Learn how McCowan’s chew bars, produced in Stenhousemuir, evoked British comic-strip characters through colours, textures, and product “pushes.”
In the 1980s and 1990s, the McCowan’s confectionary company produced a number of chew bars named after popular British comic-strip characters. These included Dennis the Menace, Desperate Dan, Roy of the Rovers, and Buster.
The flavour and appearance of these chew bars seem to have been deliberately reminiscent of the characters themselves.
For example, the Dennis the Menace chew was made of raspberry and blackcurrant flavours, which alternated in red and black stripes, much like the character’s famous jumper. The Desperate Dan bar was an orange flavour chew with black sugar crystals, perhaps suggestive of Dan’s trademark stubble. Similarly, the Roy of the Rovers bar was pineapple flavoured and yellow in colour, which may have been a nod to that character’s bright blond locks.
These chew bars, as well as other McCowan’s products (such as Highland Toffee), were sometimes given away free with copies of the Beano, the Dandy, Roy of the Rovers, and Buster. Since they were intended to push sales, these free gifts were known in the industry as “pushes.” These pushes were usually advertised on the front page of the comic, often in a banner at the top of the page. Sometimes, the free gift would be written into the comic-strips themselves, an excellent example of which can be seen here, in which Desperate Dan has a humorous encounter with “Mr. McCowan” himself. On other occasions, advertisements would be included on the back page of a comic, promoting the free gift in the next issue, a few examples of which can also be seen here.
By Andrew McQuaid, Great Place lead volunteer.