99 Flake shortage: why is a 99 ice cream called a 99 – and why is the Cadbury chocolate bar hard to find?

The newest challenge facing the UK is a shortage of Cadbury 99 Flakes, with a surge in demand leaving ice-cream vans in short supply.

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But why is a 99 ice cream called a 99? This is what you need to know.

There are many different theories that claim to explain the origins of the 99 name  (Photo: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)There are many different theories that claim to explain the origins of the 99 name  (Photo: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
There are many different theories that claim to explain the origins of the 99 name (Photo: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Why are they called a 99?

While most might assume that the ice cream is called a 99 because they used to cost 99p, that is not actually the case.

Cadbury states that the “real reason for “99” Flake being so called has been lost in the mists of time”, however there are a number of popular theories floating around that claim to explain the origins of the name.

Even Cadbury offers up its own theory, saying “in the days of the monarchy in Italy, the King has a specially chosen guard consisting of 99 men, and subsequently, anything really special or first class was known as 99 – and that is how 99 Flake came by its name”.

Another claim is that the name comes from Portobello, in Scotland, when Stefano Arcari opened a shop at 99 Portobello High Street. Arcari would break a large Flake in half and stick it in an ice cream, with the name coming from the shop’s address.

Speaking to the BBC programme Balderdash and Piffle, Tanya Arcari, Stefano’s granddaughter, said: “It has been a family legend for as long as I can remember that my granddad invented the 99, but the problem is, we have no proof.”

Another similar claim says that the name comes from a sweet shop in Manchester called Dunerleys, which operated at 99 Wellington Street.

Another theory states that the name comes from immigrant Italian ice-cream sellers who came up with the name in honour of the final wave of Italian WWI conscripts, who were born in 1899 and referred to as “i Ragazzi del 99”, which translates to “the Boys of 99”. The chocolate is said to somewhat resemble the long feathers that were worn in the conscripts’ hats.

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Why could there be a shortage?

The UK could be facing a shortage of Cadbury 99 Flakes following a surge in demand for ice creams topped with the chocolate treat.

As restrictions around the UK ease, despite the disappointing weather, demand for 99 ice-creams have increased.

A spokesperson for Cadbury parent company Mondelez said: “We are seeing a recent increase in demand for our Cadbury 99 Flake in the UK and Ireland that we had not expected.”

Mondelez did not reveal how long it expected the shortage to last, but in a statement added: “The product is still available to order and we’re continuing to work closely with our customers.”

The shortage has not been attributed to Brexit or any disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, but simply a straightforward case of supply and demand issues after Mondelez failed to predict the UK’s sudden need for ice cream.

As news of the possible shortage has circulated, many have taken to social media platform Twitter to offer up alternative suggestions that ice-cream vans could use instead of the iconic Flake.

One person wrote: “OMG this is a disaster… UK hit by Cadbury 99 Flake shortage. Alternatives: A twirl? A ripple? What else can I Have with my Mr Whippy?”

Another Tweeted: “Just stick a Freddo in it instead and call it a day.”