1932 Yo-Yo biscuits launched

Yo-Yo biscuits, now made by Arnott’s, are a uniquely South Australian product. They were first produced by W. Menz and Co. and are famous for their honey flavour. Once included in the South Australian version of the Arnott Family Assortment, they were removed in 1997 in favour of national uniformity, causing local outrage.  They are still available as a stand-alone product, but only in S.A.

W. Menz and Co. began trading in 1867 although the firm could trace its origins back to 1850 when John and Magdalena Menz, German immigrants, began their bakery and grocery business in Wakefield Street, Adelaide. In addition to biscuits, the company began making confectionery in 1892. Among their confectionery products that have icon status in South Australia are Menz FruChocs (first produced in 1942) and Menz Crown Mints (first produced in 1892).

Yo-Yo biscuits were developed as a result of the yo-yo craze that swept the world, including Australia, in 1932. The toy was described in one article as:

…something like the old game of Diabolo – fascinating, captivating, interesting. It is a kind of cotton reel to which is looped a string. The object is to throw the reel into the air and make it rewind on the string; then when this is mastered there are many feats of skill to be performed – making figures of eight in the air, spinning Catherine wheels, dog walking etc.

Other than being round, however, the Yo-Yo biscuit doesn’t resemble the toy it’s named after. Nor is it similar to the homemade yo-yos, for which there are many recipes. These consist of two small biscuits made with icing sugar, custard powder and butter and sandwiched together with buttercream – a shape that definitely recalls a  toy yo-yo. Arnott’s currently gives the ingredients of their product as Wheat Flour, Sugar, Vegetable Oil, Butter (From Milk), Honey, Salt, Eggs, Skim Milk Powder, Baking Powder, Flavour, Emulsifier (Soy Lecithin), Antioxidant (E307b From Soy).  The biscuit, they say, is “treasured for its delicious crunch and sweet honey taste”.

Yo-Yo biscuits were just one of the popular products made by Menz. Another classic was the Bush Biscuit, apparently a version of the hard-tack ship biscuits that were more famous for their keeping qualities than their appetite appeal. These hard biscuits were also a South Australian phenomenon, perhaps because Adelaide was a favoured jumping-off point for inland expeditions. Bush biscuits could be eaten plain or with butter and, in later years, Vegemite. Sadly, unlike the Yo-Yo, they have disappeared.

The biscuit-making arm of W. Menz and Co. was sold to Arnott’s in 1962 and by 1979, after a series of take-overs and mergers, the company was known as Arnott-Motteram-Menz. The Yo-Yo then became part of the Arnott’s range.

When Arnott’s was bought by the American Campbell’s Soup Company the confectionery business was sold to the dried fruit company Robern which operated as Robern Menz until 2021 when it changed its name to Menz Confectionery. In 2018, Robern Menz bought the famous Violet Crumble brand from Nestlé, adding another iconic Aussie product to their range.

In July 2022, a “flashback” on Seven News in Adelaide talked about the history of the Yo-Yo biscuit. The segment focused mainly on the catchy jingle from the Arnott era, but I was interviewed about the early history. The segment was posted on Seven’s Facebook page here.

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