Fox’s Glacier Mints is the leading boiled mint brand in Britain.
Walter Richard Fox (1862 – 1951) was born to a Baptist Leicestershire farming family. He built up a wholesale grocery business on York Road in Leicester.
Fox was an inventor, and in 1895 he began to manufacture confectionery. He was producing over 100 different lines by 1897.
The business eventually passed to Eric Smart Fox (1890 – 1963), the son of Walter. He had received training in the new American business methods and advertising techniques.
Fox invented the Glacier Mint, by mistake in 1918. The transparent peppermints were originally called Clear Mint Fingers, and sold in large glass jars. Acting on his wife’s advice, Fox renamed the sweets Glacier Mints in 1919.
With a limited advertising budget, Fox’s displayed a 1.5 metre high stuffed polar bear at football matches and carnivals to promote the product until the 1960s.
Expanding production saw the business move to Oxford Street, Leicester from 1923.
Fox’s Glacier Fruits were introduced in 1956.
The company employed 200 people by 1960. Eric Smart Fox died in 1963 and left £150,000 in his will (around £2.7 million in 2014).
The company closed a manufacturing plant in Castlereagh, Belfast in Northern Ireland, with the loss of around 100 jobs in 1964. The company moved to purpose-built premises in Braunstone, Leicester in 1965.
By the late 1960s the company was in debt and losing money. It was acquired in 1969 by Mackintosh & Son of Halifax, Yorkshire for almost £1 million in cash (around £14 million in 2014). Later that same year, Mackintosh was acquired by Rowntree. Rowntree Mackintosh soon restored Fox’s to profitability.
From the 1980s, the Leicester factory began to produce the fruit-flavoured variants of Rowntree’s popular Polo mint brand.
Rowntree was acquired by Nestle of Switzerland in 1988.
Declining sales saw Nestle consider closing the Leicester factory, before Northern Foods offered £8.4 million for the business in 2001. Nestle relocated production of the fruit-flavoured Polo mints to a factory in the Czech Republic. Meanwhile Northern Foods concentrated its confectionery business at the Leicester factory, closing its Croydon plant and bringing the Paynes Poppets and Just Brazils brands to Fox’s.
Fox’s was subject to a management buyout for £9.4 million in 2003. Called the Big Bear Group, it acquired other brands such as Sugar Puffs cereal. Big Bear was acquired by Raiso Group of Finland for £80 million in 2011. Raiso own the Benecol health drink brand.
Fox’s employs around 150 people as of 2014. Its other brands include XXX strong mints, Payne’s Poppets and Just Brazils.