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Smarties are small sweets that can be bought in the UK, the USA and many, many other countries besides.

In the USA, Smarties are completely different to the UK version, and are produced by a different company1. They are flatter and come in different flavours, all wrapped up in a plastic package.

This entry is all about UK Smarties, which are produced by Nestlé. Smarties have been around for a very long time and are a great and long-established product. They are small, round, brightly-coloured sweets that come in cardboard tubes. They're a bit like M&Ms, but flatter (flying-saucer shaped rather than spherical) and only contain a chocolate centre - never a peanut.

General Description

Smarties are small milk chocolate discs, covered in a brightly-coloured crisp sugar shell. The shell crunches in your mouth, then the chocolate melts satisfyingly leaving you with a warm, smooth sensation in your mouth.

Smarties usually come in the following colours: brown, lilac, yellow, pale green, orange, red, blue and pink. White Smarties have been available in the past (see 'Advertising Campaigns' below), but an old trick has been to fool your friends into thinking you have found a rare white Smartie by licking all the colour off. Orange Smarties are special in that they contain orange-flavoured chocolate. This makes them especially valuable in the Smartie Pills game (again, see below). Whether the other Smarties have different flavours or not is debatable, but they pretty much all taste the same - of chocolate.

There has been some controversy in the past over the colouring that coats Smarties, with fears that it made young children hyperactive, and various theories have circulated concerning which colours were better or worse for you. It is now accepted that Smarties pose no health risk, although parents of hyperactive children might like to seek medical advice about sugar intake.


For those that like to know what they're eating, here's a list of ingredients:

  • Milk chocolate (58%)
  • Sugar
  • Wheat flour
  • Modified starch
  • Colours (E171, E124, E104, E110, E122, E133, E1202)
  • Flavouring
  • Glazing agent (carnauba wax)

The Packaging

The Tube

Smarties come in a cardboard tube, capped with a plastic lid at one end. At the other end is a white circle of cardboard that stops the Smarties escaping, and has the 'best before date' printed on it.

The tube is often used by primary school teachers to demonstrate the shape of a cylinder, in the same way that Toblerone packets are often used to demonstrate the shape of a triangular prism. You need to keep the Smarties tube if you want to play the Smartie-winks game mentioned later in this entry.

The Lid

Smarties lids are also brightly coloured (usually red, yellow or green), and on the reverse side you will see a small letter of the alphabet embossed into the plastic3. By collecting the lids, you will find that you have a fun educational device for your kids (or for yourself), and can spell out words or phrases with them. You will have to eat a lot of Smarties to progress to whole sentences! You will also have a great collection of lids ready to play the Smartie-winks game.

Smarties Advertising Campaigns

Smarties have been around for a long time, and so have a history of advertising campaigns. The main slogan, 'Only Smarties have the answer', has been used throughout in answer to a number of different questions. Currently on Smarties tubes you will find the caption:

Is it the delicious Nestlé chocolate that makes Smarties the children's favourite? Only Smarties have the answer.

The following campaigns have appeared over the years:

  • Television - The Smarties television commercials, when they appeared in the UK a few years ago, were computer animated to depict a psychedelic world made up entirely of Smarties. A character (also made of Smarties) walked around, falling into holes, moving from one bizarre location to the next. The advert ended with a whirlwind of Smarties - including the character himself - falling neatly into a Smarties tube, accompanied by the familiar slogan mentioned above.

  • The Beano Campaign - Smarties did a promotion with the children's comic The Beano, which resulted in a great advertising poster displayed at bus stops depicting a crafty Dennis the Menace and Gnasher making use of a trip-wire and fishing net to get hold of Walter the Softie's Smarties. The naughty duo managed to trip Walter up so that his Smarties flew neatly out of the tube in an arc to be elegantly caught by the outstretched fishing net. The comic scene was captioned with the brilliant slogan: 'Someone's after your Smarties!'

  • Hunt for the Missing Orange Smarties - This advertising campaign revolved around the comic story of a mystery character stealing all the orange Smarties. Smarties tubes were bereft of orange Smarties - though a few still managed to 'slip through' - and there was a competition where Smarties fans had to figure out who the slimy culprit was from a series of puzzles. Thankfully, the Orange Smarties Thief was eventually caught, and there is now no longer a shortage of orange Smarties. For a while after the campaign you could buy entire packets of orange Smarties to make up for the shortfall!

  • Blue-filled Smarties - This was a another competition-based campaign which saw the blue Smarties being filled not with the regular milk chocolate but with some blue-coloured stuff. The competition was to guess what flavour they were. Whatever it was, very few people liked the taste, which was apparently revolting!

  • Smiley Smarties - During this campaign, white Smarties were added to Smarties tubes. Not only were the Smarties white, but they had little faces drawn on them in pink in various designs. Unfortunately the pink dye soon rubbed off in your hands making the Smarties look rather smudged and messy.

  • Giant Smarties - Giant Smarties are still around if you know the right newsagent or sweet shop. They are basically a larger version of Smarties, packaged in a plastic packet rather than a tube. Not quite as nice as the real thing but a fun novelty.

  • Football Colour Smarties - This bright idea of a promotional campaign featured Smarties arriving in the colours of various football teams. Most tubes had a mixture of two different coloured Smarties to represent a particular team's strip. You never knew what team's colours you would get until you opened the tube, making for great excitement. Of course, it was never explicitly stated which team's colours you had, so a 'purple and blue' mix of Smarties might be interpreted as either West Ham United or Aston Villa football clubs.

  • The 'Dinosaur' Campaign - This recent campaign was created to tie in with the Disney animated movie Dinosaur. The campaign consisted of a Dinosaur-themed tube and a silver lid. The colours of the Smarties were reduced to two different shades of green and brown.

  • Winter Sale - This was part of a wider promotion for various Nestlé confectionery products, which simply consisted of an blue imitation price tag printed on the packaging with Winter Sale, and a reduced price written on it. In the case of Smarties, this was 25p. The odd thing was that Smarties tubes under this promotion continued to be available in shops well into the summer!

Games to Play

Some people might say Smarties are for eating and not for playing with, but there's plenty of fun to be had with them.

Smartie Pills

This is a game involves pretending that the Smarties are actually different pills4 that have various imaginary effects. The different effects are based upon the colours of the Smarties.

Usually the game starts by pouring out the Smarties and working out which are the rarest and which are the most common. Various effects are then assigned to the Smarties. It is usually decided, for example, that red Smarties make you fall in love with the next person you see. Once the effects have been decided, the Smarties are dished out randomly, and the various effects are acted out.

Note: Many children each year take prescription drugs mistaking them for Smarties and other small sweets, so parents should make sure all pills are out of reach of small children and fitted with child-proof lids. It's very important to explain the distinction between sweets and real pills to children.


This game is, quite simply, a competition between friends as to who can be the first to collect enough Smartie lids to be able to spell the word 'smarties'5. Once this has been achieved, the game can be extended by creating a new rule that the word must be spelled using lids of one colour only. You can also make up any variations you like by deciding upon different words to spell.

Smartie Gun

Two people buy a tube of Smarties each, and once all of the sweets have been eaten, the Smartie Gun war commences. This game involves both the tube (as the gun) and the lid (as the ammunition). Firing works by snapping the lid back on the open end of the Smartie tube, then pressing hard with thumb and first finger on the tube directly below the lid. Once enough pressure has been applied, the Smartie lid comes firing off at quite some speed.

To win you must simply score a direct hit on the other person. If you miss, you must collect your lid, reload and fire again. Of course, you must be able to get to your lid to be able to refire it, and so you are unarmed while in this state. It is against the rules to touch or pick up your opponent's lid from the floor, although a good tactic is to hover around their lid, preventing them from getting to it to pick it up until you have also fired.

The game generally finishes when the cardboard rim of the Smartie tube becomes so limp as to make firing virtually impossible. Hence the game needs to be played with fresh Smartie tubes - which also gives you the pleasure of eating the sweets!

Games can be played in a 'best-of-three' or any other score that needs to be reached. Variations involve using multiple lids, though this can complicate matters (the lids need to be different colours to distinguish the players' ammo). A third person can also play using the third colour.

Smartie Paint

The colour on the sugar shells of Smarties dissolves with a few licks6, allowing you to draw with the sweet. It is easier to draw with the edge of the Smartie, but you get more 'paint' off using the surface of one side. The colour is, of course, completely edible, so what better canvas to use than your own body, or, even better, someone else's? Paint your lips any colour you like for kissing that special person, or give yourself a clown face, with a big smile and cross-shaped eyes! Let your artistic Smartie-painting skills go wild!


And here it is at last... the game alluded to throughout this entry. Smartie-winks is a game combining your skill, patience and judgement, and requires a steady hand and lots of practice.

Gameplay involves firing the lids (as per the Smartie Gun method) from a set distance into a cup, in a similar way to tiddlywinks. The game can be played in turns, with the winner getting more into the cup than the other players in a set number of turns, or as a race, with the winner being the first person to reach a certain number of lids in the cup.

This game is great for office lunchtimes, and is very competitive. If it really takes off, you can even draw up a Smartie-winks league!

1See for the low-down on the American version.2Notice there are only seven 'E-numbers' listed, even though there are eight different colour Smarties. Odd that...3The little bit on the edge which you use to flick the lid off the tube is always at the bottom of the letter, which is useful for determining if you have a 'u' or an 'n'.4Thinking about it, this may not be the most advisable game to teach to your children...5In order to stop excessive over-eating of Smarties, it is just as well to enforce a rule that only one tube per day may be purchased.6You could use moisture from a damp sponge or tissue, but where's the fun in that?

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