Percy Pig sweets are a brand of pig-shaped gummy raspberry, strawberry, cherry, and grape-flavoured confectionery products made under licence in Germany for Marks and Spencer. They first appeared on shelves in 1992 and have been a hit ever since, even once making an appearance on Vogue’s hot list at number 11 on the top style bible’s 40 hottest people and trends to watch over the coming months. A Percy Pig appreciation society has been set up on Facebook and has more than 250,000 members.
But, they could have been nothing more than a pipe dream for Julia Catton – the mastermind behind their invention – had she not persevered despite challenging setbacks, it was revealed during Channel 5’s ‘Inside Marks and Spencer’.
The narrator said: “Britain’s savoury tastes had changed, but so too would its sweet ones.
“From Pear Drops, to penny sweets, from Flying Saucers to Dip Dabs, there was ample evidence that the public was open to new sweet treats.
“So, in 1992, M&S made its contribution.
The creator of Percy Pig revealed the history of the sweet
Percy Pig is a British classic
“Since their launch more than a billion Percy Pigs have been sold.
“They’ve been consumed by ultra runners and lauded by racing drivers, but they very nearly never existed at all.”
Former Product developer Ms Catton detailed how Percy first became an idea.
She said: “Well you’re always wanting to invent something new when you’re in M&S because that’s what they’re all about, so it’s trying to find something that would appeal to children and grown-up children as well.
“So they had lots of different fruit-flavoured products, lots of different shapes, lots of different technologies.
More than a billion Percy’s have been eaten
“So we looked at them all and we said ‘if you could take that product with that flavour, with that texture,’ then we thought they would have something that would have legs to it.
“So I literally drew a pig face on a piece of paper and said ‘can you make this with that texture and that jelly?’”
But the series detailed some of the issues they faced during product development.
The narrator added in 2019: “The manufacturers set to work.
“Their idea was to combine foam and jelly in a way that had never been tried before.
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How Ms Catton described her vision
Product developers at M&S faced issues making the sweets
“The result was not what they had hoped for.
“As they went back to the drawing board, the product developers were racking their brains to come up with a name for their creation.”
Ms Catton explained how the loveable name was thought up and why the team finally decided to go ahead with the release.
She added: “It’s like having the name of a pet or something, so I think it’s really important you have a name that you can remember and that means something.
“So Percy is everyone’s best friend now, but we thought of lots of P names at the time, but Peter Pig didn’t have the same ring.
“When we first launched him, he had all sorts of problems with his face and we had these creases and marks and shapes.
“We genuinely nearly didn’t launch the product because the samples were awful.
“I remember sitting in a room at Baker Street and saying ‘shall we launch it, shan’t we, is it good enough?’
“You think everyone will notice everything you notice, but it was fine and we sold it.”