If any product captures the spirit of school lunch halls in the 1990s and early 2000s, it’s the Turkey Twizzler. These spirals of processed meat, produced by manufacturer Bernard Matthews, were a staple on canteen menus across the country until chef Jamie Oliver, along with his team of documentary makers, led a high-profile campaign that dubbed the products unhealthy and over-processed.
Aired in early 2005 on Channel 4, Jamie’s School Dinners set out to spark a “school dinner revolution” by examining the quality of school food (which largely stretched to chicken nuggets, deep-fried fish fingers and chips, and the troublesome Twizzlers), and uncovering some hard truths behind such nutritionally measly menus.
His findings were not taken lightly. In response, ministers swiftly set mandatory regulations for all schools, which were now expected to offer a predominantly fruit and vegetable based lunch with at least one wholegrain, while also introducing restrictions on juice portions and sugary snacks at lunchtime. Bernard Matthews ceased production of its iconic twists.
School children were gutted and the public outraged; even in 2018, some 13 years after the the product was pulled, a Change.org petition gained more than 27,700 signatures from fans calling for them to be reintroduced to supermarkets. That number creeps up every day.
And now their wish has come true, in a way. For, after some unsubtle hints from Bernard Matthews on social media, including a photo of a three-metre Twizzler statue erected at the company’s headquarters in Norfolk, the infamous Turkey Twizzlers are due to make what the brand is calling the “comeback of the century”. Thanking consumer demand as the reason behind the revival, a new “healthy” version of the mealtime treat will be stocked in Iceland from Thursday.