Some initial thoughts on the merger of the businesses of Carlsberg UK and the Marston’s Beer Company.
On 22 May 2020 it was announced that Carlsberg UK will merge with the brewing arm of Marston’s. Carlsberg will control 60 percent of the equity in the venture and Marston’s will hold the remainder.
The Twittersphere seems to believe that this is a “classic case” of “Big Beer” exercising control over the British brewing industry. Perhaps it is, but I would characterise it as more of an act of desperation on the part of Carlsberg. Not only will Marston’s continue to hold a large minority stake in the business, but they will receive a one off cash payment of £273 million.
As things stood, Carlsberg UK was undoubtedly in a position of weakness. Despite a major rebrand and overhaul of its recipe, Carlsberg lager remains stuck at third place in the standard lager market, behind Carling and Foster’s. Their only powerful brand in the premium lager market is San Miguel, which admittedly has enjoyed somewhat of a surge in popularity in recent years.
Other than the licence to brew Brooklyn Brewery products, Carlsberg’s most noticeable commitment to craft beer consisted of closing down their Leeds site, the largest cask ale brewery in the world, in 2008. The tie-up with Marston’s effectively reverses this decision, buying into a business that operates six breweries, largely producing cask ale.
Furthermore, the Marston’s tie-up represents a reversal of strategy for Carlsberg. They closed their own distribution network in 2016. Now, four years later, having access to the Marston’s distribution network is an appeal for them.
I honestly wish the venture success. I believe that both businesses are stronger together. Carlsberg has neglected its Tetley cask ale brand, which was the largest in the world as late as the mid-1990s, whereas Marston’s has nurtured and heavily invested in its own. Meanwhile Marston’s lacks strong lager brands, which Carlsberg provides.
Wheeler & Co became one of the largest soft drinks producers in Belfast.
Walter James Wheeler (1830 – 1890) and Dr Henry Whitaker (1833 – 1912) acquired a chemist’s business at 38 Apothecaries Hall, opposite Bridge Street, Belfast, in 1858. Whitaker had previously served as an apprentice pharmacist with Grattan & Co.
Wheeler & Whitaker acquired the lease to a factory on Murphy Street, Belfast, which had access to the Cromac springs, in 1864.
Wheeler & Whitaker was the first Belfast soft drink manufacturer to utilise the Cromac springs, and it was to prove well-suited for the production of carbonated drinks due to its purity and mineral content.
Wheeler & Whitaker was ranked as one of the “Big Five” producers of soft drinks in Belfast by 1871. An extensive export trade had been developed by 1877.
Wheeler & Whitaker was subject to a break-up in 1882. Dr Whitaker took control of the chemists’s business, and Wheeler took control of the soft drinks business.
W J Wheeler died in 1890 and left an estate of £16,932. He was remembered as a kindly man.
Frederick Wheeler (1862 – 1939) succeeded his father as managing director of Wheeler & Co. A driven and determined man, the business expanded substantially under his direction.
Wheeler converted the firm into a private limited company, with capital of £20,000. He led a focus on the export trade.
The First World War was to have a negative impact upon Belfast soft drink producers. Businesses struggled to import ingredients, and to export produce.
The Republic of Ireland gained independence in 1919, and erected tariffs against imported British goods.
Norman Walter Frederick Wheeler (born 1892), son of Frederick Wheeler, placed the business into voluntary liquidation in 1923.
Wheeler & Co was acquired by George A Davison. He was declared bankrupt in 1927.
Wheeler & Co was still in business as late as 1942.
Mackeson & Co was the first brewery to introduce milk stout.
The Hythe Brewery and the Mackeson family
The Hythe Brewery was established on High Street, Hythe, Kent in 1669.
William Mackeson (1774 – 1821), a surgeon, became junior partner at the Hythe Brewery from 1801.
Following his death in 1821 the business was continued by his brother, Henry Mackeson (1772 – 1860).
Nine men were employed at the Hythe Brewery in 1851.
Henry Mackeson died in 1860, and his son, Henry Bean Mackeson (1813 – 1894) took control of the Hythe Brewery.
Henry Bean Mackeson was gentlemanly, genial, courteous, and well-respected. He employed 37 men in 1871, and 36 men in 1881. He served as Mayor of Hythe for nine consecutive years.
Henry Mackeson takes control of the business, and milk stout is introduced
Henry Mackeson (1861 – 1935), studied chemistry at Edinburgh and London. He became the head of the business following the death of his father in 1894.
Mackeson was persistent and hard working, and developed the business. He invested in new buildings and machinery, and updated the range of beers provided in order to meet changing customer preference.
Henry Mackeson was joined in partnership by his brother, George Lawrie Mackeson (1864 – 1950).
Mackeson & Co was incorporated with a share capital of £120,000 in 1900.
Mackeson & Co acquired various patents relating to using lactose, or milk sugar, in brewing from 1908. Stout was already recommended as a source of energy during convalescence, and Mackeson hoped that the addition of lactose would further increase its nutritional value. Mackeson Milk Stout, the first milk stout in the world, was introduced from 1909. 9 lbs (4.1 kg) of lactose were used in each 36 gallon barrel. The product was an immediate success.
Henry and George Lawrie Mackeson sold their shareholdings to H & G Simonds, a large brewery based in Reading, in 1920. The two brothers took the opportunity to enter into retirement.
Mackeson became a well-established brand throughout Kent. The brewery employed 120 people by 1929.
Mackeson is acquired by Whitbread
Whitbread, a large London brewer, acquired Mackeson & Co in 1929. Simonds sold up as the offer price was simply too good to refuse.
Whitbread afforded Mackeson Milk Stout nationwide distribution. The J Walter Thompson advertising agency was engaged to market the brand towards women, who it was reasoned would appreciate its smooth and sweet flavour. Over 50,000 barrels were sold in 1939, and the beer accounted for nearly ten percent of Whitbread production.
The name of the product was changed to “Mackeson Stout” from around 1942 onwards.
Sales gained momentum following the Second World War. Mackeson benefited from an increasing demand for bottled beers, which, although more expensive, provided consistent flavour and quality.
103,000 barrels of Mackeson were produced in 1948.
Mackeson Stout contained eight percent lactose in 1954.
Whitbread bottled beers were available in over half the licensed houses in Britain by 1955. Demand was such that Whitbread had to subcontract around 20 percent of its bottling to other companies.
60 percent of the £850,000 Whitbread advertising budget was dedicated to Mackeson in 1957. Mackeson accounted for almost half of revenue at Whitbread by 1960. Sales had effectively quadrupled during the 1950s, and 425,000 barrels of Mackeson were sold in 1961.
Mackeson held 25 percent of the British stout market by 1963. Whitbread briefly experimented with a draught version of Mackeson at this time.
A reciprocal agreement was signed with Bass in 1965, who agreed to stock Mackeson Stout across its estate of 4,100 public houses in exchange for Whitbread selling Bass beers throughout their estate.
Mackeson was introduced to the South African market in 1967.
Mackeson had an ABV of over four percent in 1968, and sold for a premium price.
The Hythe brewery was closed in 1968 and Whitbread relocated production to the Exchange Brewery in Sheffield.
Mackeson had been introduced in cans by 1971.
Mackeson was withdrawn from sale in South Africa in 1972.
Mackeson was brewed under licence in Jamaica and Trinidad from 1973. It began to be brewed in Singapore from 1978 and Nigeria from 1979.
Sales of Mackeson had began to decline in Britain by the late 1970s.
British Mackeson had an ABV of 4.3 percent in 1988.
The Exchange Brewery was closed in 1993, and Whitbread relocated production to their Castle Eden, Co Durham and Samlesbury, Lancashire plants.
Mackeson XXX Stout was brewed under licence in the United States by the Hudepohl-Schoenling Brewing Company in Cincinnati, Ohio from around 2000.
Whitbread sold its beer operations to Interbrew of Belgium for £400 million in 2000. Interbrew merged with AmBev to form Inbev from 2004.
Mackeson Stout was produced under contract by a number of brewers from 1999, including Young’s of Wandsworth, Ridley’s of Chelmsford, Cameron’s of Hartlepool and Hydes of Manchester. The Hydes Brewery was closed in 2012, and its production centre since this date remains unknown.
The ABV of Mackeson’s was reduced from 3 percent to 2.8 percent from 2012 in order to qualify for duty relief.
According to information kindly provided by InBev, Mackeson Stout currently contains 600g of lactose per hectolitre of final product as of 2020.
* British Newspaper Archive
* The Times Historical Archive
* The Story of Whitbread PLC 1742-1990 by Nicholas Barritt Redman
* Census, birth and death records
* Martyn Cornell
* Ron Pattinson
How did Smithwick’s rise from relative obscurity to become the largest ale brewer in Ireland?
Origins and the Edmond Smithwick era
The Smithwicks were a well-established and highly-respected Catholic family in Kilkenny, Ireland.
John Smithwick (1763 – 1842) entered into business as a wholesale and general grocer with premises on Kilkenny High Street. From modest beginnings Smithwick grew wealthy, and he leased a distillery at St Francis Abbey, Kilkenny, on behalf of his eldest son, Edmond Smithwick (1801 – 1876), from 1827.
St Francis Abbey is a ruinous former Franciscan abbey built in the early 13th century.
An adjoining brewery was acquired on lease from 1833. Ireland had relatively few breweries, numbered at just 207 in 1831, against 5,419 in England. Kilkenny was to prove an advantageous location for the production of beer, given that it was situated in one of the most advantageous barley growing regions in Ireland. The brewery soon overtook the distillery to become the predominant business.
Edmond Smithwick hosted Daniel O’Connell (1775 – 1847), the Catholic emancipation campaigner, in 1840. Amongst this fervour of nationalistic mood, there was a revival of a campaign for Irish consumers to purchase Irish-made goods. Smithwick himself argued that if the middle classes supported Irish industry, lower taxes would ensue, as there would be fewer unemployed to support.*
Highly-regarded by the community, Edmond Smithwick was elected Mayor of Kilkenny in 1844.
Edmond Smithwick greatly extended and modernised the brewery in 1851. He also hired a highly experienced brewer.
Edmond Smithwick funded an all-expenses paid trip for over 100 employees to the Great Exhibition of Dublin in 1853.
His brother, Daniel Smithwick (died 1869), established a bottling works.
Edmond Smithwick had commenced exports to the British Empire by 1855.
The business traded as E Smithwick & Sons by 1861.
Edmond Smithwick was re-elected Mayor of Kilkenny in 1864 and 1865.
Edmond Smithwick had spent thousands of pounds on improvements to his site by 1867. It was one of the foremost industrial concerns in the south of Ireland. The brewery employed hundreds of people. Smithwick had a reputation as a fair employer who paid a good wage.
Edmond Smithwick acquired the precinct of St Francis’s Abbey for £3,100 in 1867.
Edmond’s sons take over the business
Edmond Smithwick died in 1877, and the business was continued by his three sons, John William Smithwick (1835 – 1894), Edmond Smithwick (1839 – 1912) and Daniel Smithwick (1840 – 1883).
The business was incorporated as E Smithwick & Sons in 1890.
The brewery employed around 400 people in 1900.
The market consolidates
The success of the company in the beginning of the twentieth century was credited to its chairman, Michael Buggy (1855 – 1935), a solicitor.
E Smithwick & Sons was one of only 25 breweries remaining in Ireland by 1917, and one of only 15 to brew stout, porter and ale.
James Sullivan & Co, a rival Kilkenny brewery with a production capacity of 20,000 barrels a year, entered into receivership in 1917, and the assets were acquired by E Smithwick & Sons in 1919. The purchase left E Smithwick & Sons as the sole surviving brewery in Kilkenny.
Strong growth under W A Smithwick
Walter Aloysius Smithwick (1908 – 1993) became a company director from 1931. He was responsible for introducing a large sales team to the business, which was to prove highly successful in increasing revenue. Smithwick’s products had national distribution by 1935. Over 400 licensed establishments in Dublin were supplied by 1937.
E Smithwick & Sons was the oldest and most important industrial concern in Kilkenny by 1937, and employed over 140 people in the city.
E Smithwick & Sons won first prize for best bottle conditioned beer in a British Commonwealth competition in 1937.** Shortly afterwards, the beer was rebranded as Smithwick’s No.1.
The Second World War hampered production, with output reduced to just 6,000 barrels in 1942.
Walter Smithwick became chairman and managing director from 1947. He continued to practise as a solicitor in Kilkenny despite his commitments to the family brewery. Sales grew quickly under his dynamic leadership, and improved distribution saw annual production reach 50,000 barrels by 1952.
The Great Northern Brewery in Dundalk was purchased for £37,500 in order to supplement brewing capacity in 1954. The news was greeted positively, as it presented an opportunity for W A Smithwick to introduce his superior management skills to the acquired business.
Smithwick’s Brewery was registered as a public company with a capital of £500,000 in 1956. That year Guinness, the large Dublin-based brewery, took a stake in the business.
The Dundalk purchase was to prove problematic. Public taste increasingly favoured keg beer, and Smithwick’s lacked sufficient capital to convert the Dundalk brewery for this purpose. The Dundalk brewery was sold to Guinness, who invested to convert the plant to lager production.
E Smithwick & Sons held over 60 percent of the Irish ale market by 1960, a total of around 60,000 barrels a year. The four products were Smithwick’s No.1, a deep gold ale, Smithwick’s Export Ale, Smithwick’s SS Ale, and Smithwick’s Barley Wine.
Smithwick’s Barley Wine won the Olympic Gold Medal at the World Beer Olympics in 1963.
Takeover by Guinness and investment
Guinness acquired a controlling interest in Smithwick’s in 1964.
Smithwick’s had been slow to anticipate the increased demand for draught beer. It introduced a lager brand, which failed, in part because it lacked the marketing power of Guinness and rival English brewers. Smithwick’s was also struggling with the capital demands of investing in draught beer. Amidst these conditions, Guinness assumed full control of the company in 1965.
Walter Smithwick did not regret his decision to sell the brewery. He knew the business needed large amounts of capital if it was to remain competitive, and to fail to take the business public would have seen it struggle to survive. Smithwick understood that a workforce of 250 were dependant on the brewery for their livelihood.
A new brewhouse was established from June 1965.
Some Smithwick’s bottling had been transferred to Dundalk by 1968.
The Smithwick’s brewery was expanded in 1969.
Hop varieties in use in the early 1970s included Irish-grown Fuggles, Goldings and Bullion. Hop pellets were in use by 1985.
Budweiser was produced under licence at the Kilkenny brewery from 1987. A £1 million investment was made to enable lager production at the brewery.
Growth as an export brand
Kilkenny Irish Beer (c.5% ABV) was introduced, originally as an export-only product, from 1987. The Kilkenny name was chosen as opposed to Smithwick’s as it was easier for non-native English speakers to pronounce. The initial market was Germany.
Draught Smithwick’s for the Northern Ireland market was brewed at Dundalk by 1988. Smithwicks Ale bottling was transferred to Dundalk as part of a rationalisation drive from 1989.
Export sales of Smithwick’s and Kilkenny increased by over one third in 1994, with a large market in Canada.
Domestic sales of Smithwick’s declined every year from the mid-1980s, and ale, excluding stout, comprised just ten percent of the Irish beer market by 1995.
A reduced-strength (4.3% ABV) version of Kilkenny Irish Beer was introduced to the Irish market from 1995. A Guinness executive explained that it was a different beer from Smithwick’s. It was a premium-priced product, and was intended to revitalise the declining ale category, and prevent the newly-launched Caffrey’s, a rival Irish ale from Bass, from taking market share.
Dundalk brewed all bottled and canned Smithwick’s, including the Barley Wine, by 1995.
Production of Smithwick’s beer for the domestic market had been transferred to the Guinness-owned Cherry’s Brewery in Waterford by 1997.
43,000 hectolitres (75 million pints) of Kilkenny Irish Beer had been sold across 53 different countries in 1999. The beer was sold in 1,860 domestic Irish pubs.
The Kilkenny Brewery employed 150 people in 2000. It was an efficient site, but was suffering from capacity constraints.
Smithwick’s Barley Wine was discontinued in 2001.
The Kilkenny and Dunalk breweries were closed in 2013, with production relocated to St James’s Gate, Dublin, the home of Guinness.
Ale (all ale, not just Smithwick’s) held a seven percent share of the Irish beer market in 2017.
* It remains unclear exactly which Mr Smithwick was speaking at this Kilkenny meeting, but Edmond Smithwick (1801 – 1877) is the most likely.
** The name of the awarding body was the Brewing Trade Review Bottled Beer Exhibition
This is the story of how Apollinaris became the highest-selling mineral water in the world.
Establishment of the company and growth
The Apollinaris spring is situated in the German Rhineland. It is an alkaline and highly-aerated water, and contains sodium chloride and calcium, sodium and magnesium carbonates. The Apollinaris spring began to be commercially exploited, in a modest way, from 1852 onwards.
George Murray Smith (1824 – 1901) was the head of a successful London publisher. He first encountered Apollinaris spring water whilst dining with Ernest Hart (1835 – 1898), the editor of the British Medical Journal, in 1872. Smith appreciated its taste, and determined to acquire the spring.
Smith partnered with Edward Steinkopff (1838 – 1906), a Frankfurt-born merchant, to establish a British company with the worldwide distribution rights to Apollinaris water in 1873.
The Apollinaris Company Limited had its head office at 19 Regent Street, London. Steinkopff became company chairman and Julius Charles Prince (1851 – 1914) was appointed as managing director.
Murray Smith was a skilled businessman, and he organised quicker, more efficient and safer distribution of Apollinaris from Germany. Meanwhile, Steinkopff was praised for his high energy, and his bold and prudent business decisions.
Company growth was to prove swift; just under 1.8 million bottles were sold in 1874, the figure had rise to over ten million bottles in 1881.
The brand soon established a prestigious reputation. Queen Victoria used Apollinaris as a mixer for Scotch whisky or claret. Over 19.5 million bottles were sold in 1895.
Foundation of a public company
Apollinaris acquired Johannis, a rival German mineral water producer, for around £400,000 in 1897.
Apollinaris & Johannis was formed as a public company with a capital of £2,380,000 from 1897. Steinkopff and Smith divested their shares, largely to Frederick Gordon (1835 – 1904), the pioneer of the first modern hotel in London. Gordon became president of the company.
Apollinaris & Johannis merged with A & F Pears, a struggling soap manufacturer, in 1898. The amalgamation was organised by Gordon, who insisted that there were cost-efficiencies in distribution and sales between the two companies, although the contemporary press remained sceptical.
Apollinaris & Johannis held Royal Warrants to supply the King and the Prince of Wales by 1902.
Over 30 million bottles of Apollinaris were sold in the 1905-1906 financial year.
Steinkopff died with an estate valued at £1.2 million in 1906.
Apollinaris was a popular culture staple, especially among the middle and upper classes. It was referenced by many leading novelists of the era, including Henry James, Edith Wharton and James Joyce.
A & F Pears was acquired by Lever Brothers in 1914.
War time troubles
Only Perrier could rival Apollinaris as the best known sparkling mineral water in Britain by 1914.
Apollinaris & Johannis had a capital of over £3 million by 1915. The company employed about 100 clerical staff and 60 to 80 warehouse staff.
Post-war economic chaos in Europe severely hampered company operations, and exports faced the challenge of increasing import tariffs across the world.
Apollinaris & Johannis was forced to diversify, and a range of British-produced soft drinks had been introduced under the Presta brand by 1930. The company name was changed to Apollinaris & Presta from 1931.
Apollinaris was rendered increasingly expensive as the value of the German currency grew throughout the 1930s.
The German government had introduced a moratorium by 1936 which prevented Apollinaris & Presta from withdrawing funds from the Nazi-controlled country. Exports from Germany had been highly restricted by 1939.
Apollinaris & Presta was appointed sole distributor of Perrier water in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 1938-9.
The Apollinaris spring was expropriated by Heinrich Himmler’s SS from 1943.
British rationing controls restricted the company from producing Presta soft drinks between 1943 and 1948.
Control of the Apollinaris spring and bottle works were regained in 1947-48. The site had been starved of investment during the war years.
Apollinaris & Presta entered into financial difficulty, and lost its stock market quotation in 1955. The spring and bottling works were acquired by Dortmunder Union, a German brewery. Schweppes acquired Presta and the distribution rights for Apollinaris across the British Commonwealth and the Americas.
Schweppes acquired a 28 percent stake in Apollinaris from 1991. Schweppes acquired the 72 percent of Apollinaris that it did not already own from Brau & Brunnen, the successor to Dortmunder Union, for €151 million in 2002.
Apollinaris was acquired by Coca-Cola for an undisclosed sum in 2006.
Apollinaris remains popular in Germany, where it is the second highest-selling sparkling mineral water. Presta is also still sold in Germany.
A G Barr is one of the largest soft drinks manufacturers in Britain, where its leading product, Irn-Bru, is the third highest-selling soft drink.
Robert Barr establishes the business
Robert Barr (1834 -1904) was born in Falkirk, Scotland, a sizeable town roughly located between Glasgow and Edinburgh. He initially followed his father into the cork-cutting trade.
The cork-cutting trade came under threat with the rise of the screw-stopper, so Robert Barr established a soft drinks business in Falkirk from 1873. Barr had likely been exposed to the soft drinks trade through his cork-cutting business, and probably noted its high growth potential.
The soft drinks enterprise employed five men, three girls and two boys by 1881.
Robert Barr was a Liberal in politics, a keen sportsman, and a generous benefactor to charitable causes.
A G Barr enters the business
Andrew Greig Barr (1872 – 1903), son of Robert Barr, managed the Falkirk business from 1890. He had originally served an apprenticeship as a banker, a profession for which he demonstrated great potential.
A sister factory was established at 184 Great Eastern Road, Glasgow, and Andrew Greig Barr managed it from around 1892. He would develop it into the largest carbonated soft drinks factory in Scotland.
Robert Barr had passed full control of the soft drinks business to Andrew Greig Barr by 1899.
Iron Brew was introduced from 1901. It was based on an American soft drink of the same name, first produced in the late nineteenth century. The Barr recipe contains 32 flavouring ingredients, mostly originating from India, including “fruit essences”, quinine and curry powder.
The Falkirk and Glasgow works employed at least 500 workers by 1903.
Andrew Greig Barr contracted typhoid fever and died from acute pneumonia in 1903. He left a personal estate valued at £18,409.
The largest soft drinks manufacturer in Scotland
Upon the death of their brother, Robert Fulton Barr (1868 – 1918) and William Snodgrass Barr (born 1881) became joint-managing directors of A G Barr & Co.
Robert Barr died of heart failure in 1904.
A workforce of around 1,000 were employed by 1913.
The Parkhead site was significantly expanded in 1914, to create one of the largest soft drinks factories in Britain.
A G Barr & Co was the largest soft drinks manufacturer in Scotland by 1918.
Robert Fulton Barr died in 1918, and the business was continued by William Snodgrass Barr.
W S Barr passed the chairmanship of the company to his nephew, Colonel Robert Barr (1896 – 1949), from 1931.
The Parkhead site in Glasgow employed around 100 people by 1931, and was the largest soft drinks factory in Britain.
A small amount of iron was present in Iron Brew from 1937 onwards.
Government rationing regulations saw Iron Brew withdrawn from sale between 1942 and 1948. A G Barr continued to advertise Iron Brew during this period. When Iron Brew was reintroduced to the British market it was renamed Irn-Bru in order to differentiate the drink from competing products.
Robert Barr (born 1907) became chairman from 1947.
A G Barr becomes a public company
A G Barr & Co was registered as a public company in 1965.
A G Barr overtook Tizer of Manchester to become the fourth largest soft drink manufacturer in Britain in the late 1960s. Irn-Bru dominated the Scottish soft drink market, and was introduced to England in 1970.
Tizer was acquired for £2.5 million in 1972. A G Barr wanted access to the company’s distribution network in England to promote sales of Irn-Bru. Tizer had been struggling with falling sales for a number of reasons: drinks were not sold in cans, there was no advertising budget, there were no sales to the supermarkets and the flavour essences used had been subjected to cost-cuts.
The Tizer purchase transformed A G Barr into the largest specialist soft drinks manufacturer in Britain.
A G Barr reformulated Tizer to recapitulate how it tasted the 1930s.
Robin Barr (born 1938) became chairman from 1978.
Mandora, the soft drinks subsidiary of the Mansfield Brewery, was acquired for £21.5 million in cash in 1988. Mandora employed a workforce of 400 at its factory on Bellamy Road, Mansfield. The deal transformed A G Barr into the third largest soft drinks manufacturer in Britain. A G Barr invested £300,000 to upgrade the warehousing facilities at the Mansfield site in 1988.
The Mansfield site was closed in 2011, with production relocated to Scotland.
Only Robin Barr and one other unnamed individual know the 32 secret ingredients for Irn-Bru. Robin Barr personally mixes the 32 ingredients himself.
Tanqueray is one of the highest selling gin brands in the world.
Charles Tanqueray (1810 – 1865) was the son of the Reverend Edward Tanqueray (1762 – 1847), rector of Tingrith in Befordshire.
With his elder brother Edward (1805 – 1838), Charles was apprenticed as ginmaker to Currie & Co of Bromley by Bow, one of the largest distilleries in London.
The two Tanqueray brothers partnered with Arthur Currie (1804 – 1875) to takeover the Bloomsbury Distillery, an established gin manufacturer at 3 Vine Street, Bloomsbury, in 1835. The building has not survived, but the street still exists, and has been renamed Grape Street.
Charles Tanqueray was an ambitious man, and he wanted to create a gin to rival, or even better, those of Felix Booth (1775 – 1850) and Alexander Gordon. He experimented ceaselessly through trial and error to perfect his recipe, and finally settled on just four botanicals: juniper, angelica root, liquorice and coriander seeds, the same four used by Tanqueray today.
Edward Tanqueray died in 1838, and Charles was assisted by his brother John Samuel Tanqueray (1817 – 1902) in the 1840s and 1850s.
Arthur Currie left the partnership in 1847.
Charles Waugh Tanqueray
Charles Tanqueray died in 1865 and the business was managed by his brother William Henry Tanqueray (1814 – 1887). Charles Waugh Tanqueray (1848 – 1931), the son of Charles Tanqueray, took over the distillery upon completion of an apprenticeship to a grocer in 1867.
Charles Waugh Tanqueray was perhaps more commercially-minded than his father, and under his leadership sales grew and exports increased. A keen sportsman, he was an upright Christian gentleman with a keen social conscience and a determined character.
Most Tanqueray gin was sold at a strength of 40.19 percent ABV in 1877. Some gin was also sold at 35.19 percent ABV.
Tanqueray Gordon and acquisition by Distillers
Charles Waugh Tanqueray approached Reginald Charles Wilford Currie (1854 – 1922), the proprietor of Gordon & Co, gin distillers of Goswell Road, London, regarding a merger of their two companies in 1897.
The two businesses merged to form Tanqueray, Gordon & Co, a company with a capital of £500,000, in 1898. R C W Currie became the managing director, and Charles Waugh Tanqueray took the opportunity to retire.
Following the merger all production was centralised at the Gordon distillery at 132 Goswell Road. Gordon’s London Dry Gin became the priority brand.
Harry Aubrey Tanqueray (1907 – 1982) was the only grandson of C W Tanqueray. He became a stockbroker, and does not appear to have been affiliated with the gin business.
Largely due to the growth of the temperance movement and a substantial rise in excise duty, alcohol consumption in Britain declined in the period following the First World War.
Perhaps as a way to make up for declining sales at home, Tanqueray was first exported to the United States from around 1918.
Tanqueray Gordon was acquired by the Distillers Company, which was heavily involved in consolidating the spirits industry, in 1922.
R C W Currie, managing director of Tanqueray Gordon, died in 1922.
Tanqueray Gordon was by far the largest gin distiller in the world by 1926.
Charles Waugh Tanqueray outlived his only son Charles Henry Drought Tanqueray (1875 – 1928), and died in 1931.
During the Second World War the Goswell Road site was nearly destroyed during the Blitz.
The distinctive Tanqueray green bottle, with a shape based on a cocktail shaker, was introduced from 1948.
The growth of Tanqueray overseas
Tanqueray began to marketed and advertised in earnest in the United States from the mid-1950s.
The premium-priced product became popular among affluent Southern Californians, and American sales took off from there. British gin was popular because it was smoother than its American counterpart, and was to prove a good mixer for a Martini cocktail.
100,000 cases were sold in the United States in 1961. Sales doubled in 1964. Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack became fond of Tanqueray martinis at the Buena Vista Social Club in San Francisco.
United States sales rose by 1700 percent over a four year period. Over 85 percent of the Goswell Road output was shipped to the United States by the 1960s.
John P Tanqueray (1934 -2012), the great grandson of Charles Tanqueray, was appointed export manager for Tanqueray in 1964. He credited the success of Tanqueray in the United States to snob appeal, “our product appeals to status seekers and consumers who want an outstanding gin”.
Tanqueray became one of the leading spirit brands in the world. 600,000 cases of Tanqueray were exported to the United States in 1975, where it was the highest proof gin, and generally the most expensive.
United States sales reached one million cases in 1979, second only to Beefeater in imported gin.
A new distillery and recent developments
The Goswell Road site struggled to keep up with increasing demand, and production was transferred to a purpose-built 26 acre distillery in Laindon, Essex from 1984.
Charles Tanqueray & Co won a Queen’s Award for Export Achievement in 1985. Tanqueray was the highest-selling imported gin in the United States.
Guinness acquired Distillers in 1986.
John P Tanqueray retired as commercial director of Tanqueray Gordon in 1989.
Guinness merged with Grand Metropolitan in 1997 to form Diageo. The combination of two spirits giants left the company with an excess of productive capacity. As a result, the Laindon distillery was closed with the loss of 220 jobs in 2000, and all production was relocated to Cameronbridge in Scotland.
Tanqueray held over 50 percent of the United States gin market in 2002.
The future for Tanqueray looks solid; global sales grew by 15 percent in 2018.
Babycham was a highly-successful pear cider drink that was established in Britain from the early 1950s.
The Showering family had a long-established association with the innkeeping and brewing trade in Shepton Mallet, Somerset, dating back to the 18th century.
Albert Edward Showering (1874 – 1946), a small-scale brewer, owned three public houses in Shepton Mallet by 1928. He had four sons, and two of them, Herbert (1906 – 1974) and Francis (1912 – 1995) were to prove instrumental in the subsequent growth of the family business.
Arthur Edward Showering (1899 – 1979) took over the licence of the Ship Inn on Kilver Street, Shepton Mallet, which was owned by his father Albert, in 1921. The rear of the Ship Inn housed a small brewery.
Showerings was incorporated as a private company in 1932, with Herbert Showering as chairman. Cider production was established by this time. Albert Edward Showering retired in 1934.
Francis Showering, a trained chemist, was manager of the Showerings cider mill by 1939. He was a stocky, hard-working, no-nonsense West Countryman. He had been appointed managing director of Showerings by 1949.
Showerings won numerous awards for the quality of its bottled ciders throughout the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Following years of research and development Francis Showering developed a new sterile filtration process that improved the shelf quality of perry (pear cider) in 1947. The product was clear and sparkling, and reminiscent of champagne.
The sale of perry in Britain at the time was very small. The Showering brothers introduced the new product to the Bristol area and assessed its potential. Francis Showering determined to market the product towards women, and the Babycham trademark was registered in 1950. The product was packaged in 4 liquid ounce (118ml) “baby bottles”.
In order to prioritise the production of Babycham, brewing ceased from 1952, and apple cider production ended in early 1953. Babycham was launched nationwide from 1953 and demand immediately exceeded all expectations.
Herbert Showering was responsible for marketing the product, and advertising commenced from September 1953. Advertising was to heavily emphasise its similarity to champagne. Sales quickly boomed. Advertising agency Masius Wynne-Williams created the Chinese water deer mascot for the brand.
A significant factor behind the success of Babycham was that it appealed to the relatively underdeveloped female market. At the same time, bottled beers and ciders were becoming increasingly popular over draught drinks due to their more consistent quality. Furthermore, the brewers who owned much of the licensed premises in Britain readily introduced Babycham to their public houses, as it was not in direct competition with their beer.
Showerings found it was unable to meet demand for Babycham in the pre-Christmas period of 1954. Rather than compromise on product quality, which could have increased supply, strict rationing of Babycham was introduced.
In 1955 Babycham became the first alcoholic product to be advertised on British television. Around £300,000 was spent on advertising between 1953 and 1956.
Showerings acquired R N Coate & Co of Nailsea, near Bristol, one of the four largest cider manufacturers in Britain, in 1956.
Tens of thousands of bottles of Babycham were produced every day by 1958.
Showerings was converted into a public company in 1959. Over 1,000 people were employed. By this time Showerings bought much of Britain’s perry pear crop, and had to import additional fruit from Europe. A two and a half year stock of pear juice was maintained in order to ensure supply.
Aided by heavy marketing expenditure, annual sales of Babycham had reached £8 million by 1961.
Showerings was keen to reduce its dependence on the Babycham brand. The family-controlled William Gaymer & Son of Norfolk was acquired for £150,000 in 1961. Gaymer was widely credited as the oldest cider producer in Britain, and was one of the largest, best known for the Olde English brand. However it had struggled against the greater resources of its major rival, H P Bulmer. The deal transformed Showerings into the second largest cider manufacturer in the world.
Babycham sales had plateaued by 1967.
Allied Breweries merger to present
Showerings merged with Allied Breweries in 1968. Francis Showering was appointed chief executive of the wine and spirits division.
2.5 million bottles of Babycham were manufactured every week by 1969, utilising the majority of British pear production.
The Shepton Mallet plant had a production capacity of 90,000 bottles an hour, and Showerings employed around 500 people in the town.
Babycham overseas sales tripled between 1962 and 1971. Babycham was exported to 52 countries by 1971.
R N Coate production was relocated to Shepton Mallet from 1974.
Keith Showering (1930 – 1982), son of Herbert, became chairman of Allied Breweries from 1975. Allied was the largest drinks business in Europe by this time.
Allied Breweries sold 144 million bottles of Babycham a year by 1977. The product was distributed across 90 percent of licensed premises in Britain.
Babycham was made with 25 percent apple cider by 1979. It had an alcohol content of 8.4 percent.
Babycham sales were successfully established in South Africa and the Far East and the product was exported to more than 70 countries by 1980.
The Shepton Mallet site employed nearly 800 people in 1986.
The Allied Breweries cider business was subject to a management buyout named the Gaymer Group in 1992. The deal valued the business at £140 million. 125 jobs were lost at Shepton Mallet.
Annual sales of Babycham had fallen to around one million bottles by 1993, and the deer mascot was retired.
The alcohol content of the product had fallen to six percent by 1993.
The Gaymer Group was acquired by Matthew Clark for £109 million in 1994.
Babycham sales suffered in the mid-1990s as alcopops grew in popularity.
Matthew Clark was acquired by Constellation Brands in 1998.
The Gaymer Group was sold to C&C Group of Ireland for £43.5 million in 2009. Constellation Brands retained the rights to Babycham.
The Shepton Mallet factory was bought back by the grandchildren of Francis Showering in 2016.
H W Carter & Co introduced Ribena to Britain. 90 percent of British blackcurrant production goes towards making Ribena.
George Withy establishes the business
George Withy (1802 – 1878) was born in Bristol, the son of a Quaker woolen draper. Withy established himself as a soft drinks manufacturer at Orange Grove in Bath from 1831.
Growing sales saw the Bristol Soda Water Works established at Wilder Street, Bristol in 1861. George Withy & Co was the largest soft drink manufacturer in the South West of England by the mid-1860s.
H W Carter acquires the business
Henry Williams Carter (1839 – 1913), a chemist, partnered with J R Grace to acquire the Bristol Soda Water Works from George Withy & Co in 1872. The business traded as H W Carter & Co.
Ernest Matravers Wright (1851 – 1949) had joined the firm by 1891, and the business traded as Carter, Wright & Co.
Wright left the firm to enter into business for himself in 1898, and Henry Williams Carter took sole control. H W Carter & Co was registered as a limited company.
Poor health forced Henry Williams Carter to retire in 1904.
The company was best known for Carter’s Concentrated Lemon Syrup by 1909, a product for which it held the largest market share. The cordial was exported across the world, and was known as the best product of its kind. Other products included lemon squash, lime juice cordial, table jellies and custard powder.
Henry Williams Carter died with an estate valued at £12,149 in 1913.
H W Carter & Co also became engaged as wine and spirits merchants.
Ribena is introduced
By 1920 William Dillworth Armstrong (1876 – 1954), a long-term salesman for H W Carter & Co, was managing director, and his son, Frank Dillworth Armstrong (1900 – 1993) was chairman. As a trained chartered accountant, Frank Armstrong reorganised the finances at the company.
H W Carter & Co merged with four other local businesses to form Bristol Industries Limited, with a share capital of £250,000, in 1920.
Frank Armstrong was retained as chairman of Bristol Industries, but baulked when he was requested to sack his own father. He responded by negotiating a bank loan and buying back control of H W Carter & Co with a capital of £30,000 in 1924.
A surplus led to low milk prices in the 1930s. H W Carter & Co decided to develop fruit-flavoured syrups that could be added to milk to form milkshake. Ribena was developed as a by-product of this research.
H W Carter & Co went public in 1936.
A new factory to produce cordials from British fruit was established at North Street, Bedminster, Bristol in 1936. Ribena blackcurrant cordial was introduced that year.
During the Second World War imported sources of Vitamin C such as oranges had become scarce due to the German U-Boat campaign. Ribena, made from homegrown blackcurrants, was advertised as a good source of Vitamin C for children, and the government distributed it for free to babies, young children and expectant mothers.
Ribena production was relocated to a new factory at Coleford, Gloucestershire, in 1947. Sales of Ribena continued to grow strongly during the post-war period. Around 800 people were employed at the Coleford factory during the summer of 1955.
Sale of the business
H W Carter & Co was acquired by the Beecham Group in 1955, beating a rival bid of £1.2 million from Reckitt & Colman, which owned the Robinson’s Barley Water brand.
Beecham, with the Lucozade, Tango and Corona brands, was the largest soft drink producer in Britain by 1960.
Beecham merged with SmithKline Beckman in 1989 to form SmithKline Beecham. It amalgamated with GlaxoWellcome to form GlaxoSmithKline in 2000.
GlaxoSmithKline divested its British soft drinks business, which included Lucozade and Ribena, to Suntory of Japan for £1.35 billion in 2013.
90 percent of British-grown blackcurrants go towards Ribena production as of 2018, and each 500ml bottle contains around 37 blackcurrants.
Ribena uses specifically-designed blackcurrants that have a high juice content. The factory is supplied by 40 farms. The blackcurrants are harvested in July and August. They are pressed at the Thatcher’s cider mill in Somerset.
Dr Tibbles’ Vi-Cocoa was a popular energy restorative in the Victorian era, and could be regarded as the Lucozade or Gatorade of its time. At its height it was one of the highest-selling cocoa-based drinks in Britain.
William Tibbles introduces Vi-Cocoa
William Tibbles (1834 – 1912) was born into impoverished circumstances in Leicester, in the English Midlands. The family lived in the workhouse during the 1851 Census.
Tibbles described his occupation as a framework knitter and medical practitioner in the 1861 census. No evidence has been uncovered that suggests that Tibbles ever underwent any formal medical training.
Tibbles claimed that botanicals had cured him of tuberculosis in 1867. He began to sell coca and its concentrated extract, cocaine, as a general cure for physical weakness and tuberculosis, from 1871. He was advertising Tibbles Concentrated Essence of Composition and Cocaine by 1876.
Tibbles later invented Vi-Cocoa, a mixture of malt, hops, kola and cocoa. He licensed the recipe and brand rights to Dr Tibbles’ Vi-Cocoa Ltd, a company formed to exploit his product. Advertisements for Vi-Cocoa first appeared from 1893.
William Tibbles retires and Lord Leverhulme takes control of the business
The business was registered as Dr Tibbles’ Vi-Cocoa (1898) Ltd with a capital of £400,000 in 1898. Tibbles retired soon afterwards. The company was probably overvalued, with high sales heavily dependent on unsustainable levels of advertising.
The business was renamed the Watford Manufacturing Company from 1907. Over 1,000 people were employed by 1914. Vi-Cocoa and Delecta chocolate were the principal products.
The company did not pay a dividend between 1908 and 1918. Nominal capital was increased from £250,000 to £1 million in 1918, with Lord Leverhulme (1851 – 1925) becoming the largest single shareholder. Originally a soap manufacturer, Leverhulme was increasingly concerned with food manufacturing by this time, and the paternalistic reputation of the Watford Manufacturing Company was in harmony with his own views.
Construction of a large new factory begun in 1918-19, but was never completed due to liquidity issues. The company had benefited from healthy sales during the First World War, aided by military contracts. However the wartime boom was followed by a post-war economic slump.
Company capital was increased to £3 million in 1919-20.
The Watford Manufacturing Company entered into liquidation in 1922. Lord Leverhulme purchased the company assets for £543,000 in cash to ensure that all creditors were paid, as well as in all likelihood, to protect his own reputation.
The Financial Times commented after the liquidation that the downfall of the company was as a result of its excessive valuation.
Leverhulme almost immediately sold the site and brands to Planters Products Ltd, a Lever Brothers subsidiary. Vi-Cocoa production continued.
The Watford factory employed 400 people by 1929, and was one of the largest employers in the area.
The Watford factory was sold off in 1930, and production was absorbed into Unilever, the successor to Lever Brothers.
Vi-Cocoa continued to be advertised as late as 1945.