© Denzil Green
Wagon Wheels are a chocolate-coated cookie and marshmallow sandwich sold with packaging that has a Wild West theme. Some have compared them to Smore's.
There is a top and bottom biscuit layer, with mallow in the middle holding them together, then the whole thing is coated in chocolate. The soft biscuit layers have a bit of crunch to them. The centre is white.
They are available in Australia, Canada and the UK.
The original Wagon Wheel has a plain mallow centre, and is now called "Original Wagon Wheels."
A flavour -- which people variously remember as caramel / butterscotch / toffee -- used to be available in Canada and in the UK. Wagon Wheels referred to it as caramel. It was discontinued in the UK in 1998. In March 2012, a caramel-flavoured one was introduced in the UK. The caramel flavour was put right into the marshmallow, rather than a separate layer of caramel. Each biscuit was 38 g. It was classed as a "limited edition" so it's not known how long it will be available. They were still available as of September 2014. 
The UK used to also have an orange-flavoured version.
A strawberry-flavoured one (with pink icing), and a white chocolate one, were available in Australia, but they were dropped as they were not popular.
One with jam accompanying the mallow is sold in Australia, the UK, Canada and in Ireland. In Australia, the jam is described as "apple and plum" jam. The jam is directly on the bottom biscuit, then there's a layer of mallow. In the British jam version, called a "Jammie Wagon Wheel", which weighs 38g, the jam doesn't touch the biscuit: there's the biscuit, then a layer of mallow, then a layer of jam, then a layer of mallow. In Canada, the jam used appears to be raspberry.
In the UK, they are now (2004) sold in packages of bright red foil, with the picture of a pioneer's wagon on them.
The size of the UK one was reduced in width in the 1980s after the move to Wales from 79 mm to 74 mm. At the same time, the British Wagon Wheel lost its crimped edge. Australian Wagon Wheels continue to have their crimped edge (as of 2005.)
The Australian version doesn't have the wide trough that is on the British one at the sides; the filling comes out far closer to the edges.
Mini Wagon Wheels are sold in 190g tray packs containing 8 of them in Australia, the UK and in Ireland.
In Australia, there is (as of 2006) a Double Choc version. It was released in May 2001. In the middle, it has a layer of mallow and a layer of chocolate fudge.
Comparison of Regular ("Original") Wagon Wheels
|Dimensions||8.8 cm x 1.1 cm = 9.68 cm sq||6.7 cm * 1.8 cm = 12.06 cm sq||7.4 cm x 1.5 cm = 11.1 cm sq|
|Weight||48g, 7 oz||41g||41g|
* Figures current autumn 2006.
George Weston's motto was said to be, "People will eat horseshit if it has enough icing on it".
One of his sons, Garfield Howard Weston (called Garry, 1927-2002), was born in Canada, but left Canada at the age of 4 and made England his home. At the age of 22, he invented Wagon Wheels.
In the late 1940s, Garry Weston visited a factory in Slough, Buckinghamshire, England that his father had bought back in 1934. They had been making biscuits to supply the army with during the war, and with that market now drying up, the management said they needed something "new" to make. Garry came up with the Wagon Wheel idea, and within six weeks the Slough factory was rolling them out for sale in England.
The idea, though, wasn't actually original. Wagon Wheels are very similar to Moonpies, which have been made in the Southern US by Chattanooga Bakeries since 1917.
Wagon Wheels were officially launched in 1948 at the British Food Fair held that year at the Olympia Exhibition Centre in London. At the time, Weston's billed it as the "biggest Chocolate Biscuit Bar" on the market. It may have been true, if the weight surpassed that of Moonpies, which weighed in at 8 oz at the time.
Three years later, in 1952, Garry moved to Australia, and set up the Weston Biscuit Company there and began selling Wagon Wheels in Australia.
Garfield's other son, Galen Weston, was born in England in 1940. He assumed control of the Canadian wing of the business in 1972. Garry's son, Guy, assumed control of the UK business.
In the 1980s, UK production of Wagon Wheels was moved from Slough to Llantarnam, South Wales.
In the 1990s, newly liberated Russia became the next big market for Wagon Wheels.
In 2003, the Wagon Wheels brand in Australia was sold to Arnott's.
As of 2005, the British plant in Cwmbran, South Wales produces over 400 million Wagon Wheels a year. They estimate that almost half are eaten by adults.
In Canada, Wagon Wheels are no longer made by the Weston's. The brand is now owned by a company called "Viau McCormicks." Dare bought "Viau McCormicks", and the Wagon Wheel brand with it, from a corporation called "The Saputo Group" in 2001.
In the UK and Ireland, Wagon Wheels were later made by Burtons, part of Associated British Foods, until October 2000, when the brand was purchased by Hicks Muse to become part of their Horizon Biscuits company.
To eat them, kids would separate the two halves. The trick was to lick off all the filling, then all the chocolate, without breaking the two biscuits.
Nostalgic adults now don't think they taste as good as they used to. Some even feel that they got smaller. Some sources, even that BBC, say however that Wagon Wheels didn't get smaller -- that instead they appearance smaller as a result of adults trying them for the first time since childhood and that their hands had got bigger making the cookies seem smaller. They cleverly called this "The Wagon Wheel Effect." Sadly, the facts do show that the biscuits had got smaller, putting paid to what would otherwise have been a clever name and concept.
Wagon Wheels were at the peak of their popularity in Australia, Canada and the UK in the 1960s and 1970s.
A product relaunch was started in Australia in 2004. The challenge in the early 2000s was that for children of that time, the "Cowboys and Indians" and Wild West themes were not relevant.
The cost of a Wagon Wheel in Australia in 2005 was $1.05 Australian.
In November 2011, the Burton's company was bought out by the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan 
 "The iconic, much-loved biscuit brand is revealing a new and improved recipe, tasty limited-edition Caramel flavour.... joining the existing Original and Jammie range, is a satisfying new Caramel flavour." Discover the Wagon Wheels Secret. March 2012: Burton's press release. Retrieved September 2014 from http://www.burtonsbiscuits.com/burtons_news/discover-the-wagon-wheels-secret/
 "Under the terms of the sale agreement, OTPP will acquire Burton’s as a whole, including all of Burton’s brands, all of the rights under Burton’s Cadbury licence and Burton’s manufacturing sites in Blackpool, Edinburgh and Llantarnam along with its chocolate refinery in Moreton. Burton’s will continue to be led by its existing management team under CEO Ben Clarke, and operate under its existing name from its current head office in St Albans. The sale is expected to complete this month." Burton’s Biscuit Company Announces Signing of Sale Agreement with Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan. November 2013: Burton's press release. Retrieved September 2014 from http://www.burtonsbiscuits.com/news-archive/burtons_news/2013/11/
Ryan, Rosemay. Arnott's new wheels. In B&T Magazine, New South Wales, Australia. 17 September 2004.
"It may not be a coincidence that Cwmbran is also home of the Wagon Wheel biscuit, produced at the Burton's factory. "As teenagers we all wanted to work on the Wagon Wheel production line so we could have free access to all those wonderful cakes and biscuits," says Mr [Hywel] Pontin. "Unfortunately most of us have taken other career paths so a lifetime of free biscuits is one that's been denied to us." -- BBC. Architects flock to see Cwmbran. Retrieved September 2010 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/southeastwales/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_7926000/7926544.stm
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