8 Apr, 2023 @ 15:22
3 mins read

Susannah goes to Mars: The task of tracking down British chocolate in Spain

British Confectionery

WHEN I first landed on Spanish shores at the end of the 1980s it was very difficult to find any snacks on the street, especially in train or metro stations.

I had grown up grabbing the odd Marathon/Snickers to line the stomach whilst en route to school or to the pub after work. Yet over here Twix and Mars bars are largely confined to bulk packs in supermarkets; the antithesis of spontaneous snacking. 

However, Spaniards do have a very sweet tooth when it comes to desserts, an unequivocal hangover from their seven-century Moorish ancestry. On inquiring about the correlation between heat and sweet on a visit to Dubai years ago I was informed that sugar boosts flagging energy levels in hot weather. In addition, in Arab cultures sugary treats are offered as a mark of hospitality and generosity.

Curly Wurly

This chocolate has certainly got me by the short and curlies

One store which is promoting British stalwart brands from my misspent youth is Pepco. With 146 branches all over Spain, there’s bound to be a Cadbury’s Whole Nut bar nearer to you than you think. On a recent foray into my nearest branch I was tempted by all manner of nostalgic confectionery including Curly Wurlies, Wagon Wheels as well as those moreish 1980´s favourite: Revels. 

Postage Stamp

Having spent five years locked up in a girl-s boarding school in the heart of the Sussex Downs, I very much relied on our “tuck shop”. This was a converted stable filled with our favourite sugary staples where we could buy our weekly treats and make up for the lost calories of many an inedible lunch. Once our house mistress announced she would exchange postage stamps for cash I knew I was onto a winner. So as opposed to writing weekly letters to beloved members of my cherished family I swapped the Queen’s head for prized Bounty bars, Milky Ways and Twixs. Having acquired something of a reputation for my devotion to confectionery some of the other girls dared me to eat seven Mars Bars in a row….in order to qualify for a free one….Minutes later, tens of mullet-haired 12 year olds gathered round my bunk bed as the challenge commenced. 

Img 20200829 Wa0007 (2)

Cards and chocolate kept us entertained

One by one the cloying caramel slabs disappeared down into the abyss of my gullet whilst I feverishly peeled off the next wrapper. Unfortunately for my room-mates, I didn’t feel sick at all, indeed, far from it. Egged on by the sugar rush all 7 of them slipped down quite comfortably and I am still extremely partial to a Mars bar or three today. Especially if they are presented to me in the format of a Mars Ice cream which can only be described as a feat of food engineering. How on earth does the caramel centre remain at that silky consistency in a deep freeze? 

Another favourite activity was to write to the Complaints Department of Mars Inc. After popping our favoured confectionery for a spin in the school washing machine, we´d enclose it in a grubby envelope with a terse note complaining the Mars bar was faulty and demanding immediate compensation by way of a big box of said product. This deception was repeated with such alarming frequency I’m surprised we didn’t instigate a regional product recall. However, in those days Mars Inc were very generous in sending us endless freebies despite the obvious fraudulent nature of our claims belied by the address of our Malory Towers-esque institution.  Looking back on it, I expect the Customer Service Director was sorely tempted to fill the wrappers with one of their other brands such as Pedigree Chum. 

Mars Box

British Corner Shop staples

Wherever you’re from, if you’re feeling in the mood for some timeless British treats this Easter you can always rely on the British Corner Shop online delivery from their new EU warehouse to egg-sport you some fun. According to their CEO, Tom Carroll: “Cadbury chocolate continues to reign supreme, with timeless treats like the Cadbury Flake and Dairy Milk bar still highly sought after by expats in Spain.” 

As for me, I’m more of a Fruit and Nut case although I shall certainly be doing a few Twirls this month.


Susannah Grant

Now on her fourth residency in Madrid, London-born Susannah has seen the city flourish since the 1980s. In retaliation to countless family holidays in the frozen wilds of Northern Scotland Susannah has been making up for lost time (and sun) travelling to over 86 countries. A wordsmith at heart, she is fluent in 5 languages and fascinated by people and cultural idiosyncrasies the world over. Following a 12 year-marketing career in the wine and spirit industry she now devotes her time to writing and editing.

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