27th August 1941. What happened to Ribena and Lucozade?

Ribes negrim the botanical name for blackcurrant was an important supplement of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in WWII and commercially sold as Ribena.

Today the Daily Telegraph reported in 1941: ‘More Food supplies for the Breakfast Table’. Shortages were to be relieved by supplies from the United States under the Lease-and-Lend Act and to include canned meats, fish and breakfast cereals; the harvest of oats in Great Britain was good no doubt ensuring adequate supplies for the winter porridge.

One of the main concerns in the food shortages was to ensure children received the necessary Vitamins with ‘D’ supplemented from cod-liver-oil which the Author remembers being given on a special spoon reserved for its strong taste.

Then Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) came via free orange juice for infants but I was never aware of Ribena the blackcurrant cordial, introduced into schools, hospitals and nursing homes.(1)

Ribena was supplied by Carters of Bristol and in 1942 found their entire produce commandeered for the war effort.(2)

Children were encouraged to gather wild fruits rich in Vitamin C such as blackberries and the Author remembers also collecting rose hips to make into syrup, for which one was paid by the jam-jar full.(3)


Ribena along with Lucozade were eventually owned by Beechams, of ‘Pills Fame’, prior to its 1989 merger with GlaxoSmithKlein (GSK).

The New Millennium wasn’t kind to Ribena now part of a multi-national as the High Court rejected the claim that Ribena Toothkind, endorsed by The British Dental Association, ‘does not encourage tooth decay’ after the advert fell foul of the Advertising Standing Authority (ASA).

The ASA stated that, ‘added Calcium counters the impact of fruit acids on teeth and minimises erosion’, be removed from packages’, to be upheld by the High Court in 2003. Then the Food Commission was to say that the sugar level in Regular Ribena was contributing to childhood obesity.

No wonder Ribena as well as the high-sugar, now sports’ drink, Lucozade was to be sold by GSK to the Japanese.

1953 advert.

1953 advert portraying the product in its heyday.

Ribena got a ‘product enhancement’ in Agatha Christie’s 1966 novel The Third Girl where Mrs Oliver suggests it to the fastidious Poirot, who not surprisingly rejects it.

(1) Ascorbic Acid (C6 H8 O6) evaporates from fruit and vegetable so additives are often required.

(2) Ribena was named by S Lennox in 1938 and was developed by Dr. Vernon Charley of Long Ashton Research Centre near Bristol. The brand was acquired by GSK, later being sold with Lucozade founded in 1927, to a Japanese Company.

(3) Ascorbic Acid mustn’t be confused with Citric Acid (C6 H8 O7) which supplies the tangy flavour found in citrus fruits such as lemon and orange juice, but contains no Vitamin C.


bbc.co.uk/health. Court Rules against Ribena.


the guardian.com/lucozade-ribena-sale.

Picture Post/Getty Images/Ad. of Lucozade.

dailymail.co.uk/health/ Roger Dobson. 16.9.2008. Pic of Rose Hip.







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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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