What should an American bring to England?
July 16, 2014 4:25 PM   Subscribe

My mom is going on a business trip to England soon! What American snack food or candy should she bring to the coworkers she will be visiting in the UK?

The food item must be easy to acquire in the U.S., ready-to-eat, shelf-stable, and easy to transport (i.e. no maple syrup, bagels with lox and cream cheese, or jars of things). It must also be appropriate for work (i.e. no alcohol).

Also, let me know if there's some similarly awesome snack she should bring back from England for her American coworkers and/or us! Thanks!
posted by topoisomerase to Food & Drink (50 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: She should bring the UK coworkers Reese's peanut butter cups (or anything else peanut-flavored)! It's difficult to get peanut-flavored things in the UK, in my experience - it just isn't a local flavor there (they seem to eat more chocolate and hazelnut together).
posted by ClaireBear at 4:29 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

It must also be appropriate for work (i.e. no alcohol).
First trip to the UK?

But seriously, +1 for Reese's.

For the return journey, Yorkshire Gold and Marmite are widely available in the US. I have friends bring good quality Cheddar (which is not). Hard cheese is fine to bring through customs, but you do need to declare it.
posted by caek at 4:34 PM on July 16, 2014 [6 favorites]

Cheese is a good point: the UK, at least in my experience, has a much broader selection of cheeses available at the local supermarket, and these are both really tasty and reasonably priced. I don't know how difficult it is to transport them back to the US, but if it's doable, that would be a great idea. Cheddar especially!
posted by ClaireBear at 4:38 PM on July 16, 2014

I think the Reeces thng has changed; they are now available here in Ireland and I spotted them in the wild on my last UK trip, too. I mention this because the two markets are very similar.

If she wants a sure thing, candy from a grocery store of the type typically seen in the US cinema which we do not get here. Uh, I can think of Twizzlers, Good and Plenty, Goobers, Dots, Raisinettes, Junior Mints, Jujyfruits, Whoppers, Jolly Ranchers. You can get all of them at the checkout at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:39 PM on July 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Bring back --

Mcvities, the milk chocolate kind. Good with tea.
Fruit pastilles. Kind of like gummies but way better.
Smarties. If I remember right the orange ones there actually taste like orange chocolate. Orange chocolate products in general.
posted by Blitz at 4:41 PM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: To bring back: Cakes and sweets from Marks and Spencer. Very high quality and delicious stuff.
posted by vickyverky at 4:43 PM on July 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Englishman who lives in the US here!

Here are some US snacks I like, which are not widely available in the UK:
- Goldfish crackers.
- Good jerky.
- "Breakfast cereals" that are really candy (e.g. Cookie Crisp).
- Root beer.
- Cream Soda.

Things to bring back:
- Twiglets.
- Elderflower cordial.
- Savoury spreads (e.g. Marmite, Gentleman's Relish)
- Hob Nobs.
posted by HoraceH at 4:47 PM on July 16, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: To take there: non-standard Oreos (the white fudge covered Christmas season ones went over well there; might be able to do regular fudge covered now), Twizzlers, maybe Cheezits.

To bring back: Chocolate Oranges, Smarties (I recommend getting these in the airport, where you can get the massive bags of little individual boxes), random tea biscuits involving jam ("jammy dodgers" in particular entertain American offices with the name), jelly babies for any Doctor Who fans you may know, strangely flavored potato chips.
posted by olinerd at 4:51 PM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Violet Crumble! Please bring it back and send some to me.
posted by xingcat at 4:52 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Sorry to totally thread-jack this, but Blitz's answer reminded me - Terry's chocolate oranges! And jaffa cakes! (And, as Blitz said, anything else orange chocolate flavored - I think Sainsbury's does a Nutella-style chocolate orange spread…?)
posted by ClaireBear at 4:52 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

I always ask people going to the UK to bring me Lion Bars.
posted by interplanetjanet at 4:53 PM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also, your mom should bring back rhubarb-flavored candy, which I have never seen in the US.
posted by ClaireBear at 4:53 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you can buy Reeces in supermarkets here now (yay!) though they're not as well known as UK brands and are so damn tasty (and recognised as bring an American brand) that they'd be a good gift anyway.

DarlingBri's list is good, though there are now chains of American Candy stores popping up all over the place here, so they won't have quite as much novelty as they once did. The stores are ridiculously expensive though, so a lot of people won't have tried the brands they sell. Probably don't bring Hershey's - the chocolate tastes pretty bad to most Brits' palates.

Sadly, Blitz, I don't think orange Smarties do taste of orange any more (I hope I'm wrong on this, but there was a conversation about it at work the other day. I hardly dare buy any to find out).
posted by penguin pie at 4:53 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Reese's peanut butter cups are everywhere in London, all my local off licenses stock them. They're not special any more, but of course still delicious.

Will your mum be in London? What's available here may well be different to elsewhere in England. A few years ago I would have said Jolly Ranchers, but I had some last year and they just tasted of HFCS - sickly sweet and quite gross. Where is your mum from in the US? Are there any local delicacies, like maple sugar candy? That's what I would go for - something local that is generally not exported. Maybe some unique local-flavoured potato chips (crisps)?
posted by goo at 4:54 PM on July 16, 2014

Take back some Branston Pickle. Maybe Toffifees, too. And Parma Violets.
posted by Solomon at 5:00 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

If Reese's are available there, then may I suggest Justin's dark chocolate peanut butter cups, which are a massive step up in peanut butter cup deliciousness? I can't imagine that they wouldn't be a hit.
posted by HotToddy at 5:01 PM on July 16, 2014

Orange Smarties do definitely still taste like orange! They're the best!
posted by olinerd at 5:01 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

In the "USA" section of a fun international grocery store in France, I saw:

Peanut butter & things with peanut butter in them
Maple syrup that actually said Canada on it even though it was the USA section
Root beer

For things to bring home: this part's easy. She should go to a store with a Brit and find things she doesn't recognize and say "what's that? is it any good?" and if it sounds different enough and isn't awful, buy it.
posted by aubilenon at 5:01 PM on July 16, 2014

Response by poster: Mom's going to London; we're from the NY metro area. There's a lot of salt water taffy and peanut brittle where we live, but we were hoping for something a little more recognizable.

Thanks for the suggestions so far!
posted by topoisomerase at 5:21 PM on July 16, 2014

People from the UK have asked me for swedish fish candy and carmex.
posted by rdnnyc at 5:22 PM on July 16, 2014

Peanut butter, salsa, marshmallows, maple syrup, and single, doublestuff and chocolate Oreos are all things you can buy in almost any UK grocery store. (ETA: also Carmex!)

HoraceH, you can now get Cookiecrisp, and I kind of feel like jerky is getting super trendy now and is everywhere. Maybe buffalo jerky would be an idea?
posted by DarlingBri at 5:23 PM on July 16, 2014

Best answer: Bring back boiled sweets (hard candy) in a variety of flavors. Hope and Greenwood has several branches in London.
posted by brujita at 5:28 PM on July 16, 2014

Best answer: Bring: Jolly Ranchers, Life Savers in both the regular and more obscure flavo(u)rs, wintergreen/cinnamon stuff, choc-peanut-butter whatevers, cinema candy.

Take: tea, instant coffee (no, really), biscuits, old-fashioned boiled sweets.

Cheese is a gamble with customs.
posted by holgate at 5:50 PM on July 16, 2014

Best answer: When I visited the US, I always used to bring back peanut butter M&Ms and York Peppermint Patties, and they were always a big hit.
posted by Magnakai at 5:50 PM on July 16, 2014

Just because you can buy something called peanut butter at Sainsbury's does not mean it is proper peanut butter. I always loaded up my suitcase with Jif on every trip home. (Grape jelly too. Doesn't exist there.) Salsa in most UK stores is a big brand that's nothing like the ones you can get in Texas or other places in the US that are well known for Mexican food.

Same goes for many other things that the US just makes differently - true, usually with HFCS - that gives a very different flavor or consistency. it can still be a novelty.
posted by olinerd at 5:59 PM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Peanut products and root beer are usually the things that I've seen Europeans new to the US react to with amazement. So, those things. Maybe root beer barrel candy since transporting liquids is a pain. And if not maple syrup, perhaps maple sugar candy? That's a good food gift anywhere anytime.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:31 PM on July 16, 2014

Salt water taffy is practically unheard of here, I'd go with that.
posted by goo at 7:45 PM on July 16, 2014

Thought I'd chime back in, as I had a couple more ideas. If I were you, I'd bring some things from Trader Joe's over to Britain, if you have any extra room in your suitcase after filling it with the more obvious candidates. Trader Joe's often have some quirky snack foods, and from my experience it seems like a trendy thing that British people have heard of but haven't had the chance to try (and isn't available in the UK). I think they have a peanut butter and jelly chocolate bar that might be a good pick here, or lots of other novel bite-sized things - chocolate covered potato chips, chocolate covered edamame, S'more bites, Dark-chocolate-peanut-butter-salted-caramel truffles, or things on a list like this, for instance). As someone said above, American chocolate doesn't tend to go over well in Britain (especially Hershey's), so I might focus on other types of candy or snacks to bring unless it's some sort of novelty chocolate. Also, I actually think salt water taffy and peanut brittle would actually be good ideas - lots of more obvious American things are apparently already readily available in Britain, thanks to globalization etc.

I agree with everyone in this thread, but I just thought I'd second holgate about instant coffee to bring back to the US - I got Douwe Egberts in the UK (at Sainsbury's), and it is much better than all the instant coffee I have tried in the US. You can buy it in the US, but it is more expensive and you can't get the flavored versions. Sainsbury's own gold roast instant coffee was excellent too.
posted by ClaireBear at 7:53 PM on July 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Marmite [is] widely available in the US

It is, but only in the smallest jars at quite high prices. The big 454g jars don't exist over here and last time I looked the Marmite online store charges a fortune to ship them internationally.

The 3 things I bring back from the UK -- as an expat now living in the US -- are already all listed above: Marmite in bulk, Branston pickle, and *strong* English cheddar.

Also, the UK's Nestle version of KitKat Chunky totally knocks the socks off the US Hershey version.

Biscuits vs cookies is the big UK vs US difference: similar snacky niches but very different cultural signifiers. Take: Pepperidge Farm (chocolate chip is the definitive US cookie; snickerdoodles are amusingly named); Oreos (particularly in weirdass flavors which are less likely to be available imported in the UK); Nutterbutters (because as noted above the UK doesn't have a peanut-butter-in-everything culture); Teddy Grahams (which are charming). Bring back, as noted above: HobNobs (the chocolate-covered ones are best); digestives (McVites is the defining brand; plain ones are better for dunking in tea); Jaffa Cakes; anything else that takes your fancy in the biscuit aisle. (Note though that many biscuits are deliberately quite bland as they're designed for dunking; Rich Tea biscuits are really, really boring if you eat them dry.)

The peanut-butter-in-candy-bars thing is noted above; the other thing which is weird to me as an alien here is the prevalence of cinnamon as a candy flavor. Take Red Hots but expect them to be rejected as disgusting (I hate 'em); and Wikipedia notes that Big Red gum hasn't been available in the UK since the '90s.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:20 PM on July 16, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, and this previous AskMe is similar and I see I mentioned cookies-vs-biscuits there too.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:41 PM on July 16, 2014

Best answer: Pretzel m&ms are our office crack. We also like mini peanut butter cups. Agree that cinnamon, peanut butter and grape are very American flavours we don't get over here so much.
posted by plonkee at 10:46 PM on July 16, 2014

Yes, yes, yes to the elderflower cordial! I tried Belvoir Farms Elderflower Soda and I swear to the gods I was ready to sell up and move to the UK.

I can't find it anywhere in Portland. Last year when we went to Vancouver, I brought back seven bottles, all I could fit in the trunk of my car with our luggage. (Not as good as Belvoir's but the I was seriously jonesing for it).

Also, Aero Bars.
posted by Beti at 1:03 AM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Girl Scout Cookies, if you still have any. And if you don't, Thin Mints are available at most Walgreens in a package labeled "Nice! Fudge Mint Cookies"; take them out of the package and nobody will know the difference. Sure to make all the expatriate Yanks happy.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 1:14 AM on July 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Cinnamon gum or mints
Flavoured Oreos (we get the normal and chocolate ones in supermarkets here)

I'd definitely bring some local taffy

As said, don't bring Hersey's, it's horrid.

Someone said Jerky, which would be a great suggestion, as you get loads more flavours at a much better price, but it's illegal to bring it into the UK.
posted by chrispy108 at 2:11 AM on July 17, 2014

Best answer: Even though you can get Reese's cups here (London), you can't get the massive bags that my American colleagues always bring back here from visits home, so I would suggest those. They go down really well with everyone.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:51 AM on July 17, 2014

I think the salt water taffy and peanut brittle will go down very well in London - salty caramel flavours are a bit of a newish thing and people love them.
posted by glasseyes at 3:03 AM on July 17, 2014

I'll second the non-standard Oreos on the way there. A couple of years ago I mentioned double-stuff to my team, and it blew their minds...the flavoured ones with extra icing were always a hit.
...and yeah, booze is 100% workplace appropriate in England.
For the way back, your Mum should check out a chocolate shop called Melt. It's the best in London, hands down. A touch on the pricey side, though.
posted by Kreiger at 6:29 AM on July 17, 2014

Best answer: Non-mint Altoids. Like ginger and cinnamon and whatever else they have.

You can get full-sized peanut butter cups here, but oh man, bags of the mini ones will go down a treat.

On the way back, pick up some Parma Violets. Not that anyone will eat them, but they'll smell them and go "What the hell is that?"
posted by Katemonkey at 6:35 AM on July 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Jammy Dodgers, seconding Branston's, Cadbury's chocolate (Hershey's is just. so. gross.) And I wish there were a reasonable way to transport potato crisps/chips back from the UK, because the panoply of flavo(u)rs in the UK is just staggering (sausage and English mustard? Hell yes).
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 7:07 AM on July 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Left field suggestion because I was dreaming about it the other day. Can you fly UK to US with double cream? The stuff I remember is very viscous and so high in fat that I'm sure it would keep.
posted by clavicle at 7:50 AM on July 17, 2014

My husband's British colleagues go mad for a big variety pack of Jelly Bellys.
posted by TrarNoir at 8:22 AM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

And if you can find the "Belly Flops" 2lb bags of slightly wonky jelly beans (I've bought them at Big Lots for $3) then even better.

On the elderflower theme, the cordial is going to be a lot easier to pack than the soda.
posted by holgate at 9:08 AM on July 17, 2014

American Mountain Dew is not available in the UK, due to the brominated vegetable oil I believe. The stuff you get here, or imported from Poland et al, is nowhere near as good. So if your mum knows someone who is a fan of the real stuff, they would probably love her forever if she could bring some.
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:29 AM on July 17, 2014

Best answer: /me responds while eating Parma Violets brought over by my English boyfriend.

Our international food exchange has included me giving him circus peanuts and birch beer, and him giving me Parma Violets, pear drops, candy shrimps (they are like circus peanuts but different flavor), and milk bottles (those are so odd).
posted by msladygrey at 11:44 AM on July 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

One of the things that seems to surprise and delight (and provoke strong responses of THAT IS JUST WRONG) is that purple flavour is grape on one side of the Atlantic and blackcurrant on the other. So I'd bring Skittles both ways.

Also I find it interesting that Cadbury's chocolate tastes different in the US than the UK, so I might bring some of that both ways as well.

Seconding the KitKat Chunky in the UK being divine, and Nutter Butters from the US sounds like a good idea too.
posted by you must supply a verb at 2:36 PM on July 17, 2014

Best answer: The comment by you must supply a verb reminded me that your mom should bring back from the UK things flavored with blackcurrant, which are common Britain and uncommon in the US. Ribena (concentrated blackcurrant drink syrup) might be a good one, since it's a British classic, and there are various other things (especially candy) flavored like blackcurrant over there too.
posted by ClaireBear at 3:04 PM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you can get hold of them, grab some Teddy Gray's Herbals too. Nothing else tastes quite like them.
posted by Solomon at 5:05 PM on July 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yes! Nthing those big bags of teeny individual Reeses cups. We do get the larger sizes (and the travesty that is the Reeses bar) in the corner shops but there's something about the size of those little ones that makes the ratio of peanut butter to chocolate perfect, different (and much superior I think) to any of the other sizes.

Plus, perfect for dumping on a desk and sharing around the office. Probably bring a couple of bags.

I miss overseas office visitors, this question makes me so happy that your Mom's London coworkers will be enjoying this deliciousness soon :)
posted by symphonicknot at 6:08 PM on July 17, 2014

Best answer: Here you go, the American food section in a London supermarket.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:52 PM on July 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Mom ended up bringing mini Reese's cups, individual bags of Goldfish crackers, a giant box of assorted M&Ms (peanut butter, pretzel, minis, etc.) from CostCo, and leftover plane snacks (granola bars, graham cracker bars, jelly bean flavored gum, etc.). She's bringing back half a suitcase's worth of edibles.

Thanks everyone!
posted by topoisomerase at 11:04 AM on August 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

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