Remembering some of our Celebrity labels

Posted on September 19, 2017

Growing up and living in South Africa as a child of the late 70’s, 80’s never had a dull moment, we’ve seen some of the most extraordinary changes, developments and transition in our country’s history in the shortest space of time. Immediately you might assume that I am referring to politics, however that has become tedious and monotonous extraordinaire… and I will actually refrain from that. What I am in fact referring to is something that brings back far happier and fond-home memories of our careless stages of growing up.

Remember the days of Black Cat peanut butter? How about, Marmite, Melrose, Toff-o-luxe and Chappies? Those were the luxuries in our homes, and never did we imagine things like Nutella, Bar-One spread, microwave popcorn – or even Marshmallow spread – called “Fluffy”!

Do you remember some of these?

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How about the old beer labels our Dads used to enjoy – they were tremendous too!

In more recent years there has been a risinginfluence of craft beers, and though the originals will likely always maintain their share of the shelf space, I’m sure they’re feeling the competition. South
Africa’s heritage regarding beer reaches far back into the categories of both culture and history, and to be quite frank, we are a rather beer-loving nation!


Remember the World Cup of 1995 – where Castle Lager ads were all over the show? And remember the ad with the Toto song “Africa” playing in the background? Ah, that was awesome – here’s the link for a little tear-jerking reminiscence….

However, the change and progressive development in the beer labelling department has not been much different to the revolution in the SA wine industry. More and more producers are going independent and developing private labels and have certainly broken the mould of the more conservative traditions.

How many of you can remember the old Carling Black Label cans with the pull-tab? We used to pick up those old pull-tabs everywhere and make the most creative necklaces, bangles, shakers, you name it,
with them. But something I came across that was a smidgen before my time are the cans that you had to physically punch holes into before consumption! Not a word of lie – look here…

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Wicked is that??

One of my favourite celebrity labels has got to be Mrs Balls Chutney! This was more than just an everyday commodity in our homes, this was an absolute must-have when it came to boerewors, hotdogs or party burgers.  The label has hardly changed over the years, but here is a little background story on how Mrs Balls first came about.

Apparently, the secret recipe of Mrs H.S. Ball’s Chutney™ only just happened to survive a watery grave, when the SS Quanza shipwrecked off the East London coast in 1852. The ship was on route from Canada to Australia. It was the Captain and his wife, Mr & Mrs Adkins who were fortunate to not only escape with their lives, but also the original copy of what was to become one of South Africa’s most famous culinary brands. The two of them then settled in King Williamstown (Eastern Cape) where they had a daughter (Amelia) in 1865. Amelia later married a man by the name of Herbert Sandleton Ball, a humble railway superintendent from Cape Town. It is believed that Amelia received the reputable secret chutney recipe as a wedding gift.

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During the Great War, the Ball’s chutney was made in small quantities, either to be given away as gifts or sold at the odd church fete. However, it become so popular so quickly that their kitchen space became a little too tight, and a small makeshift production plant was then established. Interestingly, it was with the help of Mr Fred Metter, a Cape Town businessman that they developed the iconic octagonal bottle and oval label – which remains a familiar characteristic of its prototypal today. The Woodstock factory opened in 1917 but as demand and exports increased an even bigger facility was established in Diep River.  Later Mrs Ball’s formed part of the Unilever Foods Group, but in 2013 became entirely owned by a subsidiary of Tiger Consumer Brands Limited.

I love these old labels and what makes life even more fun is how you find them printed on all sorts of paraphernalia these days, from T-shirts to cushion covers, mugs, caps and even baby grows!

Cheers to the old and may our younger generations also establish fond memories of the labels that mark the milestones in their lives.

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