Category Archives: Drink

Popular: Ben Shaw’s of Huddersfield

30 million cans of Ben Shaw’s soft drinks are sold every year. The highest selling product is cloudy lemonade.

Benjamin Shaw (1836 – 1901) was born at Kirkheaton, Huddersfield, the son of a farm labourer. He initially worked as a woollen spinner, and then as a supervisor, in the Huddersfield textile trade.

Benjamin Shaw (1836 – 1901)

He established a partnership with his brother George in 1871, bottling Pennine spring water from premises on Charles Street, Huddersfield. Soon, the firm expanded into non-alcoholic “botanic” porter and ginger beer, distributing their products by horse and cart.

Benjamin Shaw bought out his brother’s stake in the partnership in 1876 for £317, to become sole proprietor of the business. The firm employed seven men in 1881.

Shaw was a keen advocate of the temperance movement. He supported good causes, such as the establishment of a working men’s club in Huddersfield. He was nominated as a member of Huddersfield Town Council in 1881.

The firm relocated to a new factory on Upperhead Row, Huddersfield in 1883.

In 1894 production was relocated to a purpose-built factory on Willow Lane, Huddersfield. By this time the firm traded as Benjamin Shaw & Sons.

Benjamin Shaw died in 1901, and left an estate of £6955. He was succeeded in business by his two sons, Ernest (1858 – 1924) and Frank Shaw (born 1870).

Benjamin Shaw & Sons was registered as a private company with capital of £20,000 in 1913.

Ernest Shaw died in 1924 with an estate valued at over £20,500.

Clifford Stephenson (1902 – 1992), a grandson of Benjamin Shaw, took control of the company in 1948.

Distribution was extended into the neighbouring county of Lancashire in 1957.

Ben Shaw’s became the first company in Europe to can soft drinks in 1959.

A new factory was opened at Brockholes near Huddersfield in 1966. It could produce 100,000 cans a day by 1970. The fully-automated factory employed a staff of just 30.

Ben Shaw’s held around 3 percent of the British carbonated soft drinks market in 1989.

Overexpansion in the early 1990s saw family control lost to the Rutland Trust. It was acquired by Chaudfontaine of Belgium in 1994.

The Willow Lane site was acquired by Britvic in 2004 when it bought the Ben Shaw’s bottled water business, including the Pennine Spring brand.

Cott Beverages of Canada acquired Ben Shaw’s in 2005.

Britvic closed the Willow Lane factory in 2013. Production of the Pennine Spring and Drench bottled water brands was discontinued.

Alright, R White

R White’s is the leading lemonade brand in Britain.*


Robert White (1825 – 1901) was born at Horsleydown, London. He sold homemade ginger beer from a cart in the streets of Camberwell from 1845. Assisted by his wife Mary, he eventually bought a market stall.

Sales grew, and a factory was established at Charles Street, Camberwell. The factory was greatly extended in 1866.

Ginger beer, soda water and lemonade were distributed throughout London. Unfortunately, Robert White overreached himself, and was forced to declare himself bankrupt in 1867.

White was far from discouraged, however, and by 1871 he employed twelve people. By this time he had been joined in partnership by his two sons, Robert James (1849 – 1921) and John George (1851 – 1942), to form R White & Sons.

By 1881 R White & Sons had established a factory at Cunard Street in Camberwell, and employed a workforce of 50.

H Wilcox, soft drinks manufacturers of Rodney Road, Walworth was acquired in 1884.

R White & Sons had a stock of three million stone bottles by 1886. Unlike some manufacturers, the firm had not yet made the transition to glass bottles, which were increasing in popularity.

Artis Capel & Co, soft drinks manufacturers of Neate Street, Camberwell, had been acquired by 1888.

Robert White retired from the partnership in 1888. There were two factories on Neate Street and one on Cunard Street, all in Camberwell; one on Rodney Road, Walworth; one at Kingston upon Thames; and one at Barking. Neate Street was the principal manufacturing site.

R White & Sons grew largely as a result of the low cost of sugar. In 1890 R White’s sold 46.8 million bottles of soft drinks, over 410,000 gallons of soft drinks in casks and over 31,000 gallons of cordials.

H D Rawlings, a prestigious soft drinks manufacturer of Marylebone, London was acquired in 1891.

R White & Sons was incorporated as a public company in 1894, with a share capital of £300,000. By this time it was one of the largest soft drinks manufacturers in London. The company had seven modern factories and thirteen depots in London and the Home Counties. It supplied 40,000 trade customers via a distribution network of 639 horses and 325 vans. The company was largely debt-free (under £3,000).

The business continued to grow rapidly, and an 1897 advertisement claimed that the company was the largest manufacturer of soft drinks in the world.

R White & Sons was awarded the licence to distribute Kops Ale, a non-alcoholic beer in the London district from 1892. The Kops Brewery business was acquired outright in 1898.

R White & Sons had thirteen factories, including sites in Birmingham and Manchester, by 1899. There were also three breweries where Kops Ale was produced. There were 15 depots located throughout the South East of England. That year, share capital was increased to £800,000.

A factory at George Street, Camberwell, used for producing flavouring and preservative chemicals, was destroyed by fire in 1903, with damage estimated at £100,000 to £150,000.

Robert James White and one of his managers were found guilty of avoiding duty on saccharine in 1903, and fined £4,176.

R J and J G White were well regarded as employers, and the workforce was a contented one. An employee sick fund was established in 1895.

R J White was a local philanthropist. He donated £500 to the Camberwell library in 1901. In 1902 he opened the largest and best-equipped soup kitchen in Camberwell at his Albany Road factory. He funded the distribution of 143,000 quarts of soup in 1903. In 1905 he took 1,400 poor Camberwell children on an excursion to his farm at Ewell.

It was claimed that R White’s produced half of all lemonade and ginger beer sold in England in 1908. The London factory covered 20 acres, and the company employed 3,000 horses and 1,000 lorries.

R White’s paid damages of £300 in 1909 after a bottle of hop ale was ruled to have contained zinc chloride, a powerful corrosive.

200 girls went on strike at the Waltham Cross factory in 1912, in protest at the reinstatement of an unpopular supervisor.

Company capital was reduced in 1910, and again in 1914, to £82,000.

Over 600 R White & Sons men were serving in the armed forces by 1918.

In 1920 R White & Sons was found guilty in court of selling a bottle of lemon squash containing a dead mouse, and ordered to pay compensation to the claimant.

In 1921 R White & Sons was fined by Surrey County Council for misleading the public by advertising its lemonade as being made with “Messina lemons”. An analysis found that R White’s lemonade was simply carbonated sugar water acidified with phosphoric acid, four times the maximum amount allowed by the British Pharmacopoeia. There was no trace of lemon juice in it. The company stated that it had used phosphoric acid for forty years as it enhanced the lifespan of the product, and that they used lemon oil for flavouring purposes. The company was fined £41 including costs.

Robert James White died in 1921 with an estate valued at £96,506.

In 1925 company capital was increased to £164,000. R White & Sons was reconverted into a private company in 1927.

Sydney John White (1884 – 1938) died in 1938 with an estate valued at £192,484. He had been a director of R White & Sons and the managing director of H D Rawlings.

John George White died in 1942 with an estate valued at £268,073.

R White & Sons employed 725 people in 1951. In 1952 the company had seven factories in London, the Home Counties and Birmingham, with a production capacity of over 1.5 million bottles per week, and a fully-paid capital of £500,000. Net tangible assets amounted to £847,000. That year, the family-controlled company was forced to go public due to the cost of death duties.

Harold Artis White, a director of R White & Sons, left an estate of £122,933 in 1957.

In 1969 R White & Sons was acquired by Whitbread, a brewer, for £3 million. The takeover was recommended by the directors, who sold their 60 percent stake in the company. It was Whitbread’s first major venture into soft drinks, and was to prove difficult and unrewarding for the brewer, despite substantial investment.

Whitbread divested the R White & Sons factory at Barking in 1972, and transferred production to a new factory at Beckton, East London, where it continues to this day. Built at a cost of £4 million across a 6.5 acre site, it was one of the largest soft drinks bottling plants in Britain.

In 1973 the popular “Secret Lemonade drinker” television advertising campaign was launched. It continued to air until 1984.

By 1975 R White & Sons held a franchise to produce Pepsi-Cola. Between 1975-77 the company held the franchise to produce A G Barr’s Irn-Bru for the London area.

In 1977 R White & Sons held 10 percent of the British market for carbonated drinks (excluding cola), but was the brand leader in lemonade, with a 40 percent share.

In 1980 Whitbread and Bass merged their soft drinks operations to form Canada Dry Rawlings. Bass owned 65 percent of the venture and Whitbread owned the remainder. The business concentrated on supplying the licensed trade.

In 1985-6 R White’s had 2.5 percent of the carbonated soft drinks market (excluding cola).

Britvic acquired Canada Dry Rawlings in 1986. The merger brought together Britvic’s strength in fruit juices and cordials, and Canada Dry Rawling’s strength in carbonated drinks.

In 1989 R White’s had the fourth highest sales for a carbonated drinks brand in Britain, behind only Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Schweppes.

As late as 1994 R White’s produced dandelion and burdock, cream soda and ginger beer, as well as lemonade, but these were soon phased out until only lemonade was available.

In 2009 R White’s was the third highest selling soft drink brand in the British on-trade (sales in pubs and bars).

By 2010, sugar in R White’s had been replaced by artificial sweeteners.

Note: Sprite and 7 Up are lemon-lime drinks, and thus not “lemonade”.

As easy as: ABC tea shops

The ABC tea shop was a ubiquitous part of early twentieth century London life, mentioned by T S Eliot and Virginia Woolf, and lambasted by George Orwell.

The Aerated Bread Company (ABC) was incorporated in London in 1862 with a nominal capital of £500,000. It was formed to manufacture bread using a new patented process which used carbon dioxide instead of yeast.

As a mass producer, the ABC had a large number of contracts with institutions such as schools and hospitals. It also had a number of retail outlets in London which sold bread and cakes directly to consumers.

In 1884 a manageress at a ABC bakery shop near London Bridge Station suggested to the directors that on-site sales of tea might increase revenues. This proved successful, and was rolled out across all outlets.

The tea shops proved popular among clerical workers, who appreciated their affordable prices, and by 1889 there were around 70 outlets.

An ABC shop at Ludgate Hill, date unknown
An ABC shop at Ludgate Hill, date unknown

From 1891, production at a centralised bakery in Camden Town helped to keep costs low. The low-margin business received criticism for the low-pay of ABC waitresses, who worked a 62 hour week.

J Lyons opened its first tea shop in 1894. Lyons branches were more upmarket and better managed than the ABC shops, and by 1911 Lyons had overtaken its rival in number of central London outlets.

ABC served over 1.25 million customers in 1911. By 1912 there were 150 branches. By this time the tea shops had evolved into cheap restaurants. In 1911 a commentator wrote that service was slow, but the quality of the tea was “beyond reproach”.

By 1913 ABC was far better known for its London tea shops than its bread manufacture.

In 1918 ABC acquired W & G Buszard, a London bakery chain with 140 shops. ABC were attracted to the merger by the strong management team at Buszard. Buszard directors, led by Charles Cottier (1869 – 1928) and Frederick Hutter (1876 – 1927), quickly came to dominate the ABC board.

Cottier was a forceful personality, and led by him, ABC undertook numerous acquisitions from 1919. These were Bertram & Co (railway catering), James Cottle (Liverpool and Manchester restaurants), Cabins, JP Restaurants (with 80 outlets around London), Newberys (shop-fitters), Abford Estates (a large property development) and a controlling interest in W Hill & Sons (29 shops), at a combined cost of just under £500,000.

By 1921 the managing director of ABC, Frederick Hutter, was described as the “Napoleon” of the London catering trade. Hutter had humble origins, beginning his career as a baker’s assistant. As well as hundreds of tea shops the company also owned the prestigious Criterion restaurant in Piccadilly.

By 1922 ABC had a total of 200 to 250 tea shops and restaurants. By 1925 over 2 million people drank tea in either a Lyons or an ABC tea shop in London every week. The manufacturing site at Camden Town covered over four acres.

By 1926 ABC had 156 branches across London. That year also saw the prim Victorian black and white waitress uniforms replaced by blue dresses.

In 1926 ABC built the largest single tea shop in Britain, opposite Victoria Station. The site was bought from the Duke of Westminster, supposedly for £500,000.

By 1929 paid up capital at ABC amounted to £1.75 million.

In 1929, in the wake of low profits, the well-known accountant Sir W H Peat was contracted to perform an independent review of the company. He argued that the numerous acquisitions did not tie in with the core ABC business, and as such, very few economies of scale could be made. He also argued that the company had paid excessive dividends, and had failed to update and modernise its shops, which had become run down.

The manufacture of aerated bread ended in 1954.

In 1955, ABC, with 164 tea shops, was acquired by Allied Bakeries, controlled by W Garfield Weston, for nearly £3 million. By this time ABC was the second largest chain of restaurants in Britain. Allied Bakeries was motivated by the increase in outlets for its bakery products, and valued the ABC estate at between £1.7 million and £2 million.

Unprofitable branches were quickly sold off, and new outlets opened at better locations. Allied Bakeries invested in the stores to bring them up to the standard of their competitors. The changes worked, and by 1959 the loss-making venture had become one of the most profitable parts of Allied Bakeries.

In 1959 Allied Bakeries sold the Abford House subsidiary, which consisted of a large freehold property in Victoria, London, for over £500,000 to Spiers & Pond, a catering company.

In 1962 ABC reported a profit before tax of over £850,000. In 1966, a pre-tax profit of £735,000 was reported.

Throughout the 1960s and the 1970s the trade of the tea shops began to decline. Rivals with no or limited seating had lower overheads. By 1976 there were 200 ABC outlets, but the tea shops were being phased out in favour of take-away bakery shops.

In 1976, production of small, hand-finished cakes at the Camden Town site was ended. This resulted in the loss of over 400 jobs. The Camden Town site was antiquated, and unsuited for modern production, and in 1982 it was closed for good, with the loss of a further 200 jobs. The ABC tea shops also disappeared around this time.

The Camden site was demolished a few years later, and a Sainsbury’s supermarket now stands in its place. Any residual ABC trademarks are held by Associated British Foods, the successor company to Allied Bakeries.

Largest brewery in the world: historic claimants

In 1750 to 1760, John Calvert of London had the largest brewery in the world.

From at least 1780 until 1808 Whitbread of London was the largest brewer in the world.

In 1809 Barclay Perkins of Southwark, London became the largest brewer in the world.

In 1858 Allsopp & Son erected the largest brewery in the world at Burton upon Trent in the English Midlands.

By the 1870s Bass at Burton upon Trent was the largest brewer in the world.

By 1886 the Guinness site at St James’s Gate in Dublin was the largest brewery in the world.

By 1929 as many as 10 million glasses of Guinness could be sold in a single day.

In 2015 the Miller Coors facility at Golden, Colorado is the largest single-site brewery in the world.

Brewing up a storm: Tetley tea

After successfully introducing the tea bag to Britain, Tetley grew to lead the market.

In 1837, Joseph Tetley (1811 -1899) and his brother Edward began to sell salt from a horse and cart in Bradford, Yorkshire. Before long, tea was added to their wares.

By 1851 the business had relocated to Huddersfield, and employed 14 people. In 1856 the Tetley brothers moved to 25 Cullum Street in London, close to the tea auction houses of Mincing Lane. In 1861 the business employed 18 people.

In 1865 Edward left the business. Joseph brought in Joseph Ackland as a partner and the business traded as Joseph Tetley & Co.

In 1871 Joseph took on his son, Joseph Tetley Jr (1850 – 1935) and long-term employee Samuel Furniss as partners in the business. Tetley & Co also expanded into blending and packaging tea for itself.

In 1880 Ackland and Furniss had their stakes in the partnership bought out by Joseph Tetley and his son. By this time its premises were at 31 Fenchurch Street. In 1888 the company established a sales agency in America.

Joseph Tetley & Sons was incorporated as public company in 1907, and as a private company a year later. By this time the company was a leading London wholesale tea dealer. By 1913 the American business had substantially expanded, and a subsidiary company was established in New York.

Joseph Tetley Jr died in 1935, with an estate valued at £75,000 (equivalent to £29.5 million in 2015). His nephew, William Tetley-Jones took over the company, but died just a few months later. The company was inherited by his son, Tetley Ironside Tetley-Jones (1912 – 1990).

In 1939 Tetley-Jones visited America where he encountered the growing popularity of the tea bag, as opposed to brewing with loose tea leaves. He pioneered mass production of the tea bag in Britain from 1940. Initially production was for export only, due to rationing in Britain.

In 1941 the London premises were damaged during the Blitz, and a new production facility was opened at Bletchley in Buckinghamshire. By this time the head office was at Mansell Street, still close to Mincing Lane.

In 1951 the company was converted back into a public company, with a share capital of £410,000 (£50.7 million in 2015). Net assets were valued at just under £600,000 (£74 million in 2015).

The end of rationing allowed Tetley-Jones to introduce the tea bag to the British consumer in 1953. Tetley-Jones spearheaded the initiative, and had to fight the scepticism of his board of directors. The head tea buyer for Brooke Bond, the largest tea company in the world, announced that his company would never produce tea bags, which he believed imparted the taste of paper to the product.

In 1958 the Bletchley plant was sold off, and all production was centered at a new factory at Eaglescliffe in County Durham. The same year, a new factory was opened at Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Total company capital rose to £750,000 (£58 million in 2015).

Tetley-Jones believed that the company was too small to compete against larger companies such as Brooke Bond, and had been searching for a buyer for years. In 1961 Tetley & Co was acquired by Beech-Nut Life Savers of New York for £2.3 million in cash (£148 million in 2015). Whilst a leader in the small UK tea bag market, most company profits came from the American subsidiary.

Beech-Nut Life Savers provided the capital necessary for expansion of production and marketing of the tea bags. By 1964 tea bags had taken five percent of the British tea market, and all of production belonged to Tetley. It was only that year that the major tea packers introduced their own tea bags.

Tetley tea bag sales grew 58 percent to the catering trade, and by 41 percent to the domestic trade in 1965. The company was exporting millions of tea bags every year.

Tetley tea bag sales rose 63 percent to a total of two billion bags in 1967. Tetley held two thirds of the retail market for tea bags, and 50 percent of the catering market.

In 1968 Tetley sold 5,000 tonnes of tea bags. By 1969 Tetley had 65 percent of the British tea bag market.

In 1973, J Lyons, the British catering giant, and a major tea producer itself, acquired Tetley for £23 million (£524 million in 2015).

The “Tetley tea folk “advertising campaign was launched in 1973. Tetley introduced the round tea bag in 1989. In 2000 Tetley was acquired by Tata, an Indian conglomerate, for £271 million.

Tetley is the third highest selling tea brand in Britain, with a 16 percent market share as of 2016.

Note: all current day wealth calculations are measured as a percentage of GDP, and are taken from

Top tips: Typhoo tea

Typhoo has been one of the highest selling tea brands in Britain since the 1930s.

William Sumner (born c. 1796) established a grocery business with an emphasis on tea, at 96 High Street, Birmingham in 1820. In 1852 it passed to his son John Sumner Snr.

John Sumner Jr (1856 – 1934) joined the family business after leaving school, and began to package and market a blend of tea leaf tips from 1903. Packaged tea was a relatively unknown item in Britain at the time, as the product was generally sold loose from shops.

Previously the market had been dominated by whole leaf tea, and the tips had been discarded. Sumner successfully marketed the tips as a cure for nervousness and an aid to digestion under the brand name Typhoo Tipps. He derived the Typhoo name from a Chinese word meaning doctor.

Sumner divested the grocery business in 1905 and founded a private company to produce and market his packaged tea. A factory was established at Castle Street in Digbeth, Birmingham. Rapid expansion occurred with assistance from aggressive marketing.

Sumner established a blending operation in Ceylon in 1909. This allowed him to buy directly from growers, thus saving costs by cutting out the middleman.

Sumner retired in 1926 and dedicated much of the rest of his life to philanthropy. The business was taken over by his son, John Richard Hugh Sumner (1887 – 1971). The factory was relocated to Bordesley Street, also in Digbeth, in 1930.

Typhoo tea was sold in over 40,000 outlets by the early 1930s, making it one of the highest selling packet teas in Britain.

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Operations ended in Ceylon in 1933, after it was discovered that the Ceylon agents were overcharging the company for inferior tea.

John Sumner died in 1934 and left an estate valued at £740,041.

Wartime bombing damaged the company factory in Birmingham in 1941. With reconstruction materials scarce, limited production was relocated to Brooke Bond and J Lyons for the remainder of the war.

Typhoo was incorporated with a capital of £750,000 in 1949. This figure was increased to £1.1 million in 1954.

A £22 million takeover bid by Kraft of Chicago was rejected in 1960. Typhoo held around 15 percent of the British tea market throughout the 1960s, behind Brooke Bond and the Co-op, and alongside J Lyons.

Sumner retired in 1966 and the managing director, Henry Claude Kelley (1897 – 1974), became chairman.

Typhoo began to manufacture tea bags from 1967. Due to its late entrance, rival companies such as Tetley and Brooke Bond already had firm footholds in this increasingly significant market.

Typhoo was acquired by Schweppes, the soft drinks concern, for £45 million in 1968. Schweppes intended to utilise its strong marketing skills and global distribution network to increase Typhoo sales. It was almost a merger of equals, with Typhoo shareholders holding around 40 percent of the combined entity.

Schweppes merged with Cadbury in 1969. Immediately, Cadbury Schweppes considered relocating Typhoo production to their large factory in Bournville, but the low potential resale value of the Digbeth site meant that the proposal was discarded at that time.


The 160,000 sq ft factory in Digbeth, Birmingham employed 550 workers when it was closed in 1978. All the workers were offered alternative employment by Cadbury, who had significant operations in the area. The closure occurred as the Birmingham site was unsuitable for conversion to high-speed production.

Production was relocated to Moreton, Merseyside, which had been acquired by Cadbury in 1953 as a biscuit production plant. Moreton is conveniently located just a short distance away from the Port of Liverpool, where tea arrives by boat.

Typhoo was subject to a management buyout in 1986, and the company became known as Premier Brands. That year Melrose, the Scottish tea business, was acquired.

Typhoo was acquired by Premier Foods in 1990. In a marketing-led industry, the brand lacked an advertising campaign with the memorability of the PG Tips chimpanzees or the Tetley tea folk. Its share of the tea market was down to three percent by 1993.

Premier Foods sold Typhoo to Apeejay Surrendra Group of India for £80 million in 2005.

Typhoo placed fifth in the British tea market in 2015, with around ten percent market share.

Typhoo tea is still manufactured at Moreton, where 260 people are employed. The factory is the largest packer of own-label tea in the UK, supplying all but one of the major retailers. The factory produces about 25 percent of all tea consumed in Britain.

A history of the largest tea companies in Britain

The highly competitive nature of the British tea industry has seen a number of different market leaders emerge at different points in time.

Horniman & Co was the first company in the world to package tea (as opposed to loose-leaf sales by grocers). By 1867 they claimed to have the largest stock of tea in Britain in their warehouses. By 1880 they sold over 5 million packets a year. By 1890 they had export sales of 500,000 lbs a week.

By 1892 Horniman had been overtaken by Mazawattee, who sold over 14 million packets of tea each year. Mazawattee had introduced a brand that was blended entirely from fashionable Ceylon tea leaves. They also advertised more heavily than Horniman.

By 1897 Lipton & Co claimed the largest sales of tea in the world, with one million packets sold each week. Lipton had acquired their own tea plantations in Ceylon, and by cutting out the middleman, were able to offer lower prices to the consumer.

In 1903 John Sumner began to package a new blend which used only the tips of the tea leaf. With the distinctive name of Typhoo, it had lower tannin levels and a higher caffeine content, Sumner claimed digestive properties for his product.

By 1915 J Lyons & Co sold 5 million packets of tea each week, and were far and away the market leader in Britain, stocked in 160,000 outlets. In 1922 they claimed that 7 million people drank their tea every week.

In 1923 the Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS) claimed that it was the largest tea business in the world, with a sale of over 60 million lbs of tea every year. By 1932 this figure had increased to 100 million lbs a year.

In 1939 the CWS was the largest tea blender and distributor in the United Kingdom, controlling around 25 percent of the supply. It was followed by Lyons, Brooke Bond and Allied Suppliers (who controlled Lipton).

CWS tea sales declined with the rise of the supermarket chains: the new chains saw CWS, who operated their own grocery stores, as a rival, and refused to stock their tea.

By 1957 Brooke Bond was probably the largest tea company in the world, with around one third of the British and Indian tea markets.

In the 1960s, Tetley grew from a minor player to a major force in tea after it pioneered the use of the tea bag in Britain.

Brooke Bond was still the largest tea company in the world when it was acquired by Unilever in 1984. Unilever had acquired Lipton in 1971.

Today Lipton is the largest tea brand in the world, with most production centered on a single site in Dubai.

A potted history of Twining & Co

Twining’s is sold in over 115 countries, and is the leading premium tea brand in the world.

The Twining family originated from Gloucestershire, and often found employment in the weaving industry. Recession in the trade led Daniel Twining to migrate to London with his family in 1684. In 1706 his son, Thomas Twining (1675 – 1741), acquired Tom’s Coffee House on Deveraux Court, at the back of 216 Strand. The shop was well-sited to serve the aristocracy.

The Twining tea shop on the Strand, central London.
The Twining tea shop on the Strand, central London.

As well as coffee, Twining began to sell the rare but fashionable tea. Twining was supplying tea by royal appointment to Queen Anne by 1711. In 1717 Twining acquired the Golden Lyon at 216 Strand: the company still trades from the same premises today. Coffee had been phased out in order to focus on tea by 1734.

Thomas’s son, Daniel Twining, took over the business, and by 1749 was exporting tea to America. Between 1762 and 1782 the firm was run by Daniel’s widow, Mary Twining.

In 1782 Richard Twining took over the company’s management. In 1784 he advised the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, to dramatically reduce the tax on tea to reduce smuggling. Tea sales subsequently quadrupled.

In 1787 Twining introduced its current logo, reputedly the oldest commercial logo to be in continuous use since its inception.


In an 1814 letter, Jane Austen revealed herself to be a Twining tea customer.

The company also developed a substantial banking arm, and in 1824 it was established as a separate entity.

In 1838, Twining received a Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria. It has held a Royal Warrant from each successive British monarch ever since.

Twining exclusively used tea from China until 1839, when they also began to use tea from India and Assam. From 1879 Ceylon tea began to be used.

From the eighteenth century until the late nineteenth century, staff in the shop wore swallow tail coats and white ties. Moustaches were banned.

The Twining bank struggled to compete as rivals grew larger, and in 1892 it was acquired by Lloyds Bank.

Twining survived by keeping up with modern developments. Also, Twining & Co was fortunate in that family members who ran the company had all been excellent businessmen. Also, unlike many other tea companies, Twining’s never owned tea plantations, which meant that it wasn’t tied to its own producers, and could select the best tea crops each year.

Following the acquisition of the tea interests of Harrisons Crosfield of Bankside in 1916, a private company was incorporated as Twining Crosfield. The company had a share capital of £50,000. It was likely the second largest tea blending company after Brooke Bond.

In 1941 part of the Twinings shop and the entire back premises were destroyed by the Luftwaffe. Business continued throughout the war, although the damages necessitated that administration was relocated to Vincent Square in Westminster, followed by the Minories in the City of London, until the premises were rebuilt in 1953.

In 1952 Twining became a public company with a share capital of £400,000. The company employed a staff of 450, and had net assets of almost £525,000. Manufacturing premises were at Wellclose Square, with floorspace of over 42,000 sq ft. There were also smaller factories at Belfast and Staffordshire. As well as the Strand location, the company operated shops at Wigmore Street and William Street, Knightsbridge.

Twinings undertook advertising for the first time in 1956. This move was prompted by the rise in sales of branded teas such as PG Tips.

In 1964 Twining was acquired by Associated British Foods in a friendly takeover. ABF, controlled by George Weston, beat a hostile takeover from Beech-Nut Life Saver of New York, who bid almost £2 million. Beech-Nut had planned to merge Twining with its own Tetley Tea operation. ABF vowed to maintain the business as it had been run before.

The main plant in southeast London was struggling to cope with demand. In 1966 production was relocated to a new plant in Andover, Hampshire that cost almost £3 million. Across seven acres, it was one of the most modern automated factories in the world, and employed 700 workers.

In 1970 an additional factory was opened at North Shields in the northeast of England.

A dedicated marketing manager, Brynley Evans, was brought in from Rank Organisation. In 1973 he became managing director.

By the 1970s Twining’s tea had strong sales overseas. Japan and France were the leading export markets, whilst American sales continued to grow strongly, with a 55 percent rise between January and October 1971. Meanwhile the company gained distribution in British supermarkets with its speciality teas such as Earl Grey.

By October 1974 Twining was the second largest supplier of black tea in Japan, with 32 percent of the market.

Company turnover in 1976 was over £18 million. Between 1969 and 1976, export sales more than quadrupled to £8 million, and Twining was exporting to over 80 countries. The company blended and packed 23 different types of tea. Twining was the biggest British buyer of tea from China. Twining supplied 26 percent of all the tea consumed in France.

In 1980 Twining opened a $6 million tea manufacturing facility at Greensboro, North Carolina, its first such plant in America.

By 1983 annual export sales had reached £17 million. By this time Twining was a brand leader in Japan.

By 1984 Twining was Britain’s largest exporter of tea to America. Earl Grey was the company’s bestseller worldwide.

The Greensboro plant was closed in 2005, with the loss of 90 jobs.

In 2011 Twining closed their North Shields factory and halved the workforce at the Andover plant, and moved all export production to Swarzedz, Poland. Nearly 400 jobs were lost in Britain. Twining also applied to the European Union for €12 million in investment grants to assist with the relocation, but this was denied.

Twining is the second highest selling brand of tea in the UK as of 2016, with a market share of 20 percent.

Monkey business: Brooke Bond

Brooke Bond was the largest tea company in the world. Its PG Tips product is the highest selling tea in the UK.

Arthur Brooke (1845 – 1918), was the son of a tea dealer from Ashton under Lyne, Lancashire. He trained at the wholesale tea firm of Peek Brothers & Winch at Liverpool, and later London.

In 1869 Brooke opened a shop in Manchester, selling tea, coffee and sugar. He traded as “Brooke, Bond & Co”. A Mr Bond was never involved in the business, and Brooke simply liked the sound of the name.

Brooke took cash payments only, at a time when almost all groceries were sold on credit. Within three years he had opened shops in Liverpool, Leeds and Bradford. In 1872 he moved to London where he opened a blending warehouse on Whitechapel High Street. He distributed his own tea to ensure freshness.

Trade depression in the 1870s forced Brooke to sell his London and Scottish stores, and convinced him to pursue the wholesale business.

Brooke introduced a profit-sharing scheme for his 154 employees from 1882. Brooke was an early adopter of this quite revolutionary practice. By 1891 the scheme had accounted for an average of a 10 percent bonus every year.

In 1892 Brooke Bond was converted into a limited liability company with a share capital of £150,000. By this time the business was mostly wholesale. A four-storey warehouse was acquired in Leeds; it had floor space of 54,000 sq ft.

In 1894 Brooke Bond had a 1/30th share of the British tea market. By 1897 it was claimed that two million Britons drank Brooke Bond every day. By 1902 the company had 500 staff and 30,000 sales outlets.

In 1910 the company relocated to Goulston Street in Aldgate, London.

Brooke retired as company chairman in 1910, and was succeeded by his son, Gerald (1881 – 1969). In his obituary, The Times described Arthur Brooke as a “model employer”. He pioneered the eight hour working day, and paid higher wages than his competitors.

By 1917 Brooke Bond was a leading tea blender. In 1923 Brooke Bond opened a large factory at Trafford Park, Manchester, to serve the northern market.

In 1924 Brooke Bond acquired 1,000 acres at Limuru, Kenya, where they established plantations. Together with James Finlay & Co, the two companies pioneered tea production in East Africa.

In 1932 Brooke Bond acquired the Red Rose tea brand in Canada.

The mid-market PG Tips brand was launched in 1930. Brooke Bond Dividend Tea was launched in 1935. Dividend was the company’s value product, and each packet offered the chance to win cash prizes.

Gerald Brooke retired as chairman in 1952. Under his tenure the company’s tea packet trade had multiplied twenty times. He was succeeded by his son, John Brooke (born 1912), a high-powered, resilient man.

In 1954 turnover exceeded £68 million. The majority of sales came from quarter pound packets of tea, of which one thousand million were sold throughout the year.

Chimpanzees were first used as actors in television advertisements for PG Tips from 1955.

The Secret of The Tea Chimps

By 1956 over 100 million cups of Brooke Bond tea were drunk worldwide every day, and the company had overtaken Lyons to take the largest share of the British tea market.

By 1957 Brooke Bond was probably the largest tea company in the world, with a one third share in both the British and Indian tea markets. The company owned thousands of acres of tea plantations, more than any other tea distributor. There were five blending and packing factories in the UK. Company vans made deliveries to over 150,000 shops in Britain.

In 1958 the head office was relocated to Cannon Street, London. By this time the company had interests in Britain, India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Canada, East Africa and South Africa.

Brooke Bond was still highly traditional. Agents regularly attended the tea auctions in Mincing Lane, London, with the time-honoured cries of “I want some” and “am I in it?” However it also kept with the times. Its annual advertising budget totalled $3 million. Total sales in 1962 were $318 million.

By 1963 Brooke Bond owned 30,000 acres of tea plantations, located across India, Ceylon and Africa. The company sold six brands of tea, marketed across 80 countries. 65 million cups of Brooke Bond tea were consumed in India every day. Its Red Rose brand was the market leader in Canada.

In 1965 Brooke Bond employed approximately 50,000 people. In 1966 Brooke Bond claimed to be the largest growers, manufacturers and distributors of tea in the world. In 1968 Brooke Bond held 36 percent of the British tea market.

In 1968 Brooke Bond acquired Leibig, who owned the Oxo stock cube and the Fray Bentos canned meat brands, for £36 million. The merger created the sixth largest food company in Britain, and was to prove a great success.

By 1969, 100 million cups of Brooke Bond tea and coffee were drunk every day in India. By this time the company employed 12,000 people on its Kenyan tea plantations.

In 1970 Brooke Bond acquired Haywards Pickles, alongside other smaller brands, from the Melbray Group for £1.5 million in cash.

By 1972 Brooke Bond held 40 percent of the British tea market. PG Tips was the brand leader in tea with a 20 percent share, while Dividend held 12 percent.

In 1980 The Times credited the chimpanzee advertisements with taking PG Tips from number four in the British tea market in 1956 to number one.

In 1984, Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant, acquired Brooke Bond for £389 million in cash in a hostile takeover. Brooke Bond was the world’s largest tea producer at the time, and held 31 percent of the British tea market. Unilever already owned the Lipton tea business.

Haywards Pickles was sold to Hillsdown Holdings in 1989. In 1993 the Fray Bentos brand was sold to Campbells Soup.

As of 2015, the Trafford Park factory in Manchester is the third largest tea factory in the world. PG Tips is still the highest selling tea in Britain, with a market share of 23 percent. The brand has lost market share in recent times to higher quality rivals Twining and Yorkshire Tea.

The Brooke Bond name is no longer in use in Britain. Brooke Bond’s Choicest Blend was latterly sold by Typhoo, but it was discontinued in the 2000s. PG Tips no longer carries the Brooke Bond name. Brooke Bond remains a major brand in India and Pakistan.

Plain sailing: Lipton tea

In 2015, Lipton was the highest selling tea in the world, with distribution in 110 countries.

Thomas Lipton (1846 – 1931) was a Glaswegian grocer. Lipton believed that he could broaden tea’s appeal to the working classes if he could lower its price. In 1890 he cut out the middleman by acquiring cut-price tea plantations in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Lipton passed the savings on to the customer.

By 1897 Lipton claimed to have the largest sale of any tea in the world “beyond doubt”, and millions drank his tea every day. Over one million packets of Lipton tea were sold in Britain every week. In 1897 Thomas Lipton paid a record-breaking £35,000 duty on a week’s purchase of tea. This was over half the average for the total weekly tea market, which Lipton now claimed to dominate. By this time his tea enjoyed a Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria. Several thousand workers were employed on his Ceylon plantations.

By at least 1899, Lipton tea was blended differently for different regions, in order to suit the local water.

By 1907 Lipton had received a Royal Warrant from Edward VII. The Ceylon estates for tea, coffee and cocoa covered thousands of acres.

By 1918 Lipton tea could boast thousands of outlets in Britain. By this time the Lipton company had been awarded the Royal Warrant as tea merchants to George V.

By 1924 Lipton could refer to the yellow packaging of his tea as famous. The company claimed to be the largest tea distributors, manufacturers and retailers of food products in the world.

However by 1926 the company was in bad shape. The company had outgrown the overworked Thomas Lipton, however he refused to take advice from his board of directors. He was forced to resign from the company he had built in 1927, and his stake was acquired for £60,000.

Lipton was acquired by Home & Colonial, a large grocery chain, in 1931.

Thomas Lipton died in 1931. He left a British estate valued at over £1.4 million. He left an American estate valued at £757,000.

In 1944 Lipton divested some of its plantations in Ceylon, but retained 3,400 acres of high quality tea estates.

Supermarket chains grew from the 1950s. These chains were reluctant to stock the product of a rival grocer. Lipton tea sales in Britain declined and never recovered, and the company concentrated on its significant tea sales overseas.

By 1968 Lipton had total coverage of the Indian market. The company built a new fully automated factory of over 175,000 sq ft. It was one of the world’s largest tea packing and blending factories.

By 1969 Lipton tea was sold in 156 countries, and 29 factories packed Lipton tea.

In 1972 the Lipton tea interests were acquired by Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant, for £18.5 million.

By this time Lipton was a relatively small player in the British tea market, and was outsold by two Brooke Bond brands (PG Tips and Dividend), as well as Tetley, J Lyons, Typhoo and the Co-operative Wholesale Society. Lipton did however have a highly successful business in the United States.

By 1979 all Lipton tea was packed and blended at a factory in Leighton Buzzard. It was the largest tagged teabag factory in Europe. In 1979 Lipton was awarded the Queen’s Award For Export. Lipton Yellow Label was the highest selling tea in the world, a blend of Ceylon, India and other tea leaves. By 1980 Lipton exported more tea to more countries (over 120) than any other company.

By 1984 Lipton’s market share in Britain was described as “minuscule”.

The Leighton Buzzard factory was closed in the late 1990s, and production was relocated to a site in Dubai. The Dubai site is now the largest tea factory in the world.

Lipton Yellow Label has a very small presence in the UK, and most British people will be more aware of it from trips overseas. In the UK its most popular line is its ice tea soft drinks.