Saturday, November 6, 2010

Vo Vos, Dough Vos and More

“Friends, tomorrow, the work begins. You can have a strong cup of tea if you want, even an Iced Vo Vo on the way through. But the celebration stops there."
- Kevin Rudd to his parliamentarians in his victory speech on winning the Federal election in 2007.

“The Krispy Kreme doughnut chain has entered voluntary administration because of poor sales at some stores. The locally owned Australian arm of Krispy Kreme has 50 sites across the east coast that employ 660 staff."
- News report, Sydney Morning Herald 1 November 2010

Those who watch Iron Chef (the Japanese one, not the Aussie knock-off) will be aware that the program always begins with a quotation from 1826 by French philosopher Anthelme Brillat-Savarin:  "Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.”

We live in an age where whole sections of supermarkets are devoted to biscuits: Monte Carlos, Tina Wafers, Chocolate Creams, Family Assorted, Spicy Fruit Rolls, Ginger Nuts, Scotch Fingers, Tiny Teddies… and so the list goes on.

These days the bikkie at the pinnacle of the Australian biscuit mountain is the Tim Tam, but there was a time when the Iced Vo Vo reigned supreme as Australia’s national biscuit. When I was a lad (yes, another “When I was young…” reminiscence) there was a choice between milk arrowroot biscuits, which we thought of as “poor people’s biscuits”, and the deluxe biscuit, the Iced Vo Vo. There wasn’t a great variety to choose from. This was also an age where store bought biscuits were the exception, most mums preferring to bake their own.  I admit to a sentimental attachment to the Iced Vo Vo, much like my attachment to Old Spice, Blue Stratos and Dunlop Volleys, the last one having become fashionable again.

The Iced Vo Vo was first registered as a trademark in 1906. It consists of a biscuit topped with two strips of pink fondant and a strip of strawberry jam, all sprinkled with coconut. As such they provide nutrition from various food groups: carbohydrates (biscuit), protein (coconut), icing (sugars), jam (fruit). Nahh, I made that up about being good for you.

Some facts and trivia:

-  Tim Tams (invented in 1964) outsell Ice Vo Vos (1906) more than ten to one

-  Australians eat more than 380 million Tim Tams each year.

- Australians eat approximately 7 kilos of biscuits per year per person, a fair way behind the Seppos who eat 9 kilos per person per year.

- When it comes to chocolate, except for Rosie in my office, we’re a nation of also rans. We consume on average 4.4kg of chocolate a year, the British eat 9.2kg each a year and the Swiss consume 11.3kg each. Rosie is such a chocaholic that she would make your average Swiss chocolate eater give it away and start raising chickens somewhere.

- Arnotts is the largest producer of biscuits in Oz and the second largest supplier of snack food.

- Commenced by William Arnott in Newcastle in 1865, the Arnotts company became a wholly owned subsidiary of the US based Campbell Soup Company in 1997.

- Australia’s most purchased takeway foods are, in order:
1. Sandwiches
2. Hot chips
3. Hamburgers
4. Cakes/pastries
5. Chinese food
6. Pizza
7. Fried or grilled fish
8. Ice cream
9. Meat pies
10. Filled rolls.
- Hamburgers are declining in popularity, while rolls are rising. This is reflected in Subway outlets, numbering 851, now exceeding McDonald's outlets.

- In 2009, the US company Krispy Kreme launched its Fair Dinkum Doughnuts range in Australia as a homage to iconic Australian sweet foods. It included an Iced Dough Vo, a doughnut, topped with a pink fondant icing sprinkled with coconut. Arnotts threatened legal action because of misleading marketing. Krispy Kreme dug in its heels and refused to change the name, declaring that consumers could tell the difference between a biscuit and a doughnut. Nonetheless it did finally capitulate and withdrew the name.

- And one final word on Iced Vo Vos: I looked at the pack recently and noticed something I hadn’t seen before. I believe the nutritional and ingredients wording has been on the pack for some time but I don’t recall previously seeing the same wording in Asian and Arabic characters (I am told such caharacters also appear on the packaging of other items):

(Click on photograph to enlarge). 

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