Category Archives: Soft drinks

The highs and l’eaus of Perrier

The classic sparkling French spring water was introduced to the global market by an Englishman, St John Harmsworth.

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

Slight and nervous as a boy, St John Harmsworth attended Henley House School, St John’s Wood, London, where he was a pupil of H G Wells (1866 – 1946). According to Wells, Harmsworth was not the most academically-minded of pupils.

Harmsworth grew to become an athletic and handsome young man. He was charming and likeable.

Harmsworth worked as a director at Amalgamated Press, a newspaper empire created by his elder brother Lord Northcliffe (1865 – 1922), which included the Daily Mail, the highest selling newspaper in the world. Northcliffe suggested that Harmsworth travel to France in order to learn the language in 1902.

Harmsworth 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 in the British market at the time.

To the horror of his family, St John Harmsworth sold his shares in Amalgamated Press in order to acquire the Les Bouillens estate in early 1903.

St John 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.

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 in 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.

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

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

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

Perrier was as well known as Apollinaris, its long-established rival, by 1914. Perrier was able to steal 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 be 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 share 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.

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 a great money-spinner, and the rest of the family lacked the faith in the brand that St John had. By May 1939 the family had granted the Britain and Ireland distribution rights for Perrier to its major rival, Apollinaris.

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. Between 1941 and 1944 sales to the German army represented 40 percent of turnover, according to Nicolas Marty.

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

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

By 1952 annual sales were 150 million bottles. By introducing mass advertising to a staid industry, Perrier was able to gain considerable market share in France. By the mid 1970s, Perrier held half of the French bottle water market.

Leven installed a glass bottle manufacturing plant at Vergeze in 1973.

By the early 1970s, Perrier was distributed in Britain by Schweppes and Grand Metropolitan. 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.

To further increase sales, Leven turned to the underdeveloped United States market. Three million bottles were sold there in 1976; by 1979 this had risen to 200 million.

In Britain and the United States, Perrier tapped into a growing aspirational culture, and an increasing health and fitness movement.

By 1983 two billion bottles were sold each year in 119 countries. The Vergeze factory employed 2,500 people.

By 1984, 25 percent of sales were in the United States.

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

In March 1990 it was reported that Perrier contained a minimal amount of a carcinogen called benzene, because a filter meant to catch naturally occuring benzene from the spring had not been changed. 160 million bottles had to be recalled from 120 countries, for which the company was not insured.

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, but Leven decided that a total product recall was essential to preserve the reputation of the brand.

Nestle acquired Perrier in 1992, in a deal which valued the company at $2.7 billion. 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 demands throughout the 1980s. Faced with stagnant sales, Nestle found that it was unable to accommodate union demands. Between 1992 and 2004 it failed to make a profit from Perrier.

Zest for business: L Rose & Co

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

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.

Rose developed and patented a process that allowed fruit juice to be preserved without alcohol. Sulphur dioxide prevented the fermentation process from taking place.

The Merchant Shipping Act of 1867 made it compulsory for British ships to carry lime juice. 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 as a ward against scurvy, but the growing temperance movement in the domestic market.

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

The Bath and Elmshall estates in Dominica were purchased from William Davies in 1891, to provide a source of limes. An old sugar factory was converted for processing; crushing the limes and transferring the juice into barrels for export.

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

The company had a capital of £150,000. John Barclay Rose (born 1862) was chairman. J B Rose, Charles Morrison Rose (born 1863) and Hugh Gilmour Rose were joint managing directors.

L Rose began to manufacture calcium citrate from 1906.

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

A factory was erected at the Bath estate for the production of citric acid crystals in 1921.

Lauchlan Rose (born 1895) took over the management of the company from 1924.

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

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Lime marmalade production began from the 1930s.

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 in 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 was acquired by J Schweppe in an exchange of shares in 1957.

L Rose & Co discontinued operations in Dominica in 1980, in favour of operations in Cameroon and Ghana.

The Hemel Hempstead factory was closed in 1983 due to high rent, and all production was relocated to St Albans.

 

Soda, so good: W A Ross of Belfast

W A Ross was one of the largest soft drinks manufacturers in Ireland.

William Adolphus Ross (1817 – 1900) worked as managing director at Cantrell & Cochrane, soft drinks manufacturers of Belfast, for around ten years.

Cantrell & Cochrane were found to be in breach of contract, so with a settlement of £3,250, Ross established his own soft drinks manufacturing business at William Street South, Belfast, in 1879. He was assisted by his son George A Ross, a former sailor.

By November 1879 W A Ross was producing nearly 30,000 bottles a day, chiefly for export markets such as the United States, the West Indies and Africa.

A depot had been established at Glasgow by 1881.

The firm’s agent in New York imported 981,840 bottles in 1883.

W A Ross was 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.

The firm employed 150 people in 1896. By 1898 the firm had depots at Glasgow and Liverpool.

William Adolphus Ross died in 1900 with an estate valued at £4,449.

The William Street factory was extended in 1902, and again in 1909.

William Adolphus Ross Jr (1843 – 1912) died in New York with an estate valued at £65,000.

By 1914 Brazil, Chile and Argentina were major export markets, but the United States remain the most important. The war was to damage the export trade.

Independence for the Republic of Ireland damaged trade in that market due to the erection of tariffs.

The factory ceased production in the mid 1970s, and W A Ross & Sons was wound up in 1980.

The sparkling history of Cantrell & Cochrane

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 chemists 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. From 1856 the firm began to manufacture sarsaparilla.

In 1859 James Dyas left the partnership 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 in 1866.

In 1868 T J Cantrell merged with the soft drinks business of Henry Cochrane (1836 – 1904) of Dublin to form Cantrell & Cochrane. At this time the premises of the Hibernian Mineral Water Company of Nassau Place, Dublin were acquired.

By 1868 Cantrell & Cochrane had contracts to supply several shipping lines, including Cunard, Inman, Montreal, National and City of Dublin.

In 1877 Cantrell & Cochrane successfully trademarked the “Club Soda” name in Britain and Ireland.

Cantrell retired from the partnership in 1883, leaving Cochrane as the sole proprietor, although the Cantrell & Cochrane name was retained.

According to the Belfast Morning News, by 1884 Cantrell & Cochrane was the largest soft drink manufacturer in the world.

By 1885 the Dublin works employed around 500 people 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.

Cantrell & Cochrane was one of the largest exporters from Ireland by the time Henry Cochrane died in 1904. He was succeeded as chairman by his son, Ernest Cecil Cochrane (1874 – 1952).

Cantrell died in 1909 with an estate valued at £70,045.

In 1914 the Dublin factory employed around 1,000 people.

The First World War threatened the firm’s large and valuable American trade, so a factory was established in New York.

In 1925 Cantrell & Cochrane was sold to E & J Burke, bottlers of Guinness in America, and Ernest Cecil Cochrane stepped down as chairman.

By 1930 Cantrell & Cochrane had a capital of £200,000.

The end of Prohibition in the United States damaged the Cantrell & Cochrane export trade.

In 1950 E & J Burke was acquired by Guinness.

By 1953 the American subsidiary, with a factory at Englewood, New Jersey, had been sold to National Phoenix Industries.

In 1968 Guinness merged Cantrell & Cochrane with the Irish soft drinks operations of Allied Breweries (later Allied Domecq) to form C&C.

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.

Welsh fire: Idris & Co

Idris “Fiery” ginger beer is sold throughout Britain, and is manufactured by Britvic.

Thomas Howell Williams (1842 – 1925) was born at Vallen, Pembrokeshire, the son of a Welsh-speaking Baptist farmer. He was apprenticed to a chemist in Monmouthshire at the age of twelve. He emigrated to London in 1863.

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.

Williams established Idris & Co, soft drink manufacturer, on Pratt Street, Camden Town in 1875. An ardent Welsh nationalist, his business was named after a mountain in his homeland.

Idris & Co employed at least 400 men by 1891. That year, a generous profit-sharing scheme was introduced for the employees. The firm was incorporated in 1892 with a nominal capital of £100,000.

T H 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.

Between 1895 and 1897, Idris & Co nearly doubled in size. Additional factories had been established at Southampton by 1896 and at Liverpool by 1898. A public offering in 1897 took company capital to £150,000. By 1897 the company had a Royal Warrant to supply Queen Victoria.

A merger 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. However 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 in 1901. Horse-driven carts had previously limited road distribution to a 17 mile radius.

Politically T H W Idris was a radical and a progressive. In 1902 he invited representatives of the Social Democratic Federation and the National Democratic League to inspect his wages bill. They declared that Idris & Co was paying the highest wages in the industry, that retired workers received pensions and that the profit-sharing scheme had distributed thousands of pounds to staff.

In 1904-5 T H W Idris served as the Mayor of St Pancras. Between 1906 and 1910 he was the Liberal Member of Parliament for Flintshire.

By 1908 Idris & Co had a Royal Warrant to supply Edward VII.

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.

By 1912 Idris & Co was distributing soft drinks within a 50 mile radius of its Camden Town factory. Depots were situated at Watford, Teddington, Enfield and Southend. The company had over one million bottles. By 1914 the firm had 21 lorries. By 1916 Idris & Co had a Royal Warrant to supply George V.

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).

In 1936 Idris & Co opened a new depot at Chelmsford, Essex.

W H W Idris died in 1939, with a gross estate valued at £20,230. He was succeeded as chairman by Joseph Edward Southwell. In 1943 Southwell stepped down, and was succeeded by Ivor Trevena Idris (1911 – 1993), the grandson of the late founder.

Idris mineral water was not available during the Second World War due to Government restrictions aimed at rationalising production.

In 1961 Coca-Cola Bottlers of Scotland was acquired.

In 1964 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 1965 the antiquated Camden Town factories were closed, and production was relocated to a new site at White Hart Lane, Tottenham.

Following problems establishing the new factory, and a fire at the Coca-Cola Scotland plant, in 1965-6 the company made a loss of £348,000.

In 1967 the loss-making Idris was acquired by Beecham, which owned the Lucozade, Ribena and Corona soft drinks brands.

The Beecham soft drinks business was acquired by Britvic in 1987.

On the rocks: H D Rawlings

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.

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.

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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.*

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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”.