Edward Sharp & Sons became the largest toffee manufacturer in the world.
Edward Sharp (1854 – 1931) was born in Maidstone, Kent, the son of a paper factory manager. He was educated at the local grammar school. He was a dedicated Congregationalist.
Sharp established a grocery business on Week Street, Maidstone. He began to sell homemade sweets in his shop from 1878, principally toffee and nougat. He employed one man and one boy by 1881.
The confectionery sideline was to prosper, and Sharp had divested his grocery business by 1898 and established a dedicated factory in a former roller skating rink on Sandling Road, Maidstone.
From the turn of the century, Kreemy Toffee secured the business a nationwide reputation. A new factory, the Kreemy Works, was established at St Peter’s Street, Maidstone, from 1912.
Sharp’s success was credited to improved methods of manufacture, careful advertising and a national increase in toffee sales during and after the First World War. The business claimed to be the largest toffee manufacturer in the world in 1922, and Sharp was made a baronet.
Sharp’s wife died in 1925, and to widespread surprise, he married his secretary when he was 74 years old in 1928. He died in 1931 and left an estate valued at £156,367.
Sharp’s sons Herbert Edward Sharp (1879 – 1936) and Wilfred James Sharp (1880 – 1945) became joint-managing directors of the company.
Edward Sharp & Sons toffee sales continued to grow, and it was the largest toffee manufacturer in the world in 1933. The company owed its success to heavy advertising and a quality product.
H E Sharp died in 1936 and left an estate valued at £79,943. W J Sharp died in 1945 and left an estate valued at £194,219. The grandsons of the founder became joint-managing directors.
Employees could consume as much confectionery as they could eat on the premises, but were not permitted to take produce home.
During the Second World War and up to the 1950s, restricted supplies of raw materials forced Sharps to concentrate on the export trade.
Sharps was one of the foremost confectionery manufacturers in Britain in 1951. The factory could produce 600 wrapped sweets a minute. By this time the highest selling product was Super Kreem toffee.
Sugar rationing ended in 1953, and butter rationing ended in 1954. To cope with increasing sales, 24 hour production was introduced, and 350 men were employed on the night shift alone by 1954.
After the post-rationing boom, the sugar confectionery industry lost significant market share to chocolate. Edward Sharp & Sons was acquired by Trebor, a privately-owned London confectionery manufacturer, in 1961. The sales forces were merged in 1968, and the company became known as Trebor Sharp.
Trebor Sharp was acquired by Cadbury in 1989.
Sharps toffee was discontinued in 1998.
The Maidstone factory was closed as part of an efficiency drive, with the loss of over 300 jobs in 2000. The factory had produced Softmints, toffee and fudge. Production was relocated to Chesterfield and Sheffield. The factory was demolished to make way for housing in 2002.
The brand was relaunched as Sharps of York in 2004. The Sharps brand was acquired by Tangerine Confectionery in 2008. The Sharps brand had been quietly dropped by 2016.