Beans, chips, Turkey Twizzlers. If you were a child of the 90s, it was the school dinner of champions – until Jamie Oliver came along and ruined it all.
With his 2005 TV show Jamie’s School Dinners, the celebrity chef campaigned for a “school dinner revolution.” In hindsight, it was probably needed for the good of our health. But at the time, we properly mourned those corkscrews of meaty deliciousness.
Now, 15 years later, the mighty Twizzler has risen again. Bernard Matthews has announced it’s relaunching the product with a new (supposedly healthier) recipe.
The new Twizzlers will be on sale in Iceland from Thursday in two flavours, Original Tangy Tomato and Chilli Cheese. Other supermarkets are due to stock the products soon.
“With the world more in need of joy than ever, the time has come – this is the comeback of the century,” a promotional video for the new products claims.
But the announcement has been met with mixed reviews on social media, with people expressing a mixture of excitement, nostalgia and disgust.
Even as a former fan, I’m wondering if we still need Twizzlers in 2020 – when the veggie sausages and (newly discovered) vegan schnitzel in my fridge have been hitting the spot of late.
Matt Turner, a spokesperson for The Vegan Society, is also unconvinced Twizzlers will spark the mass fandom of the late 90s and early noughties.
“Over the last few years and particularly during lockdown, we have seen the demand for plant-based and vegan offerings accelerate massively. Many have cut down on their meat and dairy consumption in favour of new, innovative vegan products that have been hitting the supermarket shelves,” he tells HuffPost UK.
“In the last week, we’ve seen fantastic vegan turkey offerings as part of new Christmas ranges being announced. Consumer demand is predominantly moving towards a more ethical and sustainable alternative, not regressing backwards.”
The old Twizzlers infamously contained just 34% meat, while the new versions contain 70%, according to the BBC. But despite the recipe change, nutritionists are warning they’re still processed food – with limited health benefits.
Specialist paediatric dietitian Bahee Van de Bor is yet to review the complete nutrition profile of the new Twizzlers, but from the information available online, she says the revised version “sounds like it is still a source of added salt and saturated fat in children’s diet”.
“For this reason, if it has been designed to be enjoyed as a snack or as part of the main meal for children, I would encourage parents to treat it like any other food with saturated fats and added salt,” she says. “Where possible always choose lean fresh cuts of red meat and poultry and limit processed meats and poultry that contain added salt. As per other foods with added salt (like bacon and sausages), this should not be offered to babies under 12 months of age.”
Charlotte Stirling-Reed, a nutritionist specialising in babies and children, says that as with anything relating to diet, “context matters”.
“Turkey Twizzlers (or any food for that matter) aren’t a bad food on their own,” she says. “That said, they are not something that children should be having regularly as they can be high in saturated fats and salt.”
Stirling-Reed recommends making homemade turkey nuggets instead of buying processed Twizzlers, adding: “They can be super easy to make and keep in the freezer, can be made with quality meat and don’t have to contain added salt and sugar either.”
Jamie Oliver is yet to publicly comment on the comeback, but HuffPost UK has contacted him and will update this article if we receive a response.