James Pascall was one of the largest sugar confectionery manufacturers in Britain. It remains a leading sweets brand in Australia.
James Pascall (1838 – 1918) was born into a Quaker family, the son of a Croydon baker. Pascall worked for the Quaker firm of Cadbury as an agent before establishing his own confectionery business with his brother Arthur. The brothers had been taught how to make sweets by their father. The first premises was a small two room shop on Wells Street, off Oxford Street, London.
Many leading Victorian confectioners were Quakers, not just Cadbury but also Rowntree, Fry and Terry. They promoted sweets as an alternative to alcohol.
The business proved successful, and in 1877 operations were relocated to a larger site at Valentine Place on Blackfriars Road. Ten years later there were 300 employees, mostly women.
In 1887 a simple-minded employee deliberately burned down the factory, causing £20,000 worth of damage (£2.5 million in 2015), and leaving only the offices intact. Rival confectionery manufacturers offered Pascall the use of their factories as a stop-gap measure.
By the turn of the century, one of the company’s most successful lines was Golden Maltex, a malt extract confectionery product. In marketing, the company focused on the purity of its products.
In 1898 the business became a private limited company, with a capital of £50,000.
By 1902 there were over 600 employees. Like many Quaker-run firms, Pascall enjoyed good relations with its staff. The standard working day was eight hours, and never more than ten hours, even during the busiest periods.
In 1904 a new factory was opened at Mitcham in Surrey.
James Pascall Ltd employed over 2,000 people in Britain by 1915. By 1920 the company had a capital of £650,000 (£26 million in 2015).
In 1916 Pascall acquired the licence to manufacture Life Savers for the British market (Rowntree later introduced the Polo mint as an imitation of Life Savers).
In 1921 Pascall formed a joint venture with Cadbury-Fry in the Australian market, and a factory was established at Hobart, Tasmania.
In 1921 the Queen and Princess Mary visited the Mitcham factory. In 1922 the Prince of Wales awarded the company his royal warrant.
By 1930 company advertising claimed that Pascall was the originator of the individually-wrapped bon-bon.
James Pascall died in 1918 and his son, Sydney Pascall (1877 – 1949), was appointed as managing director and chairman. Sydney’s tenure was to end unsuccessfully, as the company struggled with profit losses and an immense overdraft. He resigned as managing director in 1930, and as chairman in 1932.
Edward Cassleton Elliott (1881 – 1964), who was what we would now call a business-turnaround specialist, was appointed chairman in 1932. Elliott reduced capital to £433,000, and soon returned the company to profitability. In 1957 the company made a profit before tax of nearly £500,000. In both 1957 and 1958 an impressive dividend of 55 percent was paid out.
By 1959 Pascall had just over £2 million in assets when it was acquired by Beecham for £2.5 million in cash (£52 million in 2015). Beecham merged Pascall with its R S Murray confectionery arm, best known for Murraymints.
The Chocolate Eclair product (chewy toffee with a chocolate centre) was introduced in 1960.
Beecham sold Pascall-Murray to Cadbury for £1.75 million in 1964. The following year the Pascall Chocolate Eclair was rebranded as Cadbury’s, and the milk chocolate centre was changed to Dairy Milk.
In 1970 Cadbury announced the closure of the Mitcham factory, which employed around 1,200 people. Production was transferred to Bournville and Bristol. Cadbury gave the reason for the closure as increased capacity at its other factories and persistent problems in sourcing sufficient labour at Mitcham.
In 1974 the leading Pascall products included Eclairs, Murraymints, bon-bons, fruit pastilles and marshmallows. Many of its sweets were sold in shops direct from the jar.
In 1989 Cadbury added to its sugar confectionery arm when it acquired Bassett of Sheffield, best known for Licorice Allsorts, and Trebor of London, best known for its mints.
Cadbury branded all of its fruit sweets under the Pascall name, and was introducing new Pascall branded products into the late 1990s.
In 2008 Cadbury divested its British sugar sweets arm to Tangerine Confectionery for £52 million.
In the UK, Pascall products, such as bon-bons, have since been rebranded under the Bassett’s name. Pascall remains a major brand in Australia and New Zealand, where it remains as the sugar confectionery arm of Cadbury.