A breath of fresh air: Callard & Bowser

Callard & Bowser produced the highest-selling butterscotch in the British Empire. The founding-family sold the business in the 1930s and its successive owners included Guinness, United Biscuits and Kraft.

Callard & Bowser developed a large market for Altoids mints in the United States from the 1980s, and eventually discontinued all other lines in order to focus on their leading product.

Daniel James Callard (1824 – 1903) was born to a prosperous non-conformist family of London bakers. Members of the Callard family had been bakers in the metropolis since the seventeenth century.

Daniel Callard became a master baker himself. He had entered into partnership with John Carrick Bowser (1828 – 1912), his brother-in-law, by 1855.

The two men established a wholesale grocery business at St John’s Wood. The business initially manufactured infant formula, but began to concentrate on confectionery production from 1861.

Daniel Callard bought out John Bowser’s stake in the business in 1872, but continued to trade under the 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.

Callard & Bowser logo (1896)

Butterscotch, Turkish Delight and boiled sweets were established as the core products by 1878.

Daniel Callard employed 41 people by 1881. He had passed control of the business to his son, James Percival Callard (1859 – 1940), by 1891.

Growing sales saw the business relocate to Duke’s Road, Euston by 1894.

Daniel 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 was the largest producer of butterscotch in the British Empire.

Callard & Bowser was sold to Major Alfred Ernest Allnatt (1889 – 1969), a property developer, in 1933. He was a publicity-shy and eccentric figure.

Allnatt relocated production to land he owned at Western Avenue, Park Royal, adjacent to the London branch of the Guinness brewery. Cream Line toffee was introduced from 1937, and was to prove one of the more successful products.

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 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.

A “Big Four” consisting of Edward Sharp & Sons, J A & P Holland, Mackintosh and Callard & Bowser, controlled over half of the British toffee market by the early 1960s.

Callard & Bowser toffees were a favourite confectionery of United States President John F Kennedy (1917 – 1963).

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.

Callard & Bowser became loss-making, and the Nuttall factory in Doncaster was closed down with the loss of 125 jobs in 1981. 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.

Smith Kendon, which produced Altoids Curiously Strong Mints at Bridgend in Wales, was absorbed into Callard & Bowser to create the eighth-largest confectionery manufacturer in Britain.

Callard & Bowser operated autonomously from its parent company.

The business continued to operate at a loss due to a declining sugar confectionery market. 135 jobs at Hayes and Halifax were lost in 1982.

High business rates and an inefficient ageing factory saw the Hayes site closed down with the loss of 500 jobs in 1983. Production was transferred to Bridgend, which received heavy investment.

Callard & Bowser was growing rapidly by the mid-1980s. The business claimed 25 percent of the British toffee market. 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 subsidiary, best known for the Chocolate Orange, to form the Terry’s Group. The merged business held three percent of the British sugar confectionery market.

United Biscuits did not advertise Callard & Bowser products, but instead investing in packaging design and product formulation. The strategy worked: a 29 percent share of the toffee market had grown to 34 percent by 1992.

Confectionery production was discontinued at Halifax in 1992.

Takeover by Kraft
United Biscuits sold the Terry’s Group to Kraft of Chicago in 1993.

Altoids had enjoyed considerable success in the United States from the late 1980s. Altoids were the highest selling peppermint in the United States 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 the remaining lines, with the exception of Altoids, were discontinued in 2004.

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.

22 thoughts on “A breath of fresh air: Callard & Bowser”

    1. I worked for Callard and Bowser in the late 70s &early 80s. Such a nice company to work for. I got made redundant as I didn’t want to relocate to Wales. I miss the desert nougat and the almond toffee.

  1. Hi Thomas,

    just thought you might like to also know that HRH The Duke of York, opened our factory this year, sort of following on in the historical footsteps of Princess Diana when she re-opened the S. Wales plant in 1984

  2. I was working with Callerd & Bowser on 27 march1974 to Nov 1983s ,I was pregnant and after my baby I started working again then ,Factory started redundant
    I was working in HAYES & in fudge slabs & tom William Was my foreman , I miss my Beautiful helpful peoples who I worked with
    I miss all my friends my supervisor Mrs Morrison and my manager was Malcolm

    1. Hi
      Do you remember a Mrs Jean Black of Church Road Hayes? She was my lovely mother in law. Now sadly passed away. She worked in an office I believe. A little lady with a big heart. Loved her to bits. I am Gordon Kerrison also of Hayes. My email is gordonkerrison@gmail.com

      Best wishes
      .Gordon K

  3. I loved to work .such a great time with beautiful people never forget my C & B sweet factory sweetie peoples ???????

  4. My Grandmother Violet Lane of Greenway Hayes worked for C & B and her good friend Mrs Rogers of Bourne Rd Hayes.

  5. Thank you, very interesting. I used to enjoy their plain chocolate coated toffees in the 50s – were they based on their Creamline toffee or Rileys Rolls – which have recently been resurrected I believe, using the original recipe.

  6. I worked at Callard and Bowser in Hayes in the Summer of 1975 as a Summer holiday job whilst at school. I remember working on the long slab sprinking almonds onto the toffee when unfortunately burnt my fingers on the molten toffee. You could buy the cheap toffee as a perk. A lovely smell in the air of the factory of the beautiful sweets. What a great job for a kid.

  7. I first found Callard & Bowser during a trip out West (I’m a NYer) back in 1967 in Western Canada. I loved their Chocolate, and Butterscotch Toffee and most of all, their hard Treacle.

  8. Has anyone found a nougat that tastes like C and B? While C&R has claimed to have brought it back some reviews say they are not really the same so was wondering if others had suggestions? Thanks

  9. My grandfather worked at C&B after the War. He used to bring us nougat, which we loved, until he died mid-1950s. He also gave us similarly packed and wrapped sweets called ‘raspberry noyer’ which were to die for but I’ve never seen since and no-one else seems to know. Anyone remember those? Really miss the quality sweets of my childhood in U.K.

  10. My mother’s wedding was cancelled in 1954, all presents returned. The only present that was sent back was from Mr Callard who insisted she keep the full Luneville dinner service.
    I still use it for ‘best’.

  11. my great grandmother was Jessie Hiett Bowser, who married Thomas Johnstone Irving in Glasgow in the 1880’s.
    I was adopted, but researching my family history, traced several half sisters, who told me that when they were young they received parcels of sweets from Callard and Bowsers
    The Irving family emigrated to Naples, where my grandmother, and mother were born.they later returned to Scotland and England.

  12. One of my earliest memories is of unwrapping a Callard & Bowser’s Celebrated Butterscotch. We live in the US but my mom alwaya managed to find foods from her childhood in Liverpool.

    I think Callard & Bowser’s Celebrated Butterscotch were much better than Werther’s Original.

    1. Very interested in you comment about C & B’s butterscotch. My grandfather used to eat it and gave me some. It was lovely and as you say better than Werthers. That was in London in the 1960s/early 1970s. I googled C & B to find out if it still existed – sorry to see it doesn’t

  13. When I was a kid, 64 y.o.now, I used to get the Licorice Toffee.!!
    Was totally hooked on the stuff.. OMG, my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Had no idea they were out of business.. Excuse me…I’m going in the corner to ? CRY….

  14. Yes all the great sweets from England are no longer available. The companies bought out by US firms who just couldn’t understand how to make the products. The last buyout is Cadbury and assume that will go the way of the dodo too.
    I loved the nougat, licorice toffee and anything C&B.
    I used to go to a cafe in Acton where the girls from C&B would go for lunch. They were such fun! Ah those were the days

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