Category Archives: Drink

Raising the Barr: a history of Irn-Bru

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 (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.

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.

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, from 1931.

The Parkhead site in Glasgow was the largest soft drinks factory in Britain by 1931, and employed around 100 people.

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 became chairman from 1947.

A G Barr & Co went public in 1965.

Irn-Bru dominated the Scottish soft drink market by the early 1970s.

Tizer, the Manchester-based soft drinks manufacturer, was purchased for £2.5 million in 1972. The acquisition transformed A G Barr into the largest specialist soft drinks manufacturer in Britain.

Robin Barr 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.

Irn-Bru had distribution across Britain by 1992.

Only Robin Barr and one other unnamed individual know the 32 secret ingredients for Irn-Bru. Robin Barr personally mixes the 32 ingredients himself.

Holy spirit: Tanqueray

Tanqueray is one of the highest selling gin brands in the world.

Charles Tanqueray
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 Tanqueray green bottle 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.

A 1969 advertisement in Newsweek

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, had been appointed export manager for Tanqueray by 1969. 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.

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.

Perry good: Babycham

Babycham was a highly successful pear cider drink that was established in Britain from the early 1950s.

Background
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.

Babycham introduction
Following years of research and development Francis Showering developed a new sterile filtration process that improved the shelf quality of perry (pear cider). 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.

The Babycham deer outside the cider mill at Shepton Mallet (2008)

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.

The success of Babycham turned the Showerings brothers into millionaires.

Acquisition trail
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.

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.

Allied Brewies and recent era
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 1973.

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.

Currant affairs: a history of Ribena

H W Carter & Co introduced Ribena to Britain. 90 percent of British blackcurrant production goes towards making Ribena.

A carton of Ribena in 2007

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. Located at the Old Refinery on Wilder Street, 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, and the business name reverted to H W Carter & Co.

H W Carter & Co had been registered as a limited company by 1899.

Poor health forced Henry Williams Carter to retire in 1904.

A Ribena cordial bottle from the 1970s or 1980s

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 £12,000 in 1913.

H W Carter & Co also became engaged as wine and spirits merchants.

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.

H W Carter & Co went public in the mid-1930s.

British dairy farmers in the 1930s were producing a surplus of milk, and prices were consequently low. H W Carter decided to research fruit-flavoured syrups that could be added to milk to form milkshake. As a by-product of this research, Ribena was developed.

A new factory to produce cordials from British fruit was opened at North Street, Bedminster, Bristol in 1936. Ribena blackcurrant cordial was introduced that year.

Blackcurrants

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.

The Coleford, Gloucestershire factory in 2013

H W Carter & Co was acquired by the Beecham Group in 1955, beating a rival bid from Reckitt & Colman, which owned the rival Robinson’s Barley Water brand.

Beecham merged with SmithKline Beckman in 1989 to form SmithKline Beecham. It merged 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.

Rows of blackcurrants

The blackcurrant varieties grown were specially designed for Ribena and 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.

Leverage: a history of Dr Tibbles’ Vi-Cocoa

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 (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 frame work 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 consumption (tuberculosis) in 1867. He began to sell coca and its concentrated extract, cocaine, as a general cure for debility and consumption, 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 naming rights to Dr Tibbles’ Vi-Cocoa Ltd, a company formed to exploit his product. Advertisements for Vi-Cocoa first appeared from 1893.

The company was renamed as Dr Tibbles’ Vi-Cocoa (1898) Ltd from 1898 with a capital of £400,000. Tibbles retired soon afterwards. The company was probably overvalued, with high sales heavily dependent on unsustainable levels of advertising.

The company was renamed the Watford Manufacturing Company in 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.

Message in a bottle: Newcastle Brown Ale

Newcastle Brown Ale became the highest selling bottled beer in Britain, and came to make significant sales in the United States.

John Barras & Co
Bells, Robson & Co established the Tyne Brewery on Bath Lane, Newcastle in 1867. It was said to be the largest brewery in the North of England.

Bells, Robson & Co entered into financial difficulty, and the business was acquired by John Barras & Co of Gateshead, after their own brewery site was subject to compulsory purchase by the North Eastern Railway in 1884.

John Barras & Co was managed by Charles John Reed (1820 – 1908), who had leased the brewery since 1861, after marrying into the founding Barras family.

Reed appointed Thomas Watson Lovibond (1849 – 1918) as head brewer and manager from 1887. Lovibond had received scientific training during an era when almost all brewers lacked such formal education. He was to have a significant impact upon the future success of the business.

John Barras & Co traditionally brewed mild ale, but under Lovibond’s direction, pale ale was being produced by 1889, in order to compete with rival products from Burton upon Trent and Edinburgh. Lovibond also introduced greater standardisation of product quality.

Newcastle Breweries
John Barras & Co merged with four local brewers in 1890: W H Allison of North Shields, J J & W H Allison of Sunderland, Swinburne of Gateshead and Carr Brothers & Carr of North Shields to form Newcastle Breweries.

The Tyne Brewery was regarded as one of the largest and best equipped breweries in the North of England, and all production was centralised there. As a result, the output of the brewery was doubled from 900 to 1,800 barrels a week.

Newcastle Breweries controlled an estate of nearly 300 public houses by 1897.

The amalgamation was to prove highly successful. Forster’s Bishop Middleham Breweries was acquired in 1910.

Colonel Porter and the introduction of Newcastle Brown Ale
James Herbert Porter (1891 – 1973) was the son of a master brewer in Burton upon Trent. He joined Newcastle Breweries as a trainee brewer in 1909.

Porter was a highly courteous and mild-mannered man, a model of an English gentleman. He saw action during the First World War, and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel.

Newcastle Exhibition, a cask beer, was introduced from 1920.

Sales of bottled beers began to increase after the war, influenced by the inconsistent quality of cask beer. Colonel Porter determined to develop a high quality bottled beer of his own. Newcastle Breweries opened one of the largest and best-equipped bottling plants in Britain in June 1925.

Colonel Porter, by now promoted to assistant brewer, and Archdale Mercer Jones (1881 – 1954), manager of the bottling works, laboured for three years to perfect the recipe for Newcastle Brown Ale. Porter created its distinctive taste by blending a strong, crystal malt-influenced aged beer with a light pale ale.

Newcastle Brown Ale was launched in April 1927. The sole ingredients were malt, hops, sugar and yeast and it boasted an ABV of 6.25 percent. It was filtered but was not subject to pasteurisation.

Newcastle Brown Ale would have been seen as a rival to Bass Pale Ale, a comparable beer in terms of strength and quality. Another similar beer, Whitbread Double Brown, had been launched in London just a month earlier.

Newcastle Brown Ale was to enjoy immediate success. It was a quality product brewed to vigorous scientific methods and high standards, and sold at a reasonable price. Perhaps as a result, Colonel Porter had been promoted to head brewer by September 1927. Newcastle Brown Ale was named as the best bottled beer in Britain at the 1928 Brewers Exhibition in London.

The blue star logo was introduced in 1928. Each point on the star represented one of the five businesses that combined to form Newcastle Breweries.

Newcastle Brown Ale had seen its ABV reduced to around 5.5 percent by 1931.

Colonel Porter was promoted to the Newcastle Breweries board of directors in 1931.

Newcastle Breweries encountered material shortages during the Second World War, and as a result brewed lower strength beers out of necessity. However the company refused to compromise on the quality of Newcastle Brown Ale, which went unchanged, although sales were by necessity highly rationed.

Although sales remained confined to the North East of England, 300 million bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale had been produced by 1952.

Colonel Porter was appointed chairman of Newcastle Breweries in 1955.

The Tyne Brewery occupied 6.5 acres by 1956.

The crown cork bottle cap replaced the old screw cap from 1958 in order to help preserve freshness.

It was claimed that Newcastle Brown Ale was the highest selling bottled beer in the North of England by 1959. That year, “the one and only” was introduced as an advertising slogan.

Production of Newcastle Brown Ale had continued to grow and the brewer’s bottling facility had reached capacity. A new bottling plant entered into production from 1959.

John Rowell & Son of Gateshead was acquired in 1959 to bring the total number of Newcastle Breweries controlled premises to around 700.

Scottish & Newcastle
Newcastle Breweries merged with Scottish Brewers to form Scottish & Newcastle in 1960. Colonel Porter was appointed vice chairman. Newcastle Brown Ale was a leading product of the new company, alongside McEwan’s Export and Younger’s Tartan Special. The merger afforded Newcastle Brown Ale a wider network for distribution.

In the early 1960s Scottish & Newcastle began to produce Newcastle Brown Ale in brown bottles instead of clear ones. This was to protect the beer from UV rays, which can have a negative impact on taste. However drinkers complained about the change, and the decision was swiftly reversed.

Newcastle Brown Ale had been introduced in cans by 1964.

Distribution of Newcastle Brown Ale throughout the Midlands and the South of England had begun by the late 1960s. The beer found particular favour among university and polytechnic students.

The Tyne Brewery produced over one million barrels of beer a year by 1972, however increased national sales of Newcastle Brown Ale saw the facility struggle to meet demand.

Newcastle Brown Ale’s reputation as a high-strength beer earned it colourful nicknames on Tyneside, such as “lunatic’s broth” and “journey into space”. However an independent analysis in 1974 found the beer to have an ABV of five percent, and an original gravity of 1047.

Domestic sales of Newcastle Brown Ale peaked in 1974, after which sales of bottled beers began to enter into a steady decline. The appeal of bottled beer had been its consistency, but with the increasing quality and distribution of keg beer, its unique selling point was lost.

By 1977 a total of 7.5 million barrels of Newcastle Brown Ale had been produced since it was introduced in 1927.

Newcastle Brown Ale was the highest selling packaged ale in Britain by 1980. It was sold in over 97 percent of off licences in England and Wales and more than 90 percent of supermarkets and grocers.

It is believed that Newcastle Brown Ale ceased to be a blended beer from the early 1980s onwards.

Newcastle Brown Ale was known as “Dog” on Tyneside by the 1980s, arising from the “going to walk the dog” euphemism, which implied a visit to the pub.

A new £3.5 million bottling plant was opened in 1984, the fastest in Europe. The Tyne Brewery had grown to cover 14 acres by 1985. 1,200 people were employed there in 1988.

Scottish & Newcastle was the fifth largest brewer in Britain by 1988.

Newcastle Brown Ale had settled on its current ABV of 4.7 percent by 1989.

Newcastle Exhibition was the highest selling draught ale in the North East of England by 1989. Newcastle Brown Ale was the highest selling bottled beer in Britain by 1990.

Newcastle Brown Ale underwent a resurgence in the late 1980s and early 1990s with increased distribution in the South of England, as well as a strong presence in student union bars. Marketing efforts dissociated the drink from its working class roots and repositioned it as a premium product. The product was sold in thirty countries.

Scottish & Newcastle took direct control of its United States product distribution from 1990 onwards. Major European import rivals such as Bass, Guinness and Heineken had strength on the East Coast, so Scottish & Newcastle established its American headquarters in San Francisco. American sales increased by 300 percent between 1989 and 1991, and a further 75 percent in 1993.

The Tyne Brewery borehole source lacked sufficient purity by 1993, so Scottish & Newcastle switched their supply to the Whittle Dene reservoir, to which gypsum and epsom were added before brewing.

Newcastle Brown Ale was a pasteurised beer by 1994. The pasteurisation process increases the shelf life of the product, but critics contend that it reduces the delicate aromas of beer.

25 percent of Tyne Brewery output was dedicated to Newcastle Brown Ale by 1994. 120 million pint bottles (not including cans) of Newcastle Brown Ale were produced every year. Newcastle Brown Ale had gained significant traction in the United States, with over a million cases of the beer sold in that market during the 1994-5 financial year.

Scottish & Newcastle acquired Courage in 1995 to become the largest brewer in Britain.

230,000 hectolitres (140,000 UK barrels) of Newcastle Brown Ale were exported to the United States in 1998. The majority of Newcastle Brown Ale production was shipped to the United States by 2001.

The Tyne Brewery was closed in May 2005. Production of Newcastle Brown Ale was relocated to the Federation Brewery in nearby Dunston, Gateshead.

Newcastle Brown Ale was among the top fifty highest-selling beers in the United States by 2006.

Bottling of Newcastle Brown Ale was relocated to the John Smith’s Brewery in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, from 2007.

Heineken ownership
Scottish & Newcastle was acquired by Heineken, a Dutch brewer, in 2008.

Heineken closed the Federation Brewery in May 2010, and Newcastle Brown Ale production was relocated to the John Smith’s Brewery.

Caramel colouring, apparently used to darken and flavour Newcastle Brown Ale since its inception, was replaced with roasted malt from 2015, amid US health concerns.

Production of Newcastle Brown Ale for export was relocated to the Zoeterwoude Brewery in the Netherlands from 2017.

Recent years have not been kind to Newcastle Brown Ale. Global sales have dropped from nearly seven million cases in 2014, to around two million cases in 2019.

Production of Newcastle Brown Ale for the United States market was relocated to the Heineken-owned Lagunitas Brewery from 2019. The recipe was subjected to significant changes, and contains Centennial and Chinook hops.

The highs and l’eaus of Perrier

Perrier is the best known sparkling mineral water in the world. The iconic French product was introduced to the global market by an Englishman, St John Harmsworth.

St John Harmsworth discovers Perrier
William Albert St John Harmsworth (1876 – 1933) was the son of an unsuccessful alcoholic London barrister and a strong-willed mother.

Harmsworth was a slight and nervous child. He attended Henley House School at St John’s Wood, London, where he was a pupil of H G Wells (1866 – 1946), later the author of The Time Machine (1895) and The War of the Worlds (1898). Harmsworth was not the most academically-minded of pupils according to Wells, but he did grow to be charming, likeable, athletic and handsome.

William Albert St John Harmsworth c.1900

Harmsworth joined Amalgamated Press, a newspaper empire created by his elder brother Alfred (1865 – 1922), as a director. The company was responsible for the Daily Mail, the highest-selling newspaper in the world.

Alfred suggested that Harmsworth travel to France in order to learn the language in 1902. He visited a carbonated spring at Les Bouillens, Vergeze, in the South of France, where Dr Louis Eugene Perrier operated a commercial spa. Perrier also bottled a small amount of the water for his guests and some local sales.

Harmsworth believed in the potential for the bottled water, which was lighter, crisper and had a lower sodium content than most waters sold on the British market at the time. To the horror of his family he sold his shares in Amalgamated Press in order to acquire the Les Bouillens estate in early 1903.

Harmsworth closed down the spa, which catered to a declining market, and began to distribute the bottled water, which he branded as Perrier. It was sold at Monte Carlo and throughout the South of France during the 1903 season.

Following this successful trial, a London office was established at 45 and 46 New Bond Street by July 1904. The water targeted the premium segment of the market, and was sold at the Savoy, Claridge’s and the Berkeley hotels, as well as classic City of London pubs and restaurants such as Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese and Slaters.

Perrier was advertised as an ideal mixer for whisky. Sir Thomas Lipton (1846 – 1931), a friend of Harmsworth, introduced the water to King Edward VII, who granted it a Royal Warrant in 1904.

The market for imported European sparkling water in Britain had been well-established by Apollinaris of Germany since the 1870s. Harmsworth packaged his water in a distinctive bulbous green bottle, inspired by an Indian club used for exercises.

This image illustrates the distinctive “club-shaped” Perrier bottle

French culture was considered aspirational, and the water may have benefited from an assumed link with the champagne houses of Perrier-Jouët and Laurent-Perrier, to which it had no affiliation. Perhaps to encourage the association, the water was originally marketed with “the champagne of table waters” slogan.

The London office was relocated to 45 and 47 Wigmore Street from November 1905.

Harmsworth broke his spine in a tragic motor accident in 1906. Paralysed from the waist down, he channelled his energies into developing the mineral water business.

A keen sportsman, Harmsworth was able to maintain his interest in swimming, and had a pool installed at his London address of 7 Hyde Park Terrace.

United States sales were pursued from 1907.

Perrier was registered as a private limited company to acquire the share capital of La Compagnie de la Source Perrier in 1908.

Perrier was granted a Royal Warrant from King George V in 1911. Millions of bottles were sold every year by 1912.

A glassworks was established in Vergeze from 1912.

Perrier was a well-established rival to Apollinaris by 1914. Perrier was able to take market share from Apollinaris during the First World War by using advertisements to highlight the German origins of its competitor.

During the First World War, much of production was distributed to the Allied armies in France, Salonika and Egypt.

Harmsworth negotiated a contract to become the exclusive supplier of bottled water to the restaurant cars of Wagons-Lits in France and Germany in 1927.

The London office had been relocated to Bear Wharf, 27 Bankside by 1931.

By 1933 Harmsworth had a small stake in the French company, the Compagnie de la Source Perrier, and a large holding in the English company Perrier Limited, which held the British distribution rights.

Death of St John Harmsworth and the Second World War
Harmsworth died in 1933 and left an estate valued at £82,976. His estate was left to his brother Vyvyan George Harmsworth (1881 – 1957) and his three sisters.

Perrier Ltd had an authorised capital of £110,000 in 1935. The directors were Vyvyan Harmsworth, M Harmsworth and H Banks, who had been secretary to St John Harmsworth.

Perrier had never been hugely profitable, and the rest of the family lacked the faith in the brand that Harmsworth had. The Britain and Ireland distribution rights to Perrier had been licensed to Apollinaris by May 1939.

The Germans invaded France in 1940, and company capital was transferred to the United States to disguise the British origins of the firm. The Second World War isolated Perrier from its traditional markets of the British Empire, the USA and the French colonies. Sales to the German army represented 40 percent of turnover between 1941 and 1944.

Gustave Leven acquires Perrier
After the liberation of France, the Harmsworth family looked to sell the business, which was loss-making and required substantial investment. Gustave Leven (1915 – 2008) was working at his family stockbroking firm in Paris when his father asked him to find a buyer for Perrier in 1946. He visited the bottling plant, which was in need of reorganisation. He witnessed workers fill bottles by plunging them into the spring by hand, and sometimes using their feet to help put the bottle caps on.

Leven identified a strong brand that had considerable scope for improvement, and with four partners acquired the company for £100,000. Ten million bottles were sold in 1946.

Annual sales had risen to 150 million bottles by 1952. By introducing mass advertising to a staid industry, Perrier was able to gain considerable market share in France.

Perrier was the highest-selling mineral water in France by 1962, with a 25 percent market share. The bottling plant could produce nearly 2.5 million bottles of Perrier within 16 hours by 1967.

Leven installed a glass bottle manufacturing plant at Vergeze in 1973. Perrier held half of the French bottled water market by the mid-1970s.

Perrier was distributed in Britain by Schweppes and Grand Metropolitan by the early 1970s. The British market was limited to a few high-end establishments, as its distributors did not believe that there was a significant demand for bottled water. Perrier entered into British supermarket distribution for itself from 1974. Six million bottles were sold in Britain in 1978.

Leven turned to the underdeveloped United States market to further increase sales. Three million bottles were sold there in 1976; this had risen to 200 million by 1979. In Britain and the United States, Perrier tapped into an increasingly aspirational culture, and a growing health and fitness movement.

Rising sales in the United States saw a second factory opened at Vergeze in 1978. The new factory had an annual production capacity of nearly 400 million bottles, adding to the existing factory’s capacity of 350 million bottles.

The Vergeze site employed 2,500 people by 1983 and Perrier was sold in 119 countries. 25 percent of sales were in the United States by 1984.

Perrier held 60 percent of the British bottled water market by 1988. Nearly 100 million bottles a year were sold in the UK by 1990.

The brand peaked in 1989, when 1.2 billion bottles were sold, with half exported to the United States.

Carcinogen scare and sale to Nestle
In March 1990 it was reported that Perrier contained a minimal amount of a carcinogen because a filter meant to catch naturally occurring benzene from the spring had not been changed.

The United States Food & Drug Administration declared that the benzene content was harmless. A cancer specialist stated that an individual would have to consume a quart of Perrier every day for an entire lifetime to consume a harmful amount of benzene.

Despite this, Leven decided that a total product recall was essential to preserve the reputation of the brand. 160 million bottles were withdrawn from 120 countries, for which the company was not insured.

Production levels dropped by one third in the wake of the scandal. Leven stepped down as chairman of Perrier in June 1990.

Perrier had lost over half of its United States market share by January 1991, due to its limited distribution during the product recall. The poor availability of Perrier allowed rival mineral water brands such as Evian to win market share. In Britain, Scottish mineral water producers such as Highland Spring won market share at the expense of Perrier.

1991-2 sales in the United States and Britain were at half their 1989 levels, due to the damage inflicted upon the Perrier brand by the benzene scare.

Nestle acquired Perrier in March 1992, in a deal which valued the company at £1.4 billion (US$2.7 billion). The acquisition transformed Nestle into the largest mineral water producer in the world. Nestle believed it could turn around the struggling company.

Perrier acquired San Pellegrino, its Italian rival, in 1997.

Nestle struggled against a powerful union at the Perrier plant. With rising sales, Leven had acquiesced to union requests throughout the 1980s. Faced with stagnant sales, Nestle found that it was unable to continue to accommodate union demands. Nestle failed to make a profit from Perrier between 1992 and 2004.

Production levels crossed the one billion bottle threshold again in 2013. According to data from Euromonitor, Perrier held six percent of the global carbonated bottled water market by value in 2016, and its share is growing.

Nestle installed a new production line at the Perrier plant in 2017. It plans to add three more lines by 2020, bringing the total to 15.

Comfort for the table: Epps Cocoa

Epps was the leading brand of cocoa in Victorian Britain.

Dr John Epps (1805 – 1869) was the son of a Calvinist London merchant. Dr Epps became one of the pioneers of homeopathy in Britain. He established premises at Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, and was joined by his brother James (1821 – 1907) from 1837.

Dr John Epps (1805 – 1869) invented Epps’ Cocoa Powder

Epps’ cocoa was first sold in 1839 for the use of patients for whom tea and coffee were restricted. It was an instant cocoa powder, made by adding hot water or milk.

The almost prohibitive duty on cocoa was greatly reduced in 1832, allowing the market to grow exponentially. Easily prepared cocoa had been difficult to procure, and the fat in the raw material was unpalatable for many. Dr John Epps discovered a way to make it more appetising, mixing the cocoa with 20 percent West Indies arrowroot and 13 percent sugar.

Dr John Epps was not the first person to invent soluble cocoa powder, but James Epps was largely responsible for introducing the product to the mass market. He heavily advertised Epps’ Cocoa, and had introduced a distinctive slogan, “grateful and comforting” by 1855.

Epps’ Cocoa was initially produced under contract by Daniel Dunn of Pentonville Road, who had invented instant cocoa powder in 1819.

James Epps had established his own factory at 398 Euston Road, London by 1863. He installed his nephew, Hahnemann Epps (1843 – 1916), as manager.

A new steam-powered works was established at Holland Street, Blackfriars from 1878. Epps was the largest cocoa powder producer in Britain, with an output of nearly five million pounds (2.3 million kg) a year. At its peak the firm processed half of all cocoa imports into Britain.

Steam Cocoa Mills, Holland Street, London
Steam Cocoa Mills, Holland Street, London

A short and slight man, James Epps kept a low public profile, unlike his gregarious brother John. He was known only for his work in business, and had few outside interests. He allowed his portrait to be taken only once, and he never granted an interview or issued a public statement. He was a hard worker, keen on a bargain, and somewhat controlling. Despite his massive wealth he lived in an unfashionable area of London.

The business was converted into a private joint stock limited company known as James Epps & Co in 1893. The directors were James Epps, Hahnemann Epps and James Epps Jr (1856 – 1905), and the company had a capital of £200,000. No shares were offered to the public, and the company remained under family control.

Epps’ Cocoa had been overtaken in sales by Dr Tibbles’ Vi-Cocoa and Rowntree by 1898.

James Epps Jr (also known as Willie James Epps), the only son of James Epps, died of a heart attack in Jamaica in 1905. His gross estate was valued at £162,422.

James Epps died in 1907 and his gross estate was valued at £735,387. This was a larger estate than contemporaries in the food industry such as the mustard magnate Jeremiah James Colman (1830 – 1898), instant custard producer Alfred Bird (1849 – 1922) or James Horlick (1844 – 1921).

The estate was inherited by his nieces and nephews, principally James Washington Epps (1874 -1955). Hahnemann Epps became chairman and James W Epps became managing director of James Epps & Co.

Taylor Brothers Ltd, a London cocoa manufacturer, was acquired in 1907.

Epps’ Cocoa powder had been reformulated to include 44 percent sugar, 40 percent cocoa and 16 percent West Indies arrowroot by 1924.

James Epps & Co was acquired by Rowntree of York for £70,000 in 1926. The Epps factory was closed in 1930, and the manufacture of Epps products was transferred to Whitefields Ltd of Plaistow.

Quick-selling lime: L Rose & Co

L Rose & Co is best known for its lime juice cordial.

Lauchlan Rose establishes L Rose & Co
Lauchlan Rose (1829 -1885), was born to a family of shipbuilders at Leith, a Scottish port near Edinburgh. Rose became a merchant, importing products such as grain and wine.

Lauchlan Rose was a devoutly religious and disciplined man.

Rose developed and patented a process that allowed fruit juice to be preserved without alcohol. The juice was prevented from fermentation by the addition of sulphur dioxide.

The Merchant Shipping Act of 1867 made it compulsory for British ships to carry lime juice, as it was known to prevent the onset of scurvy. Advertisements for L Rose & Co’s lime juice and lime cordial began to appear from 1868. Rose’s lime juice appealed not just to sailors, but also the growing temperance movement in the domestic market.

The head office was relocated from Leith to Curtain Road in London from 1875.

Control over a source of limes was acquired with the purchase of the Bath and Elmshall estates in Dominica from William Davies in 1891. An old sugar factory was converted for processing: crushing the limes and transferring the juice into barrels for export.

L Rose & Co is incorporated as a limited company
L Rose & Co was incorporated as a limited company from 1898. Factories were operated at 11 Curtain Road, London and 41 Mitchell Street, Leith.

L Rose & Co had a capital of £150,000. John Barclay Rose (born 1861) was chairman. J B Rose, Charles Morrison Rose (born 1863) and Hugh Gilmour Rose (1865 – 1933) were joint managing directors.

L Rose began to manufacture calcium citrate from 1906.

The Dominica estates covered hundreds of acres by 1909, and the company was also supplied by independent growers across hundreds of acres.

John and Hugh Rose retired during the First World War, leaving Charles Rose as the sole managing director. He was assisted by his son, Lauchlan Rose (1894 – 1986), after he returned from the war.

A factory was established at the Bath estate for the production of citric acid  from 1921.

Lauchlan Rose II takes over management
Lauchlan Rose took over management of L Rose & Co from his father in 1924.

A lime estate was established at Asebu, Cape Coast (modern-day Ghana) from 1924.

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This was to prove a challenging time for the L Rose & Co. Bottled lime juice faced increasing competition from fruit squash, and the Great Depression affected sales.

The business was turned around by the successful introduction of lime marmalade from the mid-1930s, and the increasingly popular combination of gin and lime.

H G Rose died with a net personalty of £28,179 in 1933.

L Rose & Co dismissed 120 staff because they held trade union membership in 1939. Lauchlan Rose announced that only non-union labour would be hired.

The London premises were destroyed during the Blitz in 1940. Production was relocated to a new site on Grosvenor Road, St Albans.

Additional factories were opened at Boxmoor Wharf, Hemel Hempstead and Liverpool in 1948.

The lime juice was left to settle in 12,000 gallon oak vats at Boxmoor. The pulp and oils rose to the top, and the lime juice was drawn off from the bottom. After filtration and sweetening, the liquid was transported to St Albans for bottling.

L Rose & Co is acquired by Schweppes
L Rose & Co was acquired by Schweppes, a large manufacturer of soft drinks, in an exchange of shares which valued the company at £1.8 million, in 1957. Lauchlan Rose joined the Schweppes board of directors.

Lauchlan Rose retired in 1969.

Schweppes merged with Cadbury, a large chocolate manufacturer, in 1969.

L Rose & Co withdrew from Dominica in 1980, and transferred operations to Cameroon and Ghana.

High rent saw the Hemel Hempstead factory closed in 1983, and all production was relocated to St Albans.

Coca-Cola acquired much of the global Schweppes business in 1999.

The Rose’s brand in the United States is controlled by Dr Pepper Snapple, which has been independent of Schweppes since 2008.

The St Albans site has since closed, and Rose’s Lime Cordial in Britain was produced under contract for Coca-Cola by Princes Foods in Bradford as of 2018.

 

Scotched earth: Hiram Walker & Sons of Scotland

Hiram Walker was a large Canadian whisky distiller. This article traces the history of its British subsidiary, which became the second largest Scotch whisky producer.

Harry Clifford Hatch (1884 – 1946) was a Canadian businessman. He acquired Hiram Walker & Sons of Ontario in 1926. He merged it with Gooderham & Worts of Toronto to form Hiram Walker Gooderham & Worts Ltd, one of the largest whisky distillers in the world.

Hiram Walker acquired a 60 percent stake in James & George Stodart Ltd of Glasgow in 1930. The purchase included the Stirling Bonding Company (with the Old Smuggler brand) and George Ballantine & Son Ltd.

The Glenburgie and Miltonduff-Glenlivet malt whisky distilleries were acquired in 1936.

Hiram Walker & Sons (Scotland) Ltd was registered in 1937 with a capital of £1 million. It was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hiram Walker Gooderham & Worts Ltd. Capital was increased to £1.5 million the following year.

Hiram Walker struggled to procure sufficient grain whisky for blending purposes due to a growing export trade, particularly to the United States. As a result, the company opened the largest distillery in Europe at Dumbarton in 1938. The £450,000 investment produced three million imperial gallons of whisky each year, mostly grain whisky, from a nine-acre site.

Harry C Hatch hoped that increased Canadian investment in Britain would help to strengthen the British Empire.

Thomas Scott was general manager and a director of Hiram Walker & Sons (Scotland) Ltd by 1949. He introduced a resident flock of geese to act as security guards at the Dumbarton distillery from 1950.

Workers at the Dumbarton distillery in the 1950s

Bloch Brothers (Distillers) Ltd of Glasgow was acquired in 1954. The acquisition included two distilleries (Scapa, Orkney and Glen Scotia, Campbeltown) and very large reserves of whisky, including some of the oldest in Britain. At that point it was the second largest acquisition in the Scotch whisky industry since the end of the Second World War. Bloch sales were strongest in North and South America.

Hiram Walker & Sons was the second largest producer of Scotch whisky by 1957.

Ballantine’s was a favourite Scotch whisky of John F Kennedy, and during his presidency it was the highest selling Scotch whisky in the United States.

1,100 people were employed at the Dumbarton plant in 1969.

Stephen McCann replaced Scott to become managing director of Hiram Walker of Scotland in 1969. In 1971 McCann became chairman and Alistair Cunningham (1926 – 2010) became managing director.

A new complex for Scotch whisky production was opened at Kilmalid, outside Dumbarton, in 1977. It was the most advanced whisky blending plant in Europe.

Hiram Walker attempted to buy Highland Distilleries in 1979. Highland Distilleries owned the Famous Grouse brand, which would have given the company a foothold in the British market. The Monopolies Commission ruled that the bid was against the public interest.

A new bottling plant was opened at Kilmalid in 1982. Soon, it was handling more than 100 million bottles a year.

Hiram Walker was the third largest Scotch whisky producer in the world by 1984, with nine malt distilleries and one large grain distillery. Ballantine was its large international brand, and although sales had slipped in the United States, it was the market leader in Continental Europe, with particularly strong sales in Italy.

During the 1980s Hiram Walker received criticism for selling bulk malt whisky to Japanese distillers, who used it as the basis for their own blends.

Hiram Walker was acquired by Allied Lyons, a British food and beverages company, in 1987.

Alistair Cunningham retired in 1992.

Allied produced twelve million bottles of Ballantine’s a year from its Kilmalid and Dumbarton plants by 1992. 70 percent of production was destined for mainland Europe.

The Dumbarton distillery was closed in 2002, and demolished in 2008.

Pernod Ricard, a French distiller, acquired Allied Lyons, now known as Allied Domecq, in 2005. Some brands were divested to Fortune Brands and Diageo.

The geese were removed from Dumbarton in 2012.

As of 2014, Ballantine’s is the second highest-selling Scotch whisky in the world after Johnnie Walker.