The Kiwis love their sweets and one of the best souvenirs you can bring home is several bags of “lollies.”
What is a Lolly?
What we Americans call “candy” and the Brits call “sweets” is referred to as a “lolly” in New Zealand (and Australia). You’ll recognize favorite confections like chocolate bars and licorice, but there’s also lots of unfamiliar treats to try when visiting NZ.
Hokey pokey was first described to me as “honey comb.” I assumed this meant the honey comb from a beehive, which I’ve had and is delicious.
What I didn’t know is that honey comb is a British term for a special kind of toffee. Baking soda is added to a traditional toffee recipe. The baking soda causes carbon dioxide gas to be released, creating bubbles in the toffee.
This texture of toffee and air pockets resembles a honey comb. In some parts of the U.S. this is also referred to as “sea foam,” again for bubbles found in both.
In New Zealand, hokey pokey is incredibly popular. Even McDonald’s serves a hokey pokey shake. And, for Kiwis, one of the most popular flavors of ice cream is hokey pokey. The honey comb toffee is added to vanilla ice cream.
But, you can also find hokey pokey chocolates in many NZ shops. These have little bits of crunchy toffee coated in chocolate. Simple and divine.
James Henry Whittaker starting making chocolate in New Zealand in 1896. Today, the company is one of the most admired in the country. It’s also the largest New Zealand-based confectionery company (Cadbury sells more product in NZ, but is based in Britain).
While Whittaker’s is a large-scale operation, they still make a quality chocolate bar. Their best are the specialty bars like the Nelson Pear and Manuka Honey made from New Zealand pears and honey made from the pollen of the Manuka tree. Whittaker’s also has a nice single origin bar made from Samoan cacao.
When I first heard of pineapple lumps, I was all in. Pineapple covered with chocolate! What could go wrong?
Turns out, lots can go wrong.
You see, the pineapple in pineapple lumps is actually a marshmallow flavored with pineapple concentrate. Imagine my disappointment when I bit into the pineapple lump only to discover an overly sweet, sticky interior.
Cadbury closed their New Zealand factory in Dunedin a couple of years ago. Now pineapple lumps are imported into New Zealand from Australia.
Chocolate fish work the same side of the street as Pineapple lumps. A gooey overly-sweet street.
A fish-shaped marshmallow filling is covered in chocolate. Then, the fish are put under a blower before the chocolate hardens. The airflow adds ridges to the chocolate, making each fish appear to have scales.
Where to get lollies
The grocery stores in New Zealand generally carry top notch produce. That’s because much of it is locally grown. NZ is so far away that shipping everything to the islands isn’t viable. That doesn’t mean everything in the produce section is sourced from New Zealand, but much of it is, and I found the price reasonable and the quality high.
When looking for lollies, the candy aisle in stores like Countdown and New World are well-stocked with sweet treats, including lots of Whittaker’s chocolate bars. This is a good place to stock up.
In the United States, we call them convenience stores. But, in the U.K., they’re corner shops. While in India, they’re known as kirana stores. In New Zealand, you want to look for something called a dairy. Make no mistake, while they may have milk for sale, this isn’t a place with cows where milk is pasteurized. It’s where you pick up a few necessities, snacks, and lollies.
Name brand candies like Cadbury, Whittaker’s, and Pascal might be on offer at the corner dairy. But, you’re also likely to see off-brand lollies or bags filled with candy bearing no company name at all.
It’s quite fun to poke around and buy a bunch of different lollies to sample. They’re usually cheap so it’s not a huge disappointment if you bite into something unappetizing, like a pineapple lump. Then again, maybe you’ll find a new favorite like chocolate covered hokey pokey.