Practically the moment Prince William and Catherine Middleton announced their engagement, a swift trade in Royal Wedding collectibles began. Some are officially sanctioned by Buckingham Palace, some are utterly irreverent, and there are even quite a few edible Royal Wedding souvenirs.
But I find the food marketing tie-ins in the UK especially interesting. Cynics maintain companies are just trying to cash in on the Royal Wedding. But it's fun to look at these specialty foods as celebratory cultural expressions. Royal weddings don't happen often; why not extend the party to the grocery aisle?
1. Haribo Hearts, Rings and Other Nice Things
Kate Middleton is rumored to be a big fan of Haribo's jelly candies, so when her engagement to Prince William was announced, the company got to work on a Royal Wedding-inspired candy mix. The candies launched exclusively at the Peaches Spar convenience store in Middleton's hometown — the owners of which scored a wedding invite — before getting wider distribution throughout the UK. The package doesn't specifically reference the Royal Wedding, but the event inspired the product.
2. Waitrose Catherine Peach & Williams Pear Smoothie
Waitrose supermarkets unveiled a juice smoothie that plays cleverly on the Royal couple's names and, some might note, their pedigrees and alleged personalities. The Williams Pear is a traditional English heirloom pear, dating to at least the 18th century. The lesser-known Catherine Peach is a rosy-fleshed continental cultivar. Together, they're sweet and refreshing; hence a juice that Waitrose hopes will customers will imbibe not just in wedding day Bellinis, but throughout the summer. Price: £1.29
3. Heston from Waitrose Royal Trifle
Michelin-starred Chef Heston Blumenthal, of The Fat Duck, created this special edition trifle for Waitrose. Blumenthal combined elements of two iconic British desserts — trifle and Eton Mess — and infused the whole with refined and elegant ingredients. This decidedly upscale trifle layers orange zest-scented strawberry compote, saffron cream, and crumbled amaretti biscuits doused with Marc de Champagne. The trifle is wreathed in a meringue crown, and strewn with edible rose petals, caramel almonds, and dried strawberries. Price: £13.99; serves 10.
4. Chalié Richards Prince William Champagne
Over 20 years ago, Chalié Richards, the UK's oldest wine merchant, trademarked the terms "Prince William Champagne" and "Royal Wedding," presumably in anticipation of the chance to bottle this cuvee. I suppose they get points for forward-thinking marketing, sort of like the folks who snatched up URL's at the start of the internet era in hopes of selling them back to the companies who'd want to use them. But I can't help but notice the conspicuous absence of Catherine Middleton's name on the bottle. Did Buckingham Palace officials withhold the approval that would turn Prince William Champagne into an official Royal Wedding souvenir? Did parent company Halewood International even seek a royal go-ahead before labeling the bottles?
5. McVitie's Royal Wedding Tin
McVitie's has a long history creating royal cakes, starting with King George V and Queen Mary's wedding cake. Prince William famously continued the McVitie's tradition, but in a rather unusual way — he requested a McVitie's Chocolate Biscuit Cake, to be served alongside the more traditional tiered fruit cake. But one needn't have scored a royal invite to get a taste of McVitie's wedding treats: the biscuit company turned out a limited-edition commemorative tin filled with an assortment of plain, cream, jam-filled, and chocolate-covered biscuits. (Plain old Rich Tea biscuits, which are used to make Chocolate Biscuit Cake, aren't in the assortment. Maybe they weren't fancy enough.) Price: £5.
6. Twinings Royal Wedding White Earl Grey Tea Blend
Twinings created a delicate White Earl Grey tea blend with rose petals in honor of the Royal Wedding. It's the commemorative tin, though, that I find most interesting. Amid the tremendous speculation about what Kate Middleton's dress would look like, Twinings seems to have ventured a guess, with an image of an Audrey Hepburn-esque bride in an elegant gown. It's an interesting move that distinguishes the Twinings tin from a sea of souvenirs that use actual photos of the couple — instead of literally invoking Middleton and her style, this memento suggests that all weddings are royal occasions, and all brides princesses. Twinings' Royal Warrant and the royal couple's monogram appear on the tin, in a subtler nod to the Royal Wedding. Price: £5.
7. Patriotic Potato Collection
Gardening Express assembled a trio of potato plants that makes me wish Customs officials weren't such sticklers about the international transport of agricultural products. UK gardeners get to have all the fun with these red, white, and blue heirloom potato varieties, meant to invoke the Union Jack at the dinner table. The Duke of Burgundy is known to have dined on Highland Burgundy Reds in 1936. Salad Blues were first grown in Scotland in the 1900's, and the British Queen variety has been grown for at least 100 years has a royal moniker that speaks for itself. Price: £5.99/12 seed potatoes.
8. Waitrose Royal Bride and Groom Gingerbread Men
Understated crowns distinguish this gingerbread couple as royal, but their smiley-faces have an every-couple air. So as Waitrose suggests, they'd make a cute tongue-in-cheek wedding favor for couples like Toni Newbold and Adam Sandy, who happen to share an April 29th wedding date with a certain Prince and Princess-to-be. Price: 99p