Callard & Bowser produced the highest-selling butterscotch in the British Empire.
Daniel James Callard (1824 – 1903) was born to a family of prosperous non-conformist London bakers. Members of the Callard family had been bakers in the metropolis since the seventeenth century.
Callard became a master baker himself, and had entered into partnership with his brother-in-law, John Carrick Bowser (1828 – 1912) by 1855.
The two men established a wholesale grocery business at St John’s Wood. The business initially manufactured infant formula, before concentrating on confectionery from 1861.
Callard bought out Bowser in 1872, but continued to trade under the by now established brand name of “Callard & Bowser”. The firm grew through strong branding and a dedication to product quality and purity, at a time when standards were often inconsistent.
Daniel Callard received the 80th trademark issued in Britain in 1876.
Butterscotch, Turkish Delight and boiled sweets were established as the core products by 1878.
Daniel Callard employed five men, one boy and 35 girls by 1881. He had passed control of the business to his son, James Percival Callard (1859 – 1940), by 1891.
Growing sales saw the business relocated to Duke’s Road, Euston by 1894.
Daniel James Callard died with an estate valued at £99,570 (around £11 million in 2015) in 1903.
Callard & Bowser butterscotch consisted of 11.7 percent butter fat and 79.3 percent sugar, according to an analysis conducted for the British Medical Journal in 1907.
James Callard sold the business to his son-in-law after the First World War.
Callard & Bowser produced the highest-selling butterscotch in the British Empire by 1920.
The business was acquired by Major A E Allnatt (1889 – 1969) in 1933. He relocated production to land he owned at Western Avenue, Park Royal, adjacent to the London branch of the Guinness brewery.
The high-selling “Cream Line” toffee was introduced from 1937.
Callard & Bowser acquired William Nuttall of Doncaster, best known for the Mintoes boiled sweet, in 1948. The Nuttall factory was large and modern and the business had a strong export trade.
The Nuttall acquisition cemented Callard & Bowser’s position as one of the largest toffee manufacturers in Britain.
Callard & Bowser is sold to Guinness
Callard & Bowser was acquired by Guinness in 1951. Major Allnatt was retained as chairman. The stout brewer wanted to diversify from its core operation, and had decided to establish a confectionery subsidiary. Guinness was able to acquire Callard & Bowser at a depressed price as sweet rationing remained in force. The sweet ration was lifted in 1953, and this was to prove a major boon for the confectionery industry.
Profits from confectionery, amounting to £850,000 between 1951 and 1956, were reinvested into the business. Rileys of Halifax, best known for Toffee Rolls, and Lavells, a confectionery store chain, were acquired. Guinness invested heavily to install new factory equipment.
A factory on Silverdale Road at Hayes, Middlesex was acquired in 1956.
Rolls Confectionery of Greenford, Middlesex was purchased from J Lyons & Co in 1961.
Callard & Bowser was not an extensive advertiser, and instead concentrated on developing strong relationships with wholesalers and retailers.
Callard & Bowser was the largest manufacturer of nougat in Britain by 1974.
The Park Royal factory was divested in 1974. Guinness indicated that rationalisation was essential in order to control costs in a highly competitive industry. Production was relocated to the Hayes factory, where there was space for expansion. All 250 staff at Park Royal were given the opportunity to transfer to the Hayes site.
The Nuttall factory in Doncaster was closed down in 1981 and production was transferred to Halifax.
Callard & Bowser had a turnover of £17 million in 1981. The business employed 1,186 people.
Takeover by Beatrice Foods
Guinness sold Callard & Bowser to Beatrice Foods of Chicago for £4 million in 1982 in order to focus on their core brewing operation. Beatrice Foods already owned the Smith Kendon confectionery group of Bridgend in Wales, manufacturer of Altoids Curiously Strong Mints, and it became a subsidiary of Callard & Bowser.
High business rates and an ageing factory saw the Hayes site closed down with the loss of 500 jobs in 1983. The South Wales site had opened in 1974, but it was thoroughly modernised in 1984, and re-opened by Princess Diana.
Callard & Bowser claimed 25 percent of the British toffee market by 1985. Combined sales totalled just under £24 million in 1987. Around half of all production was exported to 65 different countries.
Sale to United Biscuits
Beatrice Foods sold Callard & Bowser to United Biscuits in 1988, in an attempt to reduce debt. United Biscuits paid £21.5 million in cash, a price that represented 83 times annual earnings at Callard & Bowser. The Halifax and Bridgend sites employed 240 white collar staff and just over 400 hourly-paid employees. The Times reported that United Biscuits had acquired “one of the best-known and most traditional names in confectionery, famed for its butterscotch”.
United Biscuits integrated Callard & Bowser with their own Terry’s confectionery company to form the Terrys Group, with three percent of the British sugar confectionery market. Callard & Bowser claimed 33 percent of the UK toffee market in 1991.
Confectionery production was discontinued at Halifax in 1992.
Takeover by Kraft
United Biscuits sold the Terrys Group to Kraft of Chicago in 1993.
Beginning in Seattle, Altoids Curiously Strong Mints enjoyed considerable success in America from the late 1980s. Packaged in distinctive metal boxes, it was the highest selling peppermint in the USA by 1997, with annual sales of 40 million tins.
Riley’s Toffee Rolls were discontinued in the mid-1990s in order to accommodate increased Altoids production. Cream Line toffees were discontinued in 2001, and all production of toffee appears to have ended by 2003.
Sale to Wrigley
Kraft sold Callard & Bowser, along with its Lifesavers mint brand, to Wrigley of Chicago for $1.48 billion in 2004. The Bridgend factory exported 8,000 tonnes of Altoids to America every year.
Wrigley closed down the Bridgend plant with the loss of 173 jobs in 2005. 90 percent of production was exported to America, so it made economic sense to transfer manufacturing to the United States. The Callard & Bowser and Nuttall’s brands were discontinued, with the exception of Altoids.
American-manufactured Callard & Bowser Altoids are still available in Britain.