the battered sausage (along with other variants) became part of many a takeaway menu. In 1993, Walls introduced their Wall Bangers. Available in battered or breadcrumbed varieties, the advert took on a Flintstones style theme (insert usual caveperson clichés here).

The sausages were pretty good inside the battered or breadcrumbed casing and went well with baked beans (yes, there seems to be a bit of a baked bean theme here) and oven chips. Walls’ Wall Bangers quietly left the freezer cabinets around 2008 when Jamie Oliver was on the warpath against similarly nutritionally incorrect creations (namely Turkey Twizzler).

4. Findus’ Crostinos

Findus’ 1987 creation was even more of a ‘blink and you miss’ item. Their stay in UK freezer centres was – if my memory serves me right – about three years. Perhaps the fact they were such a faff to make may have hastened their demise, but Findus’ Crostinos was a standard issue fish finger with added features. Well, added features in the same sense of a car being automatic or manual.

Each Crostino was a standard fish finger with breadcrumbs, but they were topped with bits of crispy potato. It made for a crunchier fish finger and (for the two minutes in Winter 1987 when they were on the shelves) they were more enjoyable. With or without tomato ketchup.

The first time I remember them was December 1987. I was with my fellows from the late great Ewing School on a trip to Wythenshawe (a week before our trip to the Forum for that year’s pantomime). We called in to the Bejam store and an in-store demonstrator had what I thought were these ‘other worldly fish fingers’. Along with the Heinz Baked Beans range of ready meals, ‘once tasted, never forgotten’.

5. Findus’ Crispy Pancakes

For our fifth item, these are still pretty much alive and well in today’s freezer cabinets. As well as fish fingers, Findus’ best known creation is their Crispy Pancakes. Big in the 1980s, the half moon shaped breadcrumbed parcels come in a variety of flavours. The classic ones being Cheddar Cheese, Chicken and Bacon, Chicken and Mushroom.

There had been attempts to position it as an upmarket brand with salad, as demonstrated in a 1986 advert voiced by Geoffrey Palmer. Most popularly, they were and remain a convenience food, a midweek stuck-for-something-else-for-tea-so-stuff-it-let’s-go-for-something-simple with baked beans or peas and chips option.

Continuing that theme, a popular series of adverts saw the younger male lead eulogise over Findus’ creations to the point of fanaticism. To a point where his wall is decorated with Findus Crispy Pancakes boxes.

6. Golden Wonder Pot Mash

I suppose you could say mashed potato is a popular teatime option with many a meal. In the age of microwaveable mashed potato and instant mash, there was one runt of the litter. Enter Pot Mash.

Sounding more like stoner food than a quick snack alternative to its main product (Pot Noodle), it was flavoured mash in a tub. In truth it was a sorry affair with the consistency of Polyfilla and half hearted flavouring. Needless to say it bombed.

7. Frozen mini pizzas (McCain and Ross)

In the last 30 years, our taste in pizzas have evolved. A trip to Pizza Hut seemed special – at least till the arrival of Pizza Express. For a time, shop bought pizzas couldn’t compete. In the 1980s, the best many households could get was a pack of mini frozen pizzas. Ross and McCain were the main two in that field.

You would typically get four in a bag with each mini pizza being 6″ in diameter. There was no Hawaiian or Meat Feast, just plain old-fashioned Cheese and Tomato or Cheese and Onion. The cheese was always grated and the cheese and onion pizzas had a slight tomato topping.

The best part of the pizza was its base. Instead of the Thin and Crispy or the Deep Pan bases we are more accustomed to, there was only one option. That of Continental Quilt Pan (we know it’s not the real term). The base was perforated like the said quilt and had a soft texture on the top side.

8. Heinz Noodle Doodles pasta shapes

Any of the small Ross or McCain mini pizzas were small enough to go with a side serving of Birds Eye Alphabites or a tin of spaghetti. By the 1980s, tinned spaghetti hoops and straight spaghetti would be joined by child-friendly character based spaghetti shapes. In 1983, with adverts voiced by Jon Pertwee, there was Noodle Doodles, with each pasta shape being everyday items or animals.

Come 1986, they were joined by Haunted House spaghetti shapes but Noodle Doodles‘ campaign also included spin-off toys and activities on the reverse of can labels. The crowning glory of this was an audio tape (entitled Party Time with Heinz Noodle Doodles) featuring the advertisement’s theme music (start and finish of Sides A and B). In between was some of Black Lace’s finest hits.

Though Haunted House and Noodle Doodles spaghetti shapes didn’t get to reach 1990s children, tinned spaghetti shapes are pretty much a feature of most superstore shelves. Instead of original characters like Noodle Doodle, Peppa Pig and Hello Kitty form the ranks.

9. Birds Eye Supermousse

After you’ve eaten your ‘nutritious’ tea of Findus Crispy Pancakes, tinned spaghetti and Alphabites, you might have a dessert. Do you go for an ice cream with a topping of Bird’s Ice Magic? Angel Delight? What about some Supermousse?

The classic 1980s Supermousse looked like the top of a Walls Cornetto. Each one topped with a creamy halo. The original flavours were Raspberry, Strawberry, Chocolate, Mint Choc Chip, and Choc ‘n’ Nut. They looked the part, and the box lid gave you the impression of a treat that was ‘exciting’.

It made a return in 2009 though with two flavours: Strawberry and Chocolate. What was missing was the halo of green at the top of the plastic bowl. A shame.

10. Gini lemon soft drink

Our final item is a drink that is still popular in mainland Europe. With the 1992 EC Free Trade deadline looming and talk of European integration, a long established favourite reached our shores. The 1989 acquisition of Perrier soft drinks by Cadbury Schweppes ensured the arrival of Gini onto UK shores.

Gini was launched in mainland Europe in 1971 and remains a popular drink in France.In 1990, the bitter lemon drink was launched with an advertising campaign entitled “The British have got Gini”. Unlike 7up, its bitter lemon taste was better as a mixer than a standalone drink. On our shores, its existence was briefer than Quatro’s; perhaps there wasn’t enough room for a third lemon and lime drink (Sprite and 7up being on the market then).

Anything Else?

There was countless more varieties of processed foodstuffs besides our ten entries. Feel free to elaborate on the existing ten items. Or, add to the ten with your own suggestions? Was Crosse and Blackwell’s Spaghettisaurus a better option than Noodle Doodles?

Right now, I’m off to the oven to put some Crispy Pancakes in for supper. It’s got to be the one with baked beans. I’ve yet to add that one to the collection!

S.V., 17 January 2016.

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