The Swizzels factory where Love Hearts and Parma Violets are made (2024)

From Love Hearts and Parma Violets to Fizzers, Double Dips and Squashies, the confectionery dynasty makes life sweeter the world over

Jeremy Dee, MD, keeps a hoard of Swizzels treats in his office. Despite being surrounded by the sweet stuff all his life, the man whose grandfather co-founded this Great British confectioner never tires of dipping into a Double Dip or savouring a Squashie. And Swizzels fans from the High Peak to the Americas agree: Norwegians love Love Hearts; Germans are suckers for Double Dips. Twenty per cent of the output from the iconic Swizzels Matlow factory on the Derbyshire/Cheshire border now spreads sweetness beyond the UK where the business is expanding with a new factory in Middlewich for 2023.

The Swizzels factory where Love Hearts and Parma Violets are made (1)Swizzels from yesteryear (Image: Swizzels)

The Swizzels story began 90 years ago in London, when David Dee, maker of fizzy tablets, joined forces with Alfred and Maurice Matlow, purveyors of jellies and chews.
Legend has it that the Swizzels part of the company name came about because stirring a 1930s’ co*cktail with a swizzle stick removed the type of bubbles associated with the fledgling business’s effervescent sweets,' says Jeremy.

By 1940, when the bombs began falling on the Capital, the three founders sought a temporary safe haven at a former cotton mill in the Derbyshire High Peak town of New Mills, just north-east of the Cheshire border. The iconic building, whichwouldn't look amiss as a chocolate factory owned by Willie Wonka, had most recently been used to make wicks for miners’ lamps.

The Swizzels factory where Love Hearts and Parma Violets are made (2)Parma Violets (Image: Swizzels)

'My grandfather and the Matlow brothers thought it would be a better place to be than London for the duration of the war,' says Jeremy. 'But the company became so embedded in the community and so reliant on the local workforce we are still here, 83 years on, with 550 employees. I think we can say now the move is permanent.'

Heritage is important to Swizzels – its catchline is: 'Loved since 1928'. The company officially became Swizzels Matlow Ltd in 1975 after initially being run as two separate companies, Swizzels Ltd and Matlow Bros. Nici Matlow is one of the directors, together with fellow third-generation confectioners Jeremyand his cousin JonathanDee.Jonathan’s father, Brian Dee, is chairman of the board. Members of the two families have worked side by side through the decades.

'My late father, Michael, took over in 1975and ran the business with hisbrothers Anthony and Brian, alongside Trevor and Adrian Matlow, the sons of Alfred and Maurice,' says Jeremy, who became managing director in 2012.

The Swizzels factory where Love Hearts and Parma Violets are made (3)Swizzels in the snow (Image: Swizzels)

'Our heritage is really important to us and is paramount ifwe ever need to change our recipessuch as in 2008 when we removed artificial colours from our products. We take great care in sourcing ingredients that keep the taste of the products as people remember them.Our customers say our sweets taste just the way they always have.'

It is this 21st-century dynasty that is driving the firm forward with new lines, technological advances, packaging, marketing, and the 160,000-square feet, high-tech factory in Middlewich, due to open in the middle of this year. The site will create 30 to 50 technical roles, with room for expansion, and make Squashies, the treat that is one of Jeremy's Swizzels of choice.

'The New Mills site looks very old-fashioned on the outside and there are varying types of production inside but also a lot of automation. The new factory in Cheshire will give us the capacity to make more Squashies, which are now our biggest sellers, and will be highly automated,' says the MD.

The Swizzels factory where Love Hearts and Parma Violets are made (4)Love Heart messages from the Swizzels factory floor (Image: Swizzels)

Swizzels Matlow goodies are the taste of childhood and include Rainbow Drops, launched in 1930 when they were sold in paper bags for 1d; Fizzers, the original compressed fizzy sweet and Parma Violets, the delicately perfumed sweets first marketed as breath fresheners for drinkers and smokers and frequently sold in pubs.

Love Hearts were introduced in 1954 as a gift in a cracker, with the message: I LOVE YOU. In 2014, to mark the 60th anniversary of Swizzels’ most recognisable brand the company ran a competition where fans had the chance to design their own Love Heart. The winners’ messages, such as TWEET ME and SKYPE ME were added into Love Hearts rolls at the beginning of 2015.

Over the years, the sweets have been customised for royal occasions such as weddings, jubilees, births and birthdays. The brand is now so iconic it is used on a range of other carefully selected products including Carex handwash, ice lollies, clothing, jigsaw puzzles and scented candles. 'It is a really recognisable product and we have refreshed the messages through the years to keep them relevant. People around the business often come up with the sayings and we always keep them child-friendly,' says Jeremy.

The Swizzels factory where Love Hearts and Parma Violets are made (5)Double Dip (Image: Swizzels)

In 1955, Refreshers were first sold with packaging showing cartoons of children believed to be the Matlow family. Then in 2012, Swizzels launched the hugely successful Squashies – favourite Swizzels sweets (Double Lollies, Drumsticks, Refreshers and Love Hearts) transformed into a soft gum format. The product idea, initiated by Jonathan Dee, was awarded top launch for sugar confectionery by The Grocer that year. And in between: Double Lollies, Drumsticks, Double Dip, Lipsticks and Whistles, Lucky Strike mints Golf Hints, Snap & Crackle, Stinger Chews, Fun Gums...

'Our biggest assets are our products and our people. We have tremendous loyalty and dedication from our employees and more than 120 have been with us for more than 20 years. Alongside these values, we work to strengthen the well-known brands we have and respond to consumer demand and we are quick and agile to respond to customer needs,' says Jeremy.

'The vision in 2012 was to double the size of the business by 2020 and we nearly achieved that when the pandemic came along. Squashies has been transformational and is now our biggest brand and number one in the UK sugar confectionery (non-chocolate) sector.' Twenty per cent of Swizzels' output is exported. 'We have markets in Ireland, Germany, the Nordic countries, Austria, Switzerland, the Middle East, America, Canada...'

'I am a big fan of our products, especially Squashies, I probably eat them every day. They are on my desk, in fact, I have our sweets all over my office. They are a treat and we sell them as such but we have not changed the ingredients to make them less sweet because we believe keeping the taste is what customers want.

'Our aim is to run a good business with products that taste the way our customers want them to taste, and with an element of fun. We have fabulous products that make people happy.'

The Swizzels factory where Love Hearts and Parma Violets are made (6)Drumstick lollies (Image: Swizzels)

Lick this
The production of a Love Heart with the embossed message and edible ink remains a secret and is unique to Swizzels

In the 1970s Hippy Bits launched, similar to Love Hearts but with flower power style messages: ZEN, LOVE, POWER, GROOVY

The popularity of American TV detective Kojak and his trademark sucking on a lolly led to a huge rise in the export of Double Lollies in the mid-1970s

On June 14, 1990, Princess Diana visited the factory. It was the first official visit to the Borough of High Peak by a member of the royal family. Swizzelsproducedbespoke Love Hearts for the princess and her two sons to commemorate the occasion

Customised Love Hearts were made for the 2008 wedding of Coleen and Wayne Rooney and Love Hearts can now be personalised as wedding favours, anniversary mementos and gifts

Swizzels in New Mills had been dubbed the Factory of Love, because of the many employees who have met and found romance at the factory

In 2012 Love Hearts celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Messages included: CONGRATS MA'AM, I LOVE CORGIS, HRH and JUBILEE 2012

In 2013 One Direction teamed up with Swizzels to make One Direction Love Hearts with 30 themed messages chosen by Love Heart fans.

The Swizzels factory where Love Hearts and Parma Violets are made (7)Love Hearts (Image: Swizzels)

Love Hearts messages past and present
The words have changed according to contemporary vernacular and include, or did include:
LUV ME 24/7
And now... emoji faces

Illustration by New Mills artist Clare Allan

Facebook and Instagram: @clareallanart

The Swizzels factory where Love Hearts and Parma Violets are made (2024)


Where are Swizzels made? ›

Swizzels Matlow Limited, branded as Swizzels, is a confectionery manufacturer based in New Mills, Derbyshire, near Stockport in the United Kingdom.

Where are Parma Violets made? ›

Parma Violets are a British violet-flavoured tablet confectionery manufactured by the Derbyshire company Swizzels Matlow, named after the Parma violet variety of the flower. The sweets are hard, biconcave disc-shaped sweets, similar to the Fizzers product from the same company but without their fizziness.

Can you visit the Swizzels factory? ›

No, you can not visit the factory unless you are a supplier or member of staff.

Where are Love Hearts made? ›

The company was initially in factory premises at Star Lane, Canning Town, London, moving later that year to a larger premises at Drivers Avenue, Plaistow, London. During the Blitz in 1940, production relocated to a disused textile mill in New Mills, Derbyshire, where it is still located.

Can you get Swizzels in America? ›

Buy Swizzels Sweet Shop Favorites - Pop's America.

How old are Swizzels Refreshers? ›

The iconic Refresher chew bars were invented 60 years ago when some clever clogs discovered the secret of adding the fizz! Swizzels make well over 1.8 billion Refresher chew bars every year.

What flavour are love hearts? ›

White (sherbert-like with a sharp vanilla flavour) Green (mild lime flavour with a sherbert aftertaste) Red (sweet cherry flavour) Purple (berry-like, slightly perfumed, flavour with a strong aftertaste)

Who are the makers of Parma Violets? ›

Their perfumed flavour has an army of loyal fans and Swizzels make 100 million rolls of Parma Violets every year. Of course, it takes a discerning palate to appreciate their delicate flavour!

What are the ingredients in Swizzels parma violet? ›

Ingredients. Sugar, Stearic Acid, Modified Starch, Glucose Syrup, Anti-caking Agent: Magnesium Carbonate; Flavourings, Colours: Anthocyanin.

How long do love hearts last? ›

Our Guarantee to you
Shelf Life10 months
Weight220g (Inc. immediate wrappings)
Suitable for vegetariansYes
Suitable for vegansYes
Gluten freeYes
2 more rows

Are swizzels vegan? ›

At Swizzels we have been creating yummy sweets for 90 years and the great news is that many of our classic and much love sweets are suitable for vegetarians and vegans! Love Hearts, Rainbow Drops, Fizzers & Parma Violets, the list goes on!

Who owns Refreshers? ›

Refreshers is a sweets brand owned by Swizzels Matlow Ltd.

Why did Love Hearts change their name? ›

For the first time in 68 years, Swizzels' Love Hearts sweets have been rebranded and renamed. The rebrand to Kind Hearts is part of an 18-month collaboration with mental health charity, YoungMinds.

Are Love Hearts vegan? ›

Love hearts are indeed vegan, as they contain no animal products. They can be found in major supermarkets and corner stores near you. Want some more vegan sweet recommendations? Check out our guide here.

Are Love Hearts fizzy? ›

They mention that it is tasty, old-fashioned, and delicious. Some appreciate the fruity and fizzy flavor, and mention that they are good for indigestion.

Which UK confectionery brand is no 1 in the Chewy partition? ›

As the number one brand in the chewy partition, SKITTLES® is renowned for leading the way in innovation and has a history of powerful NPD category-firsts.

How are Swizzels Rainbow drops made? ›

The colourful Rainbow Drops are made from maize and rice and start out as a fine powder before heat makes them pop! A small bag of Rainbow Drops is only 37 calories so they are the perfect sweet treat . Every year we make enough Rainbow Drops to fill 25 Olympic sized swimming pools.

How are Swizzels Fizzers made? ›

And in fizzy sweets, it is usually the combination of a carbonate and an acid, and the way that they react to the saliva in your mouth that creates the unique sensation. At Swizzels, we favour Malic Acid, Stearic Acid, and Sodium Bicarbonate. The acid adds the tang and while the carbonate adds the tingle.

How much is Swizzels worth? ›

Key Financials
Net Worth£50,313,000.00£67,815,000.00
Total Current Assets£53,714,000.00£51,905,000.00
Total Current Liabilities£13,486,000.00£12,943,000.00


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