Lately, a lot of us have been feeling that we'd quite like to turn the clock back to simpler times – times when the worst of our problems was a scraped knee, being called on to read aloud in an English lesson, or having to sing our least-favourite hymn in assembly.
(Some people have also been wishing to turn back time to when passports were blue-black and offered no freedom of movement and it was OK to say racial slurs in the street, but we're not including them here – although said blue passports do coincidentally feature in one of the old Opal Fruits telly ads).
Well, we can't rewind to before the times of pandemic panic any more than we can fast-forward past it. But we can indulge in the little things while we're holed up in our coronabunkers, and one of those little things is Opal Fruits.
After 22 years, the original name and flavours of the square chewy sweeties are back for a short time, and they're just the kind of joy we need in these pre-apocalypse times. Ever willing to take one for the team, we accepted a retro yellow lunchbox full of new-old Opal Fruits to review, and now that we've got jaw ache, we're ready to give you our thoughts.
Opal Fruits vs Starburst
The original Opal Fruits were invented in the UK in 1960, and spread to the US seven years later under the name Starburst. We stuck with good ol' Opal Fruits over here until 1998, at which point we too made the switch to Starburst.
But the Opal Fruits that are on sale at the moment aren't just Starburst with a different name on the front of the packet. Oh no. Mars Wrigley, which owns the brand, has gone to some effort with the temporary relaunch.
They haven't gone all the way back to the sixties for the packaging, but it's definitely retro and understated compared to the much more 3D and overly-graphic-designed bags we have now. On the back is the original tagline, "Made to make your mouth water." Remember that?
Inside the pack, the waxed paper wrappers once again have the words 'Opal Fruits' across them in diagonal lines. Starburst just have the S from the new logo (yes, even after 22 years it's still 'new,' OK?).
It also says "original flavours," which of course the original packaging didn't say, because they weren't the original flavours then – they were just the flavours. Four of them, to be precise: strawberry, lemon, orange and lime.
For comparison, the current Starburst flavours are strawberry, orange, blackcurrant and lemon & lime. That's right, lemon and lime got smooshed into a single flavour so that the horrible purple ones could have the fourth spot. Travesty if you ask me.
Are they still nice?
A lot of things that we used to like when we were younger just don't hold up when we experience them again as adults – looking at you, The Young Ones – but Opal Fruits thankfully aren't one of them.
Using a version of the original recipe (but one that's still vegetarian-safe), the new-old Opal Fruits taste noticeably different to the current Starbursts, even across the same flavours.
New Opal Fruits tasting notes
The biggest difference between Opal Fruits and Starburst is in the green flavour. In Opal Fruits this is lime, in Starburst it's lemon & lime. The Starburst sweet is a lot paler, sort of an apple white colour, while the Opal Fruit has more green colouring.
The flavour of the lime Opal Fruit is much, much, much sourer than its lemon & lime Starburst counterpart. It's scrunch-your-face-up eyes-watering-slightly levels of zingy, whereas the Starburst is sweeter and blander.
The lemon Opal Fruit is less like battery acid, and would make a really nice palate refresher after a meal. There's nothing to compare it to in the Starburst pack, and it seems a shame to have lost this flavour – especially in favour of the purple Starburst. Blergh.
The orange Opal Fruit tastes pretty similar to the orange Starburst, and they're almost the same colour. It's just a bit stiffer – all the Starbursts are slightly softer to chew – and tangier.
Same with the strawberry flavour (aka the best one): almost the same colour but a little harder in texture, plus a tangier taste. However, while the tang makes the orange Opal Fruit a nicer sweet than the equivalent Starburst, in our opinion the sweeter strawberry Starburst is actually nicer than the red Opal Fruit. Heresy, we know, but it's true.
The Starbursts are sort-of healthier, too: they contain the equivalent of 11.5 per cent fruit juice, compared to Opal Fruits' 5.8 per cent.
Where can I buy Opal Fruits?
Assuming you don't have a time machine and you're not currently self-isolating, you can pick up a pack of Opal Fruits for £1 at B&M Bargains, Home Bargains, Iceland, Poundland, The Range and Savers throughout March. Yep, sadly it's just the discount shops rather than the friendly neighbourhood newsagent we'd have got them from in 1995 (who is now sponsored by Lycamobile and selling Purell for £20 a pop).
They're only available for a couple more weeks, so move quickly. Failing that, there's always regular Starburst – still delicious, but without the sweet aftertaste of watching Neighbours at 5.35 before homework at 6.