Wheeler & Co became one of the largest soft drinks producers in Belfast.
Walter James Wheeler (1830 – 1890) and Dr Henry Whitaker (1833 – 1912) acquired a chemist’s business at 38 Apothecaries Hall, opposite Bridge Street, Belfast, in 1858. Whitaker had previously served as an apprentice pharmacist with Grattan & Co.
Wheeler & Whitaker acquired the lease to a factory on Murphy Street, Belfast, which had access to the Cromac springs, in 1864.
Wheeler & Whitaker was the first Belfast soft drink manufacturer to utilise the Cromac springs, and it was to prove well-suited for the production of carbonated drinks due to its purity and mineral content.
Wheeler & Whitaker was ranked as one of the “Big Five” producers of soft drinks in Belfast by 1871. An extensive export trade had been developed by 1877.
Wheeler & Whitaker was subject to a break-up in 1882. Dr Whitaker took control of the chemists’s business, and Wheeler took control of the soft drinks business.
W J Wheeler died in 1890 and left an estate of £16,932. He was remembered as a kindly man.
Frederick Wheeler (1862 – 1939) succeeded his father as managing director of Wheeler & Co. A driven and determined man, the business expanded substantially under his direction.
Wheeler converted the firm into a private limited company, with capital of £20,000. He led a focus on the export trade.
The First World War was to have a negative impact upon Belfast soft drink producers. Businesses struggled to import ingredients, and to export produce.
The Republic of Ireland gained independence in 1919, and erected tariffs against imported British goods.
Norman Walter Frederick Wheeler (born 1892), son of Frederick Wheeler, placed the business into voluntary liquidation in 1923.
Wheeler & Co was acquired by George A Davison. He was declared bankrupt in 1927.
Wheeler & Co was still in business as late as 1942.
Apollinaris was the highest-selling mineral water in the world.
Establishment of the company and growth
The Apollinaris spring is situated in the German Rhineland. It is an alkaline and highly-aerated water, and contains sodium chloride and calcium, sodium and magnesium carbonates.
The Apollinaris spring began to be commercially exploited, in a modest way, from 1852 onwards.
George Murray Smith (1824 – 1901) was a successful London publisher. He first encountered Apollinaris spring water whilst dining with Ernest Hart (1835 – 1898), the editor of the British Medical Journal, in 1872. Smith appreciated its taste, and determined to acquire the spring.
Smith partnered with Edward Steinkopff (1838 – 1906), a Frankfurt-born merchant, to establish a British company with the worldwide distribution rights to Apollinaris water in 1873.
The Apollinaris Company Limited had its head office at 19 Regent Street, London. Steinkopff became company chairman and Julius Charles Prince (1851 – 1914) was appointed as managing director.
Murray Smith was a skilled businessman, and he organised faster, more efficient and safer distribution of Apollinaris from Germany. Meanwhile, Steinkopff was praised for his high energy, and his bold and prudent business decisions.
Company growth was to prove swift; just under 1.8 million bottles were sold in 1874, rising to over ten million bottles in 1881.
The brand soon established a prestigious reputation. Queen Victoria used Apollinaris as a mixer for Scotch whisky or claret.
Over 19.5 million bottles were sold in 1895.
Foundation of a public company
Apollinaris acquired Johannis, a rival German mineral water producer, for around £400,000 in 1897.
Apollinaris & Johannis was formed as a public company with a capital of £2,380,000 from 1897. Steinkopff and Smith divested their shares, largely to Frederick Gordon (1835 – 1904), the pioneer of the first modern hotel in London. Gordon became president of the company.
Apollinaris & Johannis merged with A & F Pears, a struggling soap manufacturer, in 1898. The amalgamation was organised by Gordon, who insisted that there were cost-efficiencies in distribution and sales between the two companies, although the contemporary press remained sceptical.
Apollinaris & Johannis held Royal Warrants to supply the King and the Prince of Wales by 1902.
Over 30 million bottles of Apollinaris were sold in the 1905-1906 financial year.
Steinkopff died in 1906 with an estate valued at £1.2 million.
Apollinaris was a popular culture staple, especially among the middle and upper classes. It was referenced by many leading novelists of the era, including Henry James, Edith Wharton and James Joyce.
A & F Pears was acquired by Lever Brothers in 1914.
War time troubles
Only Perrier could rival Apollinaris as the best known sparkling mineral water in Britain by 1914.
Apollinaris & Johannis Ltd had a capital of over £3 million by 1915. The company employed about 100 clerical staff and 60 to 80 warehouse staff.
Post-war economic chaos in Europe severely hampered company operations, and exports faced the challenge of increasing import tariffs across the world.
Apollinaris & Johannis was forced to diversify, and a range of British-produced soft drinks had been introduced by under the Presta brand by 1930.
The company changed its name to Apollinaris & Presta from 1931.
The increasing value of the German currency in the 1930s made Apollinaris increasingly expensive. The German government had introduced a moratorium by 1936, which prevented Apollinaris & Presta from withdrawing funds from the Nazi-controlled country.
Exports from Germany had been highly restricted by 1939.
Apollinaris & Presta were appointed sole distributors of Perrier water in the United Kingdom and Ireland from 1938-9.
The Apollinaris spring was expropriated by Heinrich Himmler’s SS from 1943.
British rationing controls also restricted the company from producing Presta soft drinks between 1943 and 1948.
Control of the Apollinaris spring and bottle works were regained in 1947-48. The site had been starved of investment during the war years.
Apollinaris & Presta entered into financial difficulty, and lost its stock market quotation in 1955. The spring and bottling works were acquired by Dortmunder Union, a German brewery. Schweppes acquired Presta and the distribution rights for Apollinaris across the British Commonwealth and the Americas.
Schweppes took a 28 percent stake in the German parent company from 1991.
Schweppes acquired the 72 percent of Apollinaris that it did not already own from Brau & Brunnen, the successor to Dortmunder Union, for €151 million in 2002.
Apollinaris was acquired by Coca-Cola for an undisclosed sum in 2006.
Apollinaris remains popular in Germany, where it is the second-highest selling sparkling mineral water. Presta is also still sold in Germany.
A G Barr is one of the largest soft drinks manufacturers in Britain, where its leading product, Irn-Bru, is the third highest selling soft drink.
Robert Barr (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.
H W Carter & Co introduced Ribena to Britain. 90 percent of British blackcurrant production goes towards making Ribena.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 since the 1870s. Harmsworth packaged his water in a distinctive bulbous green bottle, inspired by an Indian club used for exercises.
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.
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.
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.
W A Ross was one of the largest soft drinks manufacturers in Ireland.
William Adolphus Ross (1817 – 1900) was born in Dublin, the son of Henry Ross, a banker.
W A Ross worked as managing director of the Belfast factory of Cantrell & Cochrane for nine years. The branch became the largest soft drink manufacturer in Belfast. Ross was described as “able and courteous” by a visitor from the Northern Whig in 1876.
A dispute arose between Ross and his employer. Cantrell & Cochrane were found to be in breach of contract, and Ross was awarded a settlement of £3,250.
Ross used the cash to establish his own soft drinks manufacturing business at William Street South, Belfast, in 1879. The site was chosen due to its access to spring water and proximity to the docks. He was assisted by his son George Harrison Ross (1845 – 1917), a former sailor.
W A Ross was producing nearly 30,000 bottles a day by November 1879, with production largely destined for export markets such as the United States, the West Indies and Africa.
A depot had been established at Glasgow by 1881.
Another son, William Adolphus Ross Jr (1843 – 1912), settled in Staten Island and worked as the sales agent for New York. 981,840 bottles were imported into New York in 1883.
W A Ross had become one of the largest soft drink manufacturers in Ireland by 1891. Ross’s Royal Ginger Ale was the firm’s principal product. That year the firm became a private limited company, W A Ross & Sons Ltd.
W A Ross & Sons employed 150 people in 1896. The company had depots at Glasgow and Liverpool by 1898.
William Adolphus Ross died in 1900 with an estate valued at £4,449. George Harrison Ross became managing director of the company.
The William Street factory was extended in 1902, and again in 1909.
William Adolphus Ross Jr died in 1912 with an estate valued at £65,000. He was succeeded by his son, Conway Ross (1883 – c.1975).
Brazil, Chile and Argentina were major export destinations by 1914, but the United States remained the most important foreign market. However, the disruption caused by the First World War was to damage the export trade.
The Republic of Ireland gained independence in 1919, and trade to this major market was damaged when import tariffs were introduced.
Conway Ross stepped down as managing director in 1973. He was succeeded by his son, Dermot Conway Ross (1915 – 1979) and grandson, Oscar C Ross (born 1948) as joint-managing directors.
W A Ross & Sons merged with Belfast rival Cochran’s of Ravenhill Avenue to form Ross Cochran in 1975. Dermot Conway Ross took the opportunity to retire, and Oscar Ross was appointed as sales director of the new company.
All production was centralised at Cochran’s. A £300,000 investment was made to double bottling capacity. Around 100 people were employed on a six acre site.
Ross Cochran was acquired by Cantrell & Cochrane in 1986. After a few years the Ross brand was phased out.
Cantrell & Cochrane was the largest manufacturer of soft drinks in the world.
Thomas Joseph Cantrell (1827 – 1909) was born in Dublin. He qualified as a medical practitioner and became a principal assistant at Grattan & Co, a Belfast firm of chemists. Grattan & Co also manufactured soft drinks, and introduced the first carbonated “ginger ale”.
Cantrell left Grattan & Co in 1852 to form his own chemist business with James Dyas at 22 Castle Place, Belfast.
Dyas & Cantrell manufactured mineral waters, ginger ale, lemonade and soda water, as well as other products. The firm began to manufacture sarsaparilla from 1856.
James Dyas left the partnership in 1859 to establish his own soft drinks and chemists business. Dyas & Cantrell continued to trade as T J Cantrell.
Perhaps no longer restrained by Dyas, Cantrell began to advertise extensively from the 1860s. The firm had depots in Dublin, Liverpool and Glasgow by 1862. The firm retained its headquarters at Castle Place, but expanding production saw soft drink manufacture relocate to 10 Arthur Place, Belfast.
Increasing demand for their products saw T J Cantrell relocate to 25 Bank Street, Belfast, a former brewery, in 1863. The firm commenced export of its ginger ale to America from 1866.
T J Cantrell merged with the soft drinks business of Henry Cochrane (1836 – 1904) of Dublin to form Cantrell & Cochrane in 1868. At this time the premises of the Hibernian Mineral Water Company of Nassau Place, Dublin were acquired.
From this juncture Cantrell became a sleeping partner at Cantrell & Cochrane.
Cantrell & Cochrane held contracts to supply several shipping lines, including Cunard, Inman, Montreal, National and City of Dublin by 1868.
Henry Cochrane continued to manage the Dublin site, and William Adolphus Ross (1817 – 1900) was appointed as manager of the Belfast factory from 1870. Under Ross’s leadership, the Belfast site was to prove far more profitable than the Dublin venture.
From around this time the firm began to add a chemical preservative to their ginger ale, which allowed it to maintain its quality in warm climates.
Cantrell & Cochrane was numbered among the “Big Five” producers of soft drinks in Belfast by 1871.
Across both sites, Cantrell & Cochrane produced 432,000 bottles of soft drinks in a single week in 1876.
Cantrell & Cochrane was the largest soft drinks producer in Belfast by 1876. The Belfast factory employed hundreds of workers. The artesian well supplied 17,280 gallons of spring water a day. The bottle filling machine, which had been designed by W A Ross himself, could fill 48 bottles a minute.
Cantrell & Cochrane successfully trademarked the “Club Soda” name in Britain and Ireland in 1877.
Ross was fired by Cochrane in 1879. Ross was to later win a court hearing for unfair dismissal, and establish a rival soft drinks manufacturing business on his own account.
Cantrell retired from the partnership due to ill heath in 1883. Cochrane remained as the sole proprietor, although the Cantrell & Cochrane name was retained.
According to the Belfast Morning News, Cantrell & Cochrane was the largest soft drink manufacturer in the world by 1884.
The Dublin works employed around 500 people by 1885 and had an annual production capacity of nearly 30 million bottles a year. Almost all of Nassau Place was occupied. The city and suburban trade employed sixteen two-horse vans. The Belfast factory was of a similar size.
The Belfast Morning News claimed in 1885 that what Guinness was to porter, and Bass was to pale ale, Cantrell & Cochrane was to ginger ale, especially in America.
Cantrell & Cochrane became a private limited liability company in 1898. The company was awarded a Royal Warrant by the King of Great Britain in 1901.
By the time Henry Cochrane died in 1904, Cantrell & Cochrane was one of the largest Irish exporters. He was succeeded as chairman by his son, Ernest Cecil Cochrane (1873 – 1952).
Cantrell died in 1909 with an estate valued at £70,045.
The Dublin factory employed around 1,000 people by 1914.
The First World War threatened the firm’s large and valuable American trade, so a factory was established in New York.
Cantrell & Cochrane was sold to E & J Burke, bottlers of Guinness in America, in 1925, and Ernest Cecil Cochrane stepped down as chairman, although he remained as a director.
Cantrell & Cochrane had a capital of £200,000 in 1930.
The end of Prohibition in the United States damaged the Cantrell & Cochrane export trade.
E & J Burke was acquired by Guinness in 1950.
The American subsidiary, with a factory at Englewood, New Jersey, had been sold to National Phoenix Industries by 1953.
Cantrell & Cochrane opened a new factory on Castlereagh Road, Belfast in 1956. The company employed a total of 1,100 people across the United Kingdom.
Guinness merged Cantrell & Cochrane with the Irish soft drinks operations of Allied Breweries (later Allied Domecq) to form C&C in 1968.
Cantrell & Cochrane (Dublin) had close to 60 percent of the Irish soft drinks market by 1974. Drinks were produced at a modern factory at Ballyfermot, Dublin.
In 1997 C&C employed 1,600 people.
In 1998 Allied Domecq acquired the 49.6 percent stake of C&C it did not own from Guinness for £270 million.
In 1999 Allied Domecq sold C&C to BC Partners for £580 million.
C&C Group became a public company from 2004. C&C sold its non-alcoholic drinks business to Britvic in 2007.
Former C&C drinks are still sold by Britvic in Ireland under the “Club” brand.
The former American subsidiary still operates from New Jersey, and its products include C&C Cola and C&C Ginger Ale.
Idris was one of the largest soft drinks manufacturers in Britain. Its “Fiery” ginger beer continued to be sold until 2019.
Thomas Howell Williams (1842 – 1925) was born at Vallen, Pembrokeshire, the son of a Welsh-speaking Baptist farmer. He was apprenticed to an Ebbw Vale chemist from the age of twelve.
Williams emigrated to London in 1863, and went to work for a well-known firm of chemists. Soon, he entered into business for himself, with a chemist shop on Seven Sisters Road. There, he introduced soft drinks under the Idris brand, named for a Welsh mountain.
Manufacturing chemists of the era often produced soft drinks, which were purported to have medical benefits. Ginger ale, Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper were all created by chemists.
The soft drinks arm was successful, and Williams divested his chemists business and established Idris & Co, soft drink manufacturers, on Pratt Street, Camden Town from 1875.
Idris & Co employed 400-500 men by 1891. That year, a generous profit-sharing scheme was introduced for the employees.
Idris & Co was incorporated with a nominal capital of £100,000 in 1892. The company was one of the largest soft drinks manufacturers in the world.
Williams added Idris to his surname by deed poll in 1893.
Idris & Co employed two automated carbonated soft drink filling machines, which were designed by T H W Idris himself.
Idris & Co nearly doubled in size between 1895 and 1897. Additional factories had been established at Southampton by 1896 and at Liverpool by 1898. A public offering in 1897 raised company capital to £150,000. The company had a Royal Warrant to supply Queen Victoria by 1897.
An amalgamation was proposed between Idris & Co and the Chemists’ Aerated & Mineral Waters Association in 1898. With a capital of £400,000 the business would have had the scale to rival Schweppes, but ultimately the merger plans did not come to fruition.
Idris & Co had a share capital of £216,000 by 1900. Depots were located at Teddington, Watford, Reigate, Folkstone, Portsmouth and Bournemouth. The company employed almost 1,000 people, including nearly 200 at the Camden Town factory. That year, five million bottles of carbonated soft drinks were sold, as well as millions of non-carbonated drinks. That year, an additional factory was opened at Canterbury.
Motorised distribution was introduced from 1901. Horse-driven carts had previously limited road distribution to within a 17 mile radius.
Politically, T H W Idris was a radical and a progressive. He invited representatives of the Social Democratic Federation and the National Democratic League to inspect his wages bill in 1902. They declared that Idris & Co paid the highest wages in the industry, that retired workers received pensions and that the profit-sharing scheme had distributed thousands of pounds to staff.
IT H W Idris served as the Mayor of St Pancras in 1904-5. He was the Liberal Member of Parliament for Flintshire from 1906 to 1910.
Idris & Co held a Royal Warrant to supply Edward VII by 1908.
120 women and girls at the Camden Town factory went on strike in 1911 in protest at the dismissal of an employee. The strikers agreed to an independent review of the case by the Board of Trade. The review cleared Idris & Co of any wrongdoing.
Idris & Co was distributing soft drinks within a 50 mile radius of its Camden Town factory by 1912. Depots were situated at Watford, Teddington, Enfield and Southend. The company had over one million bottles. The company had 21 lorries by 1914.
Idris & Co held a Royal Warrant to supply George V by 1916.
Thomas Howell Williams Idris died in 1925 with an estate valued at £30,317. He was succeeded as chairman by his son, Walter Howell Williams Idris (1875 – 1939).
Idris & Co established a new depot at Chelmsford, Essex in 1936.
W H W Idris died in 1939, with a gross estate valued at £20,230. Joseph Edward Southwell succeeded him until 1943, when Ivor Trevena Idris (1911 – 1993), the grandson of the late founder, became chairman.
Idris mineral water was not available during the Second World War due to Government restrictions aimed at rationalising production.
Coca-Cola Bottlers of Scotland was acquired in 1961.
Idris entered into a joint venture with Fuller Smith & Turner, the London brewer, for the 7 Up bottling franchise for London and the South East in 1964.
The antiquated Camden Town factories were closed in 1965, and production was relocated to a new site at White Hart Lane, Tottenham.
Idris & Co made a loss of £348,000 in 1965-6, following problems establishing the new factory, and a fire at the Coca-Cola Scotland plant.
The loss-making company was acquired by Beecham, which owned the Lucozade, Ribena and Corona soft drinks brands, in 1967.
Britvic acquired the Beecham soft drinks business in 1987. Idris “Fiery” ginger beer continued to be sold until 2019.
H D Rawlings was one of the largest and most prestigious soft drinks manufacturers in Victorian England.
In press advertising from 1860, Rawlings & Co claimed an establishment date of 1815. John Rawlings (1771 – 1848), ginger beer manufacturer, was certainly based at Nassau Street, Fitzrovia by 1827. The exact address is confirmed as 2 Nassau Street by 1831.
John Rawlings died in 1848 and the business was inherited by his sons, John (1806 – 1853) and James (1814 – 1882). In 1851 James Rawlings lived at 2 Nassau Street and was a ginger beer manufacturer employing 20 men. John Rawlings lived at 3 Nassau Street, and was also a ginger beer manufacturer.
John Rawlings died in 1853 and his stake in the business was inherited by Sarah Rawlings (1819 – 1863), his widow.
The business occupied 2-4 Nassau Street by 1856, and the range of drinks had been expanded to include lemonade and soda, as well as ginger beer.
Sarah Rawlings married her clerk, Henry Doo (1837 – 1904) in 1857, and he took on the name Henry Doo Rawlings.
Premises had extended to include 8 Charles Street, Fitzrovia by 1860.
At the instigation of James Rawlings, a works’ brass band was established in 1862. The firm enjoyed a strong relationship with its workforce, which it treated to an annual dinner or excursion.
Sarah Doo (nee Rawlings) died in September 1863, with an estate valued at under £7,000. H D Rawlings became principal partner in the firm, although James Rawlings also had a stake, and the firm traded as H D & J Rawlings.
Less than four months after the death of his wife, Henry Doo Rawlings married Jane Sewell in Paris.
H D & J Rawlings had a Royal Warrant to supply Queen Victoria with soft drinks by 1864.
Henry Doo Rawlings was described in the Marylebone Mercury in 1866 as “lively, open-hearted and genial, easily approached, with no manifest sense of self-importance”. James Rawlings was described as more reserved, “but thoroughly cordial and kind when the ice was broken”.
The firm was a generous contributor to the Licensed Victuallers Asylum, a charity for retired victuallers.
The firm supplied the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Emperor of France by 1869.
James Rawlings retired in 1870, and the firm was continued under the name H D Rawlings.
There was a gas explosion at the Nassau Street factory in 1877. Henry Doo Rawlings and two other men received burns to their faces and hands, and had to be taken to Middlesex Hospital.
The firm was based at 2 Nassau Street and Berners Street in 1879.
Henry Doo Rawlings was granted the Freedom of the City of London in 1886.
R White & Sons of Camberwell acquired H D Rawlings in 1891. It was also incorporated as a limited company at this time. The Rawlings brand continued as the “premium” offering alongside the “standard” R White’s soft drinks.
H D Rawlings advertised that it could supply up to 120,000 stone bottles of ginger beer within notice of a few hours in 1892. The Rawlings factory was on Neate Street, Camberwell by 1894.
Henry Doo Rawlings died in Paris in 1904. He left an estate valued at over £47,000.
H D Rawlings was based at 8 Mortimer Street, Fitzrovia and Neate Street, Camberwell in 1914. The company employed about 400 people.
The licensed trade in the London area was the principal customer for H D Rawlings products by 1952.
R White & Sons was acquired by Whitbread, a national brewer, in 1969.
H D Rawlings was based at Winsor Terrace, London by 1975. By this time the brand was primarily being marketed as a mixer for spirits, and was largely affiliated with the on-trade of clubs, hotels and public houses.
Whitbread and Bass merged their soft drinks operations to form Canada Dry Rawlings in 1980. Bass owned 65 percent of the venture and Whitbread owned the remainder. The business concentrated on supplying the licensed trade.
Britvic acquired Canada Dry Rawlings in 1986. Britvic phased out the Rawlings name in favour of the Britvic brand.