Category Archives: Food

Goldmine: a history of Cavenham

How did Jimmy Goldsmith build the third largest food company in Europe?

Early life of Jimmy Goldsmith
Jimmy Goldsmith (1933 – 1997) was born in Paris, the son of Major Frank Goldsmith, a former British Member of Parliament, and one of the leading hoteliers in France during the interwar period.

Jimmy Goldsmith was educated at Eton, where he found himself somewhat of an outsider. He was not keen on academics, but he soon developed an interest in gambling. At the age of 16 an accumulator win netted the schoolboy a payout of nearly £8,000, an immense sum at the time.

Goldsmith left Eton at the age of 17 and spent five years engaged as a professional gambler. He eventually amassed large amounts of money, and had to seek out his father for assistance. His father cleared his debts on the condition that he  join the army. Goldsmith completed his service with the rank of lieutenant in 1953.

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Goldsmith enters the pharmaceuticals business
Following his army service Goldsmith returned to France to discover that the family fortune had been depleted. He entered into business as a pharmaceutical product wholesaler, and found success marketing cortisone tablets.

Goldsmith eloped with Isabel Patino, the daughter of a Bolivian tin magnate, in 1953. His young wife died from complications due to childbirth in 1954. Goldsmith was ridden with grief, and threw himself into his work with an almost manic energy.

Goldsmith began to manufacture generic medicines at prices that undercut the large drug producers. The business was successful and profitable, but it grew so fast that it ran into liquidity issues, and was sold to Laboratoires Roussel in 1957.

Goldsmith next won the licence to market Prednisolone, an anti-inflammatory drug, in Britain.

Goldsmith partnered with Selim Zilkha (born 1927) to acquire Lewis & Burrows, a 28-branch pharmaceutical chain, from Charles Clore (1904 – 1979) in 1959. Goldsmith relocated to London in order to manage the business.

Zilkha and Goldsmith next acquired the 50-strong chain of W J Harris, pram and nursery furniture specialists, in 1961. The business was renamed Mothercare.

Goldsmith sold his retail holdings stake to Zilkha in order to concentrate on pharmaceuticals in 1962.

Goldsmith enters the food industry
Goldsmith introduced a range of slimming foods in France, in direct imitation of Metrecal, a product that had already enjoyed considerable success in the United States.

Goldsmith acquired 20 percent of Procea, a British manufacturer of slimming foods, in 1963.

Charles Clore introduced Goldsmith to Sir Isaac Wolfson (1897 – 1991), who provided expansion capital.

Goldsmith acquired full control of Procea, as well as controlling stakes in Carson’s (chocolate), Carr’s of Carlisle (biscuits) and Holland of Southport (toffee) in 1964.

Goldsmith had identified all of the companies as mismanaged, with strong brands that were under-utilised. Carson’s was loss-making, Holland was troubled, and Carr was under pressure from larger biscuit manufacturers. Goldsmith was able to acquire the companies at depressed prices. Goldsmith would later comment:

I wanted to break into business in a big way and the only way I could do so with my limited resources was to buy up down-at-heel companies.

Goldsmith floated his interests as Cavenham Foods in 1965. The company employed 6,000 people and produced 15 percent of all toffee sold in Britain.

Goldsmith modernised Cavenham in order to render the business profitable. He installed a professional management team, with staff poached from blue chip consumer goods companies such as Procter & Gamble, Mars and Beechams. Six factories were immediately closed in order to leave five sites, which were modernised. Less popular product lines were discontinued, with marketing and research concentrated on the highest-selling products. Non-core assets, such as the Holland of Southport paper and plastics division, were divested.

Singleton & Cole of Birmingham, a tobacco wholesaler, was acquired in 1966. The business had entered into difficulties after the large supermarket chains had established their own wholesale networks. The merged business was the largest confectionery and tobacco wholesaler in Britain.

Carson’s introduced Harveys Bristol Cream Sherry chocolate liqueurs in 1967.

Singleton & Cole was sold to Palmer & Harvey for £2.4 million in order to reduce debt in 1968. The wholesale business was unprofitable and had proved a drain on capital.

Elizabeth Shaw, best known for crisp mint chocolates, was acquired from H S Whiteside in 1968. Production was transferred to Bristol.

The R S McColl newsagent chain was acquired, with 420 shops, for £900,000 in 1971.

Goldsmith had a mixed relationship with the British press. In the Evening Standard he was described as having “something of the bumptious undergraduate about him”. A Daily Telegraph profile regarded him as, “a highly amusing man with a distinctively forceful style”. The Economist argued that he was “regarded as altogether too theatrical, always pulling a deal out of a hat here, a continental connection there”.

Goldsmith acquires Bovril
Goldsmith identified Bovril as another business with mismanaged and underutilised assets. He particularly liked the three leading brands of Bovril, Marmite and Ambrosia. Goldsmith explained:

we think we can do more with the existing business. Bovril’s profits have not really moved since 1961. Last year they made nine percent on net tangible assets; we made 50 percent. The difference speaks for itself.

A 50 percent stake in the Cavenham retail operation was sold to Southland Corporation for £3.3 million in order to finance the acquisition. The Economist described the deal as “derisory” and a “Goldsmith bloomer”, but Cavenham needed the cash urgently.

Bovril was acquired for £14.5 million in 1971 (around £500 million in 2020 prices). The deal was transformational for Cavenham.

Eight of Bovril’s ten board members departed shortly after the takeover. Overheads were decreased. Research and development funding was redirected to support the three main brands.

Bovril had valued its dairy interests on its balance sheet at next to nothing, but Goldsmith sold them shortly after the takeover to Grand Metropolitan for £6.3 million in cash. Goldsmith strenuously denied accusations of asset stripping.

Goldsmith expands his retail interests
Cavenham acquired Allied Suppliers, one of the largest supermarket groups in Britain, for £92 million in January 1972. Allied’s Lipton tea subsidiary was sold to Unilever for £18.5 million. Goldsmith had the Allied Suppliers property portfolio revalued at £55 million.

The Cavenham biscuit interests, with 2,500 employees, were sold to United Biscuits for £4 million in July 1972. The business had lacked sufficient scale, with just 2.5 percent of the biscuit market.

1600 freehold properties, mostly acquired with the Allied Suppliers purchase, were sold for £17.5 million in 1973. Two office buildings in the City of London were sold for a further £11.7 million.

A 50 percent stake in Grand Union, the ninth largest food retailer in the United States, was acquired for £25.5 million in 1973.

Cavenham had a market capitalization of £79.7 million by 1974, and was the third largest food company in Europe, after Nestle and Unilever.

Goldsmith constantly reassessed what was central to his business. Procea was sold to Spillers for around £1.5 million in 1975.

Goldsmith received a knighthood in 1976.

Cavenham extended its ownership of Grand Union to 80 percent in 1976. Allied Suppliers was the third largest supermarket chain in Britain.

Goldsmith realised that he could never hope to dominate the food industry, but he could become a significant force in retail. Bovril was sold to Beechams for £42 million in 1980.

Goldsmith resigned as chairman of Cavenham in 1980.

Cavenham Confectionery was sold to its management for around £8 million in 1981.

Goldsmith retired from business in 1990. Fortune magazine assessed his net worth at $1.3 billion in 1991.

Goldsmith died in 1997. His obituary in the Financial Times characterised him as a “corporate buccaneer”.

Oranges and lemons: Samuel Hanson & Son

Samuel Hanson & Son traded independently for over 200 years.

The early years of the business
Samuel Hanson established premises at 47 Botolph Lane in the City of London from 1747. The Hanson family are believed to have originated from Yorkshire.

Hanson traded as a fruit importer, mostly dealing in oranges, but also importing lemons and dried fruits from the Mediterranean area.

Samuel Hanson’s son, also called Samuel Hanson (1744 – 1829), took control of the business from 1763. He continued the trade in oranges. The business remained modest yet profitable.

Samuel Hanson III
Samuel Hanson (1804 – 1882), grandson of the founder, became the senior partner from 1825. He was a dedicated Evangelical Christian.

Nathaniel Smith Machin (1775 – 1837) had joined the business by 1830. His daughter was married to Samuel Hanson in 1832.

Batger & Co, the sugar refining and confectionery business of Bishopsgate Street, London, was acquired in 1856. Frederick Machin, son of N S Machin, was appointed manager of Batger & Co.

Frederick Machin had assumed full control of Batger & Co by 1864.

Reginald Hanson (1840 – 1905) joined his father in the business from the 1860s.

Merger with Jones, Evison & Barter
Samuel Hanson & Sons merged with Jones, Evison & Barter, tea and coffee merchants of Borough, Southwark, to form Samuel Hanson, Son, Evison & Barter from 1871. Samuel Hanson took the opportunity to retire, and the business was operated by Reginald Hanson, Edward Evison (1833 – 1907) and Henry Barter (1831 – 1889).

A branded coffee, Red White & Blue, was introduced from 1872. It was to prove one of the most successful product lines.

The Botolph Lane premises were enlarged and refronted in 1882.

Samuel Hanson died as a highly wealthy man in 1882. His personal estate was valued at over £134,000.

Edward Evison left the partnership in 1885, and the firm was continued by Reginald Hanson and Henry Barter under the name Samuel Hanson, Son & Barter. Reginald Hanson was the senior partner. The firm traded in fruits, tea, coffee, sugar, spices and wine.

Frederick George Ivey (1845 – 1914) was admitted into the partnership from around 1885.

Supported by able partners, Reginald Hanson was able to pursue outside interests. He served as Sheriff of London in 1881-82 and as Lord Mayor of London in 1886-87. He was knighted in 1882 and created a baronet in 1887.

Sir Reginald Hanson (1840 – 1905) in 1899

Henry Barter died in 1889 with a net personalty valued at £149,000.  Upon his death the name of the firm reverted to Samuel Hanson & Son. That year Thomas Cameron Tanner (1848 – 1930) became a partner.

Francis Stanhope Hanson (1868 – 1910), son of Sir Reginald Hanson, and his cousin, Percy Machin (born 1866), entered the firm as partners from 1899.

Sir Reginald Hanson died in 1905 with a gross estate valued at £495,416.

Edward Evison died in 1907 with an estate valued at £142,916.

Red, White & Blue was one of the most successful branded coffee products in Britain by 1907.

Francis Stanhope Hanson was knighted in 1909. He died the following year, and left a net personalty valued at £159,055. He was the last member of the Hanson family line to work for the business.

Hundreds of people were employed in 1914. The active partners were Frederick George Ivey, Thomas Cameron Tanner, Percy Machin and R C Tanner.

Frederick George Ivey died in 1914 and left an estate valued at £70,667. He left £40,000 for charitable causes and about £10,000 to Samuel Hanson & Son employees.

Noel Percy Machin (1898 – 1977) joined the firm in 1921. He became a partner from 1929.

Thomas Cameron Tanner died in 1930 with an estate valued at £191,094.

Samuel Hanson & Son is incorporated
Samuel Hanson & Son was incorporated as a private limited company in 1932. Noel Percy Machin was made joint-managing director.

A large trade in tinned lobster from Newfoundland had been established by the early 1930s. Tinned salmon was imported from British Columbia from around 1933.

A large canning factory was established at Toddington, Gloucestershire, from 1934.

Samuel Hanson & Son went public from 1935, with Percy Machin as chairman. The head office was located at the same site as 1747. Share capital amounted to £550,000.

The company had approximately 14,000 regular trade customers on its books. The business had never sustained an annual trading loss.

Samuel Hanson & Son largely supplied the armed forces during the Second World War. Red White & Blue coffee production continued for the duration of the conflict.

Financial difficulties and acquisition by Cerebos
Samuel Hanson & Son entered into difficulties during the Second World War and in the post-war period. Owing to a national dollar shortage, the company was forced to end its £1 million a year trade in California canned fruits and in Alaskan and Canadian tinned salmon, with a consequential loss of around £100,000 a year in gross profit.

Following the Second World War Samuel Hanson & Son acquired Home Grown Chicory, a chicory processing plant at Lakenheath, Suffolk.

Samuel Hanson & Son employed 500 people by 1947.

Samuel Hanson & Son paid its last ever dividend in 1949. Despite its economic troubles, Samuel Hanson & Son was able to maintain its reputation for high quality goods.

Samuel Hanson & Son had largely made the transition from importing foods to manufacturing finished products by 1951.

Samuel Hanson & Son was subject to a friendly takeover by Cerebos for £195,000 in cash in 1965. By this time Hanson was engaged in citrus processing, canning, chicory processing and wholesale distribution. Hanson also owned a South African subsidiary in Durban.

References
* The British Newspaper Archive
* The Times Digital Archive
* The Financial Times Digital Archive
* Hansons of Eastcheap by George Godwin (1947)

The vat of the land: Beaufoy & Co

Beaufoy & Co was the largest vinegar brewer in Britain.

Mark Beaufoy establishes the business
Mark Beaufoy (1719 – 1782) was the son of a Quaker maltster from Evesham, Worcestershire. The Beaufoy family claimed Huguenot ancestry.

Mark Beaufoy was apprenticed to a gin distiller in Bristol. A guilty conscience ultimately convinced him to leave the business, and he re-trained in vinegar brewing in the Netherlands.

Mark Beaufoy (1719 – 1782), from a Thomas Gainsborough portrait

Beaufoy leased a vinegar brewery on the site of Cupar’s Gardens at Strand Bridge, London from 1740. The brewery itself had been established in 1730.

In an age before refrigeration, vinegar was a much more important commodity than it is today, due to its preservative effect on foodstuffs. Beaufoy soon secured contracts to supply the Admiralty with vinegar.

The Dutch vinegar brewers used the waste from their indigenous raisin wine industry to filter and flavour their vinegar. No such industry existed in Britain, so Beaufoy was forced to buy raisins in order to maintain true to the method. He steeped the raisins to extract their sugar and mucilage, and then used the remaining solids in vinegar manufacture.

After Dr John Fothergill (1712 – 1780), a Quaker physician, suggested that Beaufoy might make raisin wine with this juice, he became a leading producer of “British wine”.

Mark Beaufoy died in 1782. His brother, John Hanbury Beaufoy (1761 – 1836), took over management of the business. John H Beaufoy was a cultured and erudite man.

Henry Beaufoy era
Henry Benjamin Hanbury Beaufoy (1786 – 1851) became senior partner in the business when he came of age.

Beaufoy & Co was one of the largest manufacturers in Lambeth by 1810.

Henry Benjamin Hanbury Beaufoy (1786 – 1851) by Henry William Pickersgill in 1848

The Beaufoy & Co site was subject to compulsory purchase for £34,705 in order to build Waterloo Bridge in 1812.

The brewery was relocated to Caron Place on the South Lambeth Road. The site was chosen as it was the closest place with a plot of land large enough to accommodate the works.

Beaufoy & Co was the largest brewer of vinegar in Britain by 1832, with 15 percent of the market in Britain and Ireland.

Beaufoy & Co was the fourth largest producer of vinegar in Britain in 1844.

H B H Beaufoy developed one of the finest private libraries in England. A Shakespeare First Folio was acquired in 1851.

H B H Beaufoy was a charitable man; he founded six scholarships at the City of London School, at a cost of £10,000, and spent £14,000 to build a ragged school (school for the poor) in Lambeth in 1851.

H B H Beaufoy died in 1851, and his brother Colonel George Beaufoy (1796 – 1864) took over management of the vinegar brewery. By this time the Caron Place site occupied over ten acres.

Colonel George Beaufoy enjoyed an annual income of around £6,000 by 1852.

Mark Hanbury Beaufoy
Colonel George Beaufoy died in 1864 and left a personal estate valued at under £250,000.

Ownership of the brewery passed to his only son, Mark Hanbury Beaufoy (1854 – 1922), for whom it was placed in trust and managed by his uncle until he came of age.

Dr Samuel Johnson’s armchair was acquired for the library in 1859.

Owing to public preference for a darker vinegar, caramel was added to the product by 1865.

Mark H Beaufoy was a cultured and genial man. He soon effected changes after he took over the business. He scrapped overtime, which had resulted in poor quality control from overworked employees. Beaufoy increased employee wages in order to compensate for the loss of overtime earnings. He argued, “all the work I now paid was for good work; previously a large percentage of it was bad work”.

The business employed 125 men in 1881.

M H Beaufoy introduced the eight hour working day for his workforce from 1889. With a half day on Saturday, this created a 45 hour working week. The change was regarded as successful, and Beaufoy was well-regarded by his workforce.

Vinegar production amounted to 790,096 gallons in 1898.*

Pott & Co, vinegar brewer of Southwark, was acquired in 1902.

The library was relocated to the family country residence at Coombe House, Wiltshire, from 1909. Some of the library contents were auctioned off. The Shakespeare First Folio was auctioned off in 1912.

Mergers and consolidation
Beaufoy was the oldest surviving manufacturer of vinegar in Britain by 1919.

Mark Hanbury Beaufoy died in 1922, and left a net personalty of £54,474.

The vinegar industry suffered from falling prices and decreasing demand in the post-war period. Consolidation seemed a reasonable defensive measure.

Beaufoy & Co merged with Grimble & Co to form Beaufoy Grimble, a public company with a capital of £160,000 in 1928. The head office was at Caron Place, South Lambeth. George Maurice Beaufoy (1893 – 1941) was appointed managing director.

Crosse & Blackwell merged their vinegar interests, including Champion & Slee and Sarson, with Beaufoy Grimble and Distillers to form British Vinegars in 1932. Beaufoy Grimble held a 21 percent stake in the venture, and G M Beaufoy became chairman of British Vinegars.

George Maurice Beaufoy was killed in the Blitz in 1941. He left a net estate of £19,678. Beaufoy, who had married in 1940, had no children, and his only brother had died in 1925. His death ended the Beaufoy family association with vinegar.

Beaufoy Grimble & Co was based at Leith, Scotland by 1954.

The Beaufoy vinegar brand was phased out after around 1961.

The Beaufoy site was closed in the 1970s. The brewery building still stands, and has been converted into housing.

The Scottish business was closed in 1983, and all production transferred to British Vinegars plants in England.

Beaufoy Grimble was voluntarily wound-up in 1986.

Source
* ‘Beaufoys of Lambeth’, David Thomas and Hugh Marks, Greater London Industrial Archaeological Society (2014).

Taking the biscuit: a history of Peek Frean (Part II)

Peek Frean pioneered the modern British biscuit. The business introduced the Bourbon, Custard Cream, Marie and Garibaldi biscuit varieties.

You can read the first part of this history here.

Peek Frean becomes a limited company; introduces the mass-market biscuit
Peek Frean was registered as a limited company with a share capital of £500,000 in 1901. Peek Frean biscuits were distributed through 45,000 outlets.

Peek Frean held a Royal Warrant to supply biscuits to King Edward VII.

The shortbread-based Pat-A-Cake biscuit was launched in 1902. It was to prove a major success for the company as the first biscuit marketed at an affordable price. Sales in the first week totalled over twelve tons.

Arthur Carr (1855 – 1947) became chairman and managing director of Peek Frean from 1904. Carr massively increased the company’s advertising budget.

Nearly 400 million Pat-A-Cake biscuits weighing a total of 6.5 million lbs were sold in 1906. Annual sales for this single product line amounted to £160,000. As well as the Pat-A-Cake, 250 different varieties of biscuit were sold.

Peek Frean employed over 2,500 people by 1907.

Production of the long-established Pearl biscuit ended in 1907. The Bourbon, a cocoa-flavoured cream sandwich biscuit, was introduced in 1910.

Peek Freen's Family Circle biscuit assortment. The box likely dates from the 1980s
Peek Frean’s Family Circle biscuit assortment. The box likely dates from the 1980s.

Peek Frean was an enlightened employer for the period. Benefits included in-house medical and dentistry care (to which the company paid £3,000 a year in 1911), and a subsidised staff canteen. A third of company profits were spent on employee welfare by 1911.

A Bermondsey women’s strike in August 1911 saw 1,200 employees refuse to work. The strikers wanted higher pay and the abolition of short shifts. However Peek Frean management countered that strikers had intimidated non-striking staff and that their wages were higher than the Bermondsey average.

Peek Frean produced nearly 100 million shortbread biscuits in just three months in 1912. This was understood to constitute a record for the sale of biscuits.

Over 3,000 people were employed by 1912.

Peek Frean established the Meltis chocolate factory, with a staff of 130 people, in Bedford in 1913.

Peek Frean introduced the Custard Cream biscuit in 1913.

Sales doubled and profits almost quadrupled between 1900 and 1913.

Huntington Stone, a major shareholder, died in 1916 and left a gross estate valued at £239,580. He bequeathed around £200,000 to Christian missionary charities.

The Bermondsey site employed 4,000 people and covered six acres by 1917.

Peek Frean claimed that Pat-A-Cake was the most popular biscuit ever produced. As much as 75 tons, or ten million biscuits, could be produced in a single day by 1920. Other popular biscuit lines included the digestive, milk, petit beurre, thin arrowroot, Marie, ginger nuts and shortcake varieties.

Peek Frean merges with Huntley & Palmer
A high rate of income tax and death duties convinced the directors of Huntley & Palmers of Reading to accept Peek Frean’s invitation to merge in 1921. A holding company, Associated Biscuit Manufacturers, with a capital of £2.5 million, was formed.

Peek Frean acquired Britannia Biscuits of India, with a factory in Mumbai, in 1924.

Peek Frean had introduced Vita-Wheat, the first British wheat crispbread, by 1927.

Arthur Carr retired in 1927.

Twiglets, a savoury snack, were introduced in 1930.

Ellis Carr, a major shareholder, left a personal estate of over £1 million in 1930.

Peek Frean acquired the English subsidiary of Suchards of Switzerland, based at Bedford, in 1932.

Peek Frean had established an Australian subsidiary by 1934.

Peek Frean employed over 4,000 people across a twelve acre site by 1939. Over 300 different varieties of biscuit were produced. The company also manufactured its own biscuit tins; some three million a year.

Arthur Carr died in 1947 with an estate valued at £630,206.

Peek Frean provided one of three wedding cakes for the Royal Wedding of Princess Elizabeth, later Elizabeth II, in 1947. The 600 lb cake stood six-tiers tall.

Peek Frean established a factory across a seven-acre site in Ontario, Canada in 1950. The factory supplied the Canadian and the North Eastern United States markets. Peek Frean was consequently able to reduce its wholesale prices in America by 25 percent due to lower distribution costs.

Peek Frean acquired the Ashley Vale Biscuit Company, with a factory at Avonmouth, Bristol, in 1955.

There were 1,750 employees at Bermondsey in 1964.

Peek Frean closed the Bristol factory in 1965 and relocated production to Bermondsey. 350 to 400 jobs were lost.

The Meltis confectionery site at Bedford covered five acres and employed 1,300 people by 1966. Meltis was the largest producer of Turkish Delight in Britain, and the second largest producer of liqueur chocolates.

Meltis merged with Chocolat Tobler to form Tobler Meltis in 1967.

Sales at Peek Frean grew in the early 1970s, led by the popularity of it shortcake and Christmas puddings.

The Bermondsey site was subject to a £3.5 million investment in 1972 to become the most modern biscuit factory in Europe.

The loss-making Australian subsidiary, with seven percent of the market, was sold to Arnotts, a rival biscuit manufacturer, in 1975. Tobler Meltis was sold to Interfood, the owner of the Suchard brand.

Peek Frean is sold to Nabisco; subsequents owners
Nabisco, a large United States biscuit manufacturer, acquired Associated Biscuits for £84 million in 1982.

Peek Frean was the largest manufacturer of Christmas puddings in Britain by 1984. This was due to the fact that they were relatively low-priced, as they did not contain alcohol. Over 4.5 million Christmas puddings were sold every year.

The Peek Frean brand had become primarily associated with commodity and children’s biscuits by the mid-1980s.

Associated Biscuits was sold to BSN of France, manufacturers of the LU biscuit, in 1989. Nabisco retained the Canadian business, where it continued to produce biscuits under the Peek Frean brand.

The Bermondsey factory was closed with the loss of 1,022 jobs in 1989. The biscuit market was in decline, and the factory was operating at just half of its capacity. The site also suffered from high overheads due to its inner-city location and age. Production was transferred to Aintree and Leicestershire.

The India and Pakistan subsidiaries were divested for $44 million in 1989. Britannia was the largest biscuit manufacturer in India, and English Biscuit Manufacturers was the largest biscuit manufacturer in Pakistan.

Peek Frean advertising ended in 1990, and the brand began to be phased out from 1991.

BSN (now called Danone) sold its British and Irish biscuit operations to United Biscuits for £200 million in 2004.

Although no longer available in Britain, Peek Frean branded products continue to be sold in Canada and Pakistan.

Various former Peek Frean products are still available in Britain, including the Family Circle assortment, and the Twiglets savoury snack.

Spice of life: Drysdale Dennison

Drysdale Dennison was the largest importer of pepper into Britain.

Wallis & Co was a mustard, chicory (a popular coffee substitute) and spice merchant of 20 Duke Street, London Bridge. The Wallis family were Quakers from Northamptonshire.

Andrew Drummond Drysdale (1830 – 1867), originally from Perth in Scotland, was the manager of Wallis & Co by 1857.

Drysdale had entered into the firm as a partner by 1864, and the business began to trade as Wallis & Drysdale.

Andrew Drummond Drysdale died in 1867, and his stake passed to his brother, Hector Drummond Drysdale (1828 – 1902).

Hector Drysdale bought out the Wallis family stake to take full control of the business in 1878. By this time there were premises on 131 Upper Thames Street and Dock Street. The location close to the Thames was convenient for receiving imported spices.

The firm was trading as Drysdale Dennison by 1883. It was one of the best known pepper merchants in the world.

James Samuel Gray (1876 – 1935) joined the company in 1889.

Gray merged White Palmer, a long-established London spice merchant, with Drysdale Dennison to form the British Pepper and Spice Co Ltd, a public company with a nominal capital of £160,000, in 1933. The office was at 31 Queen Victoria Street, Eastcheap.

The head office was relocated to 7 New Court, Lincoln’s Inn in 1948.

Drysdale Dennison was the largest importer of pepper in Britain by 1959. The factory was located just off Petticoat Lane in London.

Burton Son & Sanders of Ipswich, specialist food manufacturers and distributors to the bakery trade, acquired the British Pepper & Spice Co in 1967.

Amidst falling profits at Burton Son & Sanders, Matthews Holdings, a food retailer, acquired the company for £1 million in 1969.

Matthews Holdings and S W Berisford merged their spice and pepper interests in a joint venture called British Pepper & Spice in 1971.

British Pepper & Spice Co was acquired by Hunter Saphir in 1987.

The factory and head office of British Pepper & Spice was located in Northampton by this time. 160 people were employed there in 1993.

Hunter Saphir was acquired by Albert Fisher for £29 million in 1993. Two months later British Pepper & Spice was sold to Burns Philp of Australia for £25 million in cash. Burns Philp intended to build a global spice business large enough to challenge the dominance of McCormick of the United States. Burns Philp already owned the R T French and Durkee range of spices in America.

However Burns Philp entered into financial difficulty, and British Pepper & Spice was subject to a management buyout for £7.6 million in 1998.

British Pepper & Spice was acquired by SHS Group of Belfast, which owns brands such as WKD and Shloer, in 2004.

Still based in Northampton, British Pepper & Spice is a major supplier of supermarket own-label herbs and spices, as well as for producers such as Heinz and Premier Foods.

Fillerys Toffees of Birmingham

Fillerys Toffees was established in 1923 by a consortium of four investors led by Robert Harold Mayhew (1874 – 1965). The factory was located on Warwick Road in Greet, south Birmingham.

The site covered four acres by 1927, and due to increasing sales, 24 hour production was introduced from 1930.

Fillerys Toffees was incorporated as a public company in 1934. Herbert E Morgan was chairman. The company had an authorised and issued capital of £100,000 by 1935. Around 300 workers were employed.

Fillerys led the toffee industry as one of the most efficient producers by 1942. Fillerys targeted the higher quality market.

During the Second World War, most of the factory was given over to munitions manufacturing for the war effort.

Under a Government scheme to encourage industrial efficiency, Fillerys Toffees were produced under contract by Rowntree of York between 1942 and 1946.

The company had established nationwide sales distribution by 1949.

The end of sugar rationing in 1954 saw a boom in confectionery sales. Fillerys Toffees won a prestigious and valuable contract to supply confectionery for Marks & Spencer.

The sugar confectionery boom was over by the end of the 1950s, as increasing prosperity saw consumers increasingly switch to chocolate products. As a result, the industry began to consolidate in order to reduce costs.

Fillerys was acquired by J A & P Holland of Southport in 1960 to create the largest toffee manufacturer in Britain, and possibly the world.

Cavenham Foods acquired J A & P Holland in 1965. The Fillerys factory was closed down in March 1966, and production was transferred to Southport. The reason given was that the Fillerys factory did not have room for expansion. About 230 workers lost their jobs.

Planet Mars: a transatlantic chocolate dynasty

This post focuses on the history of Mars confectionery in the UK. Many of the products for which Mars are best known, such as Skittles, Twix and Galaxy chocolate, were originally developed and sold in Britain.

American origins
Franklin Clarence Mars (1883 – 1934) was the son of a gristmill operator. He entered into the confectionery business in Tacoma, Washington, from 1910 as a wholesaler of penny candies.

Mars relocated to Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1920, where he formed the Mar-O-Bar company and began to manufacture chocolate bars. The business struggled until his son, Forrest Edward Mars (1904 – 1999), suggested that Mars create a chocolate bar influenced by a malted milkshake. On the back of this idea, the Milky Way bar was introduced from 1923.

The Milky Way bar was an immediate success. Sales exploded without the help of advertising. The product enjoyed a cost discount against rival chocolate bars, due to a filling made of relatively low-cost nougat.

Mars was one of the largest confectionery manufacturers in America by 1930. The Snickers bar was launched in 1930, and 3 Musketeers was launched in 1932.

Forrest E Mars graduated from Yale University with a degree in industrial engineering in 1928. He initially worked as a superintendent at his father’s factory. Meanwhile, he read voraciously on business methods, especially those used by DuPont, a large chemicals company, and business tycoon John D Rockefeller (1839 – 1937).

A brash and ambitious man, it wasn’t long before Forrest Mars clashed with his father. He deemed management as lax, and considered product quality to be inconsistent. Mars resented how his father cut costs by using low-quality chocolate in his products. He also harboured ambitions for Mars to expand its overseas sales.

Forrest Mars demanded a one third stake in the company. His father refused, but in recognition of his contribution he was given $50,000 and the foreign rights to Mars products, and told to establish a business for himself.

To gain an understanding of European confectionery manufacturing methods, Mars worked incognito at the plants of Tobler and Nestle in Switzerland, a case of industrial espionage he would later openly confess to.

Establishment of Mars UK
Mars took what he learned in Switzerland, and leased a single room factory in Slough, a small industrial town outside London, from May 1932. England was chosen for the European base because Mars could speak the language. He initially employed a staff of eight.

Original confectionery manufacturing equipment from the Slough factory

Mars understood that British confectionery tastes differed to those of his native land. His first product was an Anglicised version of the Milky Way, which he called the Mars bar. Introduced from August 1932, the product was initially entirely handmade. Instead of the Hershey chocolate used in the US, the Mars bar used a Cadbury chocolate coating, and the toffee was sweeter.

The business prospered quickly. Within a year, two million Mars bars had been sold, and 100 people were employed. The product was advertised nationwide by 1934. Mars boosted sales by advertising his confectionery as a nutritious food product.

The British Milky Way, a different product to the American Milky Way, was launched in 1935. Not all of the early product introductions were a success; short lived confectionery lines included the So Big bar and a vanilla version of the Mars bar.

Forrest Mars was a great believer in scientific management as a driver of profitability. He also had a fanatical dedication to quality. However he could also be cruel and demanding, and on occasions he demonstrated a volatile temper. However for upholding his high standards his managers were rewarded handsomely.

Franklin Mars died in 1934 and control of Mars Inc passed to his widow, Ethel V Mars (1888 – 1945).

Maltesers were introduced in Britain from 1936.

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, Mars returned to the United States. There he established a business producing M&Ms, a product that he had developed based on Smarties, a British confection manufactured by Rowntree.

Rowntree agreed not to compete with M&Ms in the US in exchange for the production rights to the Mars bar in South Africa, Canada and Australia.

Milky Way and Maltesers production was halted in Britain during the Second World War, but the manufacture of Mars bars was continued.

The Mars bar was the highest-selling chocolate bar in Britain by 1949.

The Bounty bar was launched in the United Kingdom in 1951. It had similarities to Mounds, an American chocolate bar produced by Peter Paul.

By the mid-1950s the leading products were Mars, Bounty, Maltesers and Spangles.

Mars was the third largest chocolate manufacturer in Britain by 1960.

Starburst (originally known as Opal Fruits) and the Galaxy chocolate bar were introduced in the United Kingdom in 1960.

The “Mars a day” slogan was introduced in Britain from 1960.

Forrest Mars gains control of Mars Inc
Forrest Mars gained control of Mars Inc in 1964. An egalitarian, he quickly dismantled the executive dining room and sold off the art collection. Private offices were opened up with glass panels to improve communication. Executives were obliged to clock in and out the same as everyone else. However to compensate for his strict demands, Mars raised salaries by 30 percent. Mars also increased the proportion of chocolate in each bar.

Forrest Mars resigned as president and chief executive officer of Mars Inc in 1967. In his place he appointed Alfred Baxter (1913 – 1986), a Unilever veteran from England.

Mars had opened a second factory in Slough, located on Liverpool Road, by 1966.

The Twix was first produced in the United Kingdom from 1967.

Mars confectionery was the third largest advertiser in Britain in 1969, and the Mars bar was the highest-selling confectionery line in the country. It was likely that the Mars confectionery business in Britain was larger than its American counterpart. Unions were excluded from the business, but employee welfare benefits were some of the best in the country.

Forrest Mars retired in 1969. He handed ownership of the company over to his two sons in 1973.

The Mars factory in Slough, c.2014

Skittles were first introduced in Britain in the 1970s.

Mars won a Queen’s Award for Export in 1979. Chocolate bars were exported to over 100 different countries. The Slough factory employed 4,000 people.

Slough produced two million Mars bars a day by 1982. It was the highest selling chocolate confectionery in the United Kingdom, with annual sales of £100 million.

Forrest Mars died in 1999. His obituary in the Daily Telegraph described him as, “a secretive, penny-pinching, foul-tempered bully [with a] monstrous character”.

Mars announced it would close its Liverpool Road factory, with the loss of 500 jobs, over the course of two years, in 2005. Production of Twix bars was relocated to France and Germany. Starburst manufacturing was transferred to the Czech Republic.

The Dundee Road plant received a £45 million modernisation investment, and continues to produce Mars bars, Snickers, Galaxy and Maltesers.

Mars opened a new £7 million research and development facility at Slough in 2012.

Slough is the European headquarters for Mars confectionery. The Dundee Road plant employed 1,000 people and produced 2.5 million Mars bars a day in 2013.

Mars remains a privately-held company controlled by the Mars family. Research by Statista indicated that Mars had the largest share of the global chocolate market in 2016, at 14.4 percent.

All gone to Pott: a history of Pott’s vinegar

Pott & Co built what was probably the largest vinegar brewery in Britain, and grew to control 25 percent of the market.

Rush family establishment
William Rush (1611 – 1668) began to brew vinegar at Castle Street, Southwark, London, from 1641. The premises had previously belonged to a gardener, who had used the land to rear hogs.

In an age before artificial refrigeration, vinegar was a much more important commodity than it is today, due to its preservative effect on foodstuffs.

A single vessel at the brewery held 50,000 gallons of vinegar by 1790.

Pott family acquisition
The Rush family operated the brewery until 1790 when it was acquired by Robert Pott (died 1824) and Arthur Pott, whose family had brewed vinegar at Mansell Street, Whitechapel since 1720.

Robert and Arthur Pott rebuilt the entire site across five or six acres, to create perhaps the largest vinegar brewery in England by 1795.

Charles Pott, Arthur Pott and William Pott (1795 – 1878) were the partners by 1833. The business was the third largest vinegar brewer in Britain by this time, with 14 percent of the market.

Charles and William Pott held a 25 percent share of the British vinegar market by 1844. The firm held a stock of 746,139 gallons of vinegar that year.

The brewery site covered five acres by 1846.

An examination of vinegars by The Lancet praised the purity of Pott’s vinegar in 1852.

The brewery possessed one of the principal wells of London in 1862.

The business traded as R W & C Pott by 1866.

By 1876 the business traded as A W R & N Pott. A large export market to India and other British colonies was established.

By 1884 the business traded as R & N Pott. Robert (1825 – 1894) and Norbury Pott (1838 – 1924), sons of William Pott, controlled the business.

Robert Pott was head of the concern until his death in 1894.

The brewery was operated by Robert Bertram Pott (1861 – 1944), son of Robert Pott, and Norbury Pott by 1900.

The family sold the brewery to Beaufoy & Co, its long-established London rival, in 1902. The site was sold off in 1905.

From little acorns: Ye Olde Oak

Ye Olde Oak is the leading hot dog brand in Britain.

Origins of the business
Robert J Smith (born 1832) was a cattle dealer from Boston, Lincolnshire. He had relocated to Liverpool, which was perhaps the epicentre for the cattle trade, by 1871.

Rowland James Smith (1864 – 1926) succeeded his father as head of the business. Operations were transferred to London.

Frank Rowland Smith (1894 – 1945) joined his father and the firm began to trade as Rowland Smith & Son.

An extensive trade in fresh meat from Europe was developed.

Trade in processed meat begins; Ye Olde Oak brand is introduced
The British government established a trade embargo on fresh pork from mainland Europe in 1926. As a result, Rowland Smith & Son developed a large trade in imported Dutch bacon. From around this time the business also began to import tinned meat.

The Ye Olde Oak brand was first registered for tinned meats in 1933.

Frank Rowland Smith had entered into retirement by 1939, and he was succeeded by his two sons, Robert Frank Rowland Smith (1902 – 1968) and Rowland William Smith.

Ye Olde Oak became the first canned meat brand in Britain to be advertised on colour television in 1956.

Ye Olde Oak became the major tinned ham brand in Britain, with one third of the market by 1973.

Struik Foods of the Netherlands began to supply Rowland Smith & Son with frankfurters from 1979.

Rowland Smith & Son is acquired by Hans Struik
Hans Struik (born 1940) acquired Rowland Smith & Son in 1984.

The company name was changed to Ye Olde Oak Ltd from 1985.

Ye Olde Oak hot dogs were found to contain just 50 percent meat, but less than that when collagens and fat were excluded, according to an investigation by The Food Commission in 2005.

Ye Olde Oak tinned ham was found to contain 37 percent water and just 55 percent meat, according to a study conducted by Which? magazine in 2005.

Acknowledgements
This article was produced with kind assistance from Rowland James Smith.

Fast facts and vast vats: Hill Evans & Co of Worcester

Hill Evans was the largest vinegar brewer in Britain for most of the Victorian era. It grew to become the largest vinegar brewery in the world.

Hill & Evans
Cowell, Crane & Kilpin was established as British Wine manufacturers on Foregate Street, Worcester in the 1760s.

William Hill (1788 – 1859), a Wesleyan Methodist from Stourport, and Edward Evans (1788 – 1871), a Welsh chemist, acquired the business from Charles Kilpin (1770 – 1845) in 1829.

Hill and Evans branched out into the production of vinegar from 1830. Vinegar was an important commodity, used as a preservative in an era before artificial refrigeration. The vinegar-making process also utilised the waste from British Wine production.

A vinegar brewery was established at Lowesmoor, Worcester. Hill and Evans devoted themselves to producing the purest malt vinegar, and utilised the most efficient and up-to-date production methods.

By 1844 Hill Evans was the sixth-largest brewer of vinegar in Britain, and the largest producer outside of London. 153,875 gallons of vinegar were produced in 1848.

The sons enter the business
Thomas Rowley Hill (1816 – 1896) and Edward Bickerton Evans (1819 – 1893) had joined their fathers in partnership by 1848. It was the two sons, especially Rowley Hill, who provided the impetus and drive for the business to develop further scale. Rowley Hill had been unable to attend Oxbridge due to his Congregationalist faith, and instead received an education at University College, London.

Hill Evans produced 426,546 gallons of vinegar in 1852.

Dispute with The Lancet
The Lancet, a leading medical journal, commissioned a chemical analysis of leading vinegars in 1852, and asserted that Hill Evans used sulphuric acid, a widely exploited adjunct which reduced maturation times. Hill Evans & Co refuted this, challenging the editor of the journal to conduct “the most rigid analysis of their vinegar…by chemists of acknowledged reputation”.

Eminent scientists such as Dr Lyon Playfair (1818 – 1898) were afforded free access to the entirety of the Hill Evans site, as well as their brewing records for the previous twenty years. The Lancet was subsequently forced to back down in a rare and humiliating defeat, and conceded that sulphate of lime, which occurred naturally in the local water, had been mistaken for sulphuric acid.

The sons become sole proprietors
Thomas Rowley Hill and Edward Bickerton Evans were the sole proprietors of the business by 1858. Rowley Hill was a generous benefactor, with a strong work ethic and high integrity. Bickerton Evans was a down-to-earth Baptist. Hill Evans established a reputation as a model employer.

1,048,229 gallons of vinegar were produced in 1858. The following year 1,208,600 gallons were produced, which positioned Hill Evans as the largest manufacturer of vinegar in Britain.

Lea & Perrins used Hill Evans vinegar to make their Worcestershire sauce from at least 1862.

The vinegar manufacturing process
In 1862 there were eight fermenting vessels for producing vinegar, each with a capacity of 16,000 gallons.

There were thirty vats, each with a capacity of 8,000 to 12,000 gallons, for the acidification of the brew. The brew would be held in these vats for around a month, with birch branches used to oxidise the liquid. When this process was complete, beechwood chips were used to fine, or clarify, the vinegar.

There were around twenty storage vats for the finished product, with five vats reckoned to have a capacity of 80,000 gallons each.

The finished product was actually of pale straw colour, so caramel (burnt sugar) was added as a final process to darken the product in accordance with customer preference in the English market.

Continued development
A new vat was introduced in 1863 with a capacity of 114,645 gallons. It was the largest vat in the world, and far larger than its closest rival, an 80,000 gallon vessel at the Guinness brewery in Dublin.

Built in around 1870, the filling hall on Pheasant Street contained the large vinegar vats used for storage

Hill Evans had an annual output of two million gallons of vinegar by 1866, and was by far the largest vinegar producer in Britain. Around 100 people were employed.

Hill Evans had established a London office and warehouse on the site of the former Boar’s Head Inn in Eastcheap by 1867.

Hill Evans was the largest producer of British Wine by 1868, with an annual output of 130,000 gallons.

Hill Evans constructed a small private railway branch in 1870, which linked it to the Great Western & Midland Railway.

The third generation enter the business
Thomas Rowley Hill and Edward Bickerton Evans retired from the business in 1874, and distributed a bonus of £1,173 among their 118 employees. They were succeeded by Edward Wallace Evans (1847 – 1901), Thomas William Hill (1843 – 1898) and Edward Henry Hill (1849 – 1911).

Edward Wallace Evans was an excellent businessman, and much of the subsequent growth of the firm was credited to him.

Hill Evans was accounted the largest vinegar brewery in the world in 1881, based on its annual production of two million gallons a year. A single mash tun had a capacity of 12,307 gallons. There were eleven fermenting vats, each with a capacity of 15,000 gallons. All told, the brewery had a storage capacity of 500,000 gallons of vinegar. The brewery held more than 100,000 casks.

Thomas Rowley Hill died in 1896. He left a personal estate valued at £170,322.

The works covered over six acres by 1900. The brewery had an annual capacity of 1.5 million gallons of vinegar, and was probably the largest business of its kind in Britain.

Hill Evans becomes a limited company
Hill Evans became a limited company from 1900, with a share capital of £150,000. The conversion allowed the business to pay out the share of the company owed to Thomas William Hill, who had recently died.

Edward Henry Hill became chairman and Charles William Dyson Perrins (1864 – 1958) of Lea & Perrins joined the board of directors.

In later life Edward Wallace Evans suffered from gout in his hands, and bandaged his hands in cotton wool on the advice of his doctor. Evans attempted to light a cigar whilst reading a letter, and accidentally set the wool alight. Evans suffered serious burns, and died from shock in 1901. Curiously, he left a relatively modest net personalty of £10,876. The only son of Edward Wallace Evans appears to have played no active part in the business.

The works covered around seven acres by 1907. Exclusively English grain was used for brewing. The company probably still had the largest vinegar brewing capacity in the world.

Edward Henry Hill died in 1911 and left a net personalty of £147,081. A generous benefactor, he died unmarried.

Increased competition saw the company suffer from reduced profitability in the early 1960s. Hill Evans lacked the scale of its larger rival British Vinegar. The railway line was closed in 1964.

Hill Evans entered into voluntary liquidation in 1967, and the vinegar works were closed. The Grade II listed vinegar works building are used by the Territorial Army as of 2019.