Category Archives: Confectionery

H J Packer of Bristol

H J Packer was the largest low-cost chocolate manufacturer in the world.

Edward Packer (1848 – 1887) was a Quaker who worked for J S Fry & Sons of Bristol, a chocolate manufacturer, in the 1870s.

Edward Packer left Fry to commence chocolate manufacture for himself in 1881. He worked from his house at 11 Armory Square, and was assisted by his wife. Soon he employed eight people.

Packer entered into partnership with Henry John Burrows (born 1853). Unfortunately, trade immediately declined, and all employees other than members of the Packer family had to be laid off. The partnership was dissolved leaving Burrows as sole proprietor from 1884. Burrows added his own initials to the company name, and began trading as H J Packer & Co.

Caleb Bruce Cole (1862 -1912) was a confectionery salesman in Bristol. His contact with H J Packer & Co impressed him, and his father lent him £1,000 to buy the business in 1886. Around nine people were employed.

Cole identified a gap in the market, and began to manufacture high quality chocolate at an affordable price. The chocolates found a keen market among children.

Cole subverted the notion that low-cost food production need sacrifice standards of cleanliness or provision for the workforce.

In 1896 Cole was joined by his brother Horace, and William John Mansfield (1846 -1912) was employed as general manager.

A new factory was opened at Greenbank, Bristol in 1903. It covered four acres and was the largest low-cost chocolate factory in the world. Greenbank was situated on a major railway line, which allowed for convenient distribution. Two large dining halls, each with a capacity of 400 people were erected, and food was available to workers at cost price.

H J Packer & Co became a limited company from 1908.

Carsons Ltd of Glasgow, with a share capital of £50,000, was acquired in January 1912. A high quality manufacturer, Carsons had been the first company to introduce tray chocolates.

Charles Bruce Cole died in June 1912. A progressive man, he was described as quiet and likeable. He left an estate valued at £259,937.

H J Packer & Co had a capital of £750,000 and employed 1,000 people by 1912.

A dedicated Carsons chocolate factory was opened in Bristol in 1913.

Packers was the fourth largest chocolate manufacturer in Britain by 1922, and the largest manufacturer of low-cost chocolate in the world.

The company struggled during the Great Depression.

Suffering from overcapacity, the Carsons factory was divested in 1960.

The company name was changed to Carsons Ltd from 1962. The Carsons brand had become well known as Britain’s largest producer of chocolate liqueurs, filled with some of the leading spirits, liqueur and fortified wine brands in the world.

Until 1961 liqueur chocolates could only be sold from licensed premises. This opening up of the market provided an opportunity.

Cavenham Foods, managed by James Goldsmith (1933 – 1997), gained control of Carsons in 1964.

Goldsmith modernised the Carsons plant. He then retired all of the Carsons chocolate lines except for liqueurs, the only sector of the market which was experiencing a growth in sales. The liqueur chocolate market was largely dominated by imported brands such as Lindt, Ringer, Rademaker and Trumpf.

Carsons held over 29 percent of the liqueur chocolate market by 1966. This was achieved with minimal advertising. Instead Carson’s benefited from the advertising campaigns of spirits brands that were inside their chocolates; names such as Harvey’s Bristol Cream and Hennessey cognac.

Carsons liqueurs were being marketed under the Famous Names brand by 1966.

Elizabeth Shaw, an upmarket chocolate manufacturer, was acquired in 1968.

Carsons held over 40 percent of the British chocolate liqueur market by the late 1970s.

Cavenham Confectionery was subject to a management buyout in 1981, and the company was renamed Famous Names Ltd. It was acquired by Imperial Tobacco in 1985.

Management bought control of Famous Names Ltd in 1988, and the company was renamed Elizabeth Shaw Ltd. Elizabeth Shaw Ltd was acquired by Leaf of Finland in 1990.

Elizabeth Shaw closed its outdated Greenbank factory in 2006. Production was relocated to factories across Britain and Europe.

Comfort for the table: Epps Cocoa

Epps was the leading brand of cocoa in Victorian Britain.

James Epps (1821 – 1907) was the son of a Calvinist London merchant.

His brother, Dr John Epps (1805 – 1869), was one of the pioneers of homeopathy in Britain. He established premises at Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, and was joined by his brother James from 1837.

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

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

Dr John Epps was not the first person to invent soluble cocoa powder, but James Epps was largely responsible for presenting the product to the mass market.

He heavily advertised Epps’ Cocoa, and by 1855 had coined a distinctive slogan, “grateful and comforting”.

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

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

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

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

A short and slight man, James Epps kept a low public profile, unlike his gregarious brother John. He was known only for his work in business, and had few outside interests. He allowed his portrait to be taken only once, and not once did he grant an interview or issue a public statement. He was a hard worker, keen on a bargain, and somewhat controlling. Despite his massive wealth he lived in an unfashionable area of London.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minted: R S Murray & Co

R S Murray & Co introduced American style caramels to Britain, and is best known for Murray Mints.

Robert Stuart Murray (1854 – 1912), a confectionery salesman from Chicago, Illinois, found a ready sale for his American style caramels, made from milk or cream and sugar, in Victorian England.

Strong demand for the imported caramels saw Murray establish a factory at 67 Turnmill Street, Clerkenwell, London in 1882. He was joined in partnership by Charles Hubbard and Walter Michael Price (1826 – 1919).

£8,000 worth of caramel producing machinery was imported from America. The factory employed 300 workers, and five to six tons of confectionery were produced on a daily basis.

R S Murray & Co was registered as a limited company with a capital of £50,000 in 1900.

The company had diversified into chocolate manufacturing by 1906.

There was a strike at R S Murray & Co in 1911. The largely female strikers were supported by the women’s’ rights campaigner Mary Macarthur (1880 – 1921).

Robert Stuart Murray died in 1912 with an estate valued at £22,844. Herbert John Norton (1874 – 1958) was nominated managing director.

The works covered over three acres by 1914, and a staff of 1,500 to 2,000 was employed.

After the First World War, Norton was nominated chairman.

A chocolate manufacturing subsidiary was established in Australia in 1920, located at De Carle Street, East Brunswick, a suburb of Melbourne.

A manufacturing presence was established in Ireland as a joint venture called Clarnico Murray from 1926.

The Australian factory employed over 300 people by 1931. Rowntree of York and Murray merged their Australian interests into a joint venture from 1934.

R S Murray & Co was acquired by C & E Morton Ltd, a food manufacturer, in 1936.

The Turnmill Street factory was closed in the late 1930s.

The Australian subsidiary was fully acquired by Rowntree of York in 1942.

Murray Mints, a mint-flavoured caramel, were introduced from 1944. It soon became the best known R S Murray product.

C & E Morton was acquired by Beecham, a consumer goods concern, for £180,000 in 1945.

In an attempt to build scale in confectionery, Beecham acquired James Pascall in 1959. Following the takeover, Beecham focused its marketing efforts on Pascall products, rather than the Murray range.

Beecham were successful marketers, but they struggled with the highly competitive confectionery industry, and Pascal Murray was sold to Cadbury Fry in 1964.

Clarnico Murray had around ten percent of the Irish confectionery market by 1969. The Irish factory was closed in 1974, and the market was thereafter served by imports from Britain.

Clarke, Nickolls & Coombs

Clarke, Nickolls & Coombs was the largest sugar confectionery manufacturer in Britain.

Clarke, Nickolls & Coombs was founded as a peel manufacturer at Hackney Wick in 1872. At the instigation of Robert Coombs (1836 – 1919), the partners established a confectionery subsidiary called Clarnico.

The company employed 300 people by 1881. Clarnico was one of the largest confectionery companies in Britain by 1886. Clarke, Nickolls & Coombs was incorporated with a share capital of £80,000 in 1887.

The company introduced a profit-sharing scheme for its workforce in 1890. After paying a six percent dividend, the company split the remaining profit equally between the shareholders and the workforce. 840 people shared a total of £1,700 in 1893.

1,000 men were employed in 1891. Around 1,300 people were employed by 1892. This had risen to 2,000 by 1899.

Between the wars, Clarnico was the largest sugar confectionery company in Britain. Over 700 different varieties of sweets were produced.

A manufacturing presence was established in Ireland as a joint venture called Clarnico Murray from 1926.

By 1967 the company had an issued capital of £250,000. The confectionery arm of the company made a profit loss for the 1967-8 year. The company had failed to adapt, and it was acquired by London-rival Trebor for £900,000 in 1969.

Clarnico Murray had around ten percent of the Irish confectionery market by 1969.

The Clarnico factory in London was closed down in 1973.

The Irish manufacturing presence was closed down in 1974, and the market was thereafter served by imports from Britain.

Clarnico Mint Creams are still manufactured by Bassett’s, a subsidiary of Cadbury.


A real cracker: A J Caley of Norwich

A J Caley of Norwich was a leading British chocolate manufacturer.

Albert Jarman Caley (1829 – 1895), the son of a silk mercer, opened a chemist shop on High Street, Windsor in 1853. He relocated to London Street, Norwich, where his brother already lived, in 1857.

A J Caley began to manufacture soft drinks from 1862. Soft drinks manufacturing was Caley’s largest branch of trade by 1881.

Due to the seasonal nature of the soft drinks trade, Caley began to produce drinking chocolate from 1883, followed by eating chocolate from 1886.

A J Caley died in 1895 with an estate valued at £22,000.

The firm was converted into a limited liability company, A J Caley & Son, in 1898, with capital of £120,000.

Christmas cracker production commenced from 1898.

700 workers were employed by 1904.

The Caley works in Norwich were built after the First World War at a cost of over £500,000, and employed 1,000 people.

A J Caley & Son was acquired by the Lever Brothers-controlled United Africa Company in 1919. Capital was increased from £120,000 to £1 million. Four new factories were completed at a cost of around £500,000 in 1920, which allowed production capacity to treble.

A J Caley & Son was perhaps best known for its Easter Egg production by this period.

A J Caley & Son was loss-making by the early 1930s, and the factory was about to be closed.

John Mackintosh & Sons of Halifax acquired A J Caley & Son for £138,000 in 1932. Caley mostly manufactured chocolate, but also Christmas crackers and soft drinks.

Mackintosh was motivated by the opportunity to increase its productive capacity, which had outgrown their own Halifax site. In the first year of acquisition the Caley works was greatly expanded.

In order to make A J Caley profitable, hundreds of product lines and several departments were discontinued, and some employee redundancies had to be made. However there were nearly 1,500 employees at Norwich by 1935, more than ever before.

Caley’s expertise in chocolate manufacture allowed Mackintosh to introduce new product lines such as Rolo and Quality Street.

Caley initially operated under independent management, but control was brought under the Mackintosh umbrella from 1939.

The Caley factory was destroyed by bombing during the Second World War, and had to be rebuilt.

The Caley’s brand name was phased out in the early 1960s.

The Norwich factory was closed in 1994, and demolished ten years later.

Worth a mint: Barker & Dobson

Barker & Dobson became one of the largest confectioners in Britain.

Joseph Dobson (1801 – 1864) began trading as a confectioner at 75 Paradise Street, Liverpool from 1834. Using the maiden name of his wife, he commenced trade as Barker & Dobson.

Dobson was declared bankrupt in 1861. One of the trustees of the estate was George Bassett (1818 – 1886), confectioner of Sheffield.

Barker & Dobson was based at 6 Duke Street by 1870. Their main business was in imported French confectionery.

The business was taken over by Henry Dobson Jacobson (1867 – 1961), grandson of Joseph Dobson, in 1889. H D Jacobson was to prove the impetus behind the subsequent growth of the company.

The firm relocated to Hope Street and began to manufacture confectionery for themselves.

Barker & Dobson had premises at Whitefield Road, Liverpool by 1916.

To fund expansion, Barker & Dobson was incorporated as a public company from 1919.

Premises had been established at London as well as Liverpool by 1924.

A disused tram depot on Whitefield Road, Liverpool was acquired and converted into a factory in 1926.

Barker & Dobson had a authorised share capital of £500,000 by 1928. There were factories at Franklin Place and Whitefield Road. There were branches in Manchester and Birmingham. Over 1,200 people were employed.

By this time H D Jacobson had been joined by his brother, Percy Isidore Jacobson (1873 – 1961), as managing director, although H D Jacobson appears to have been the senior partner.

Barker & Dobson was profitable, but the company began to struggle to meet demand for its products, and required an increase in capital. The company was acquired by Scribbans-Kemp, a large cake and biscuit manufacturer, in 1952. Scribbans-Kemp had built Barker & Dobson a new factory and offices by 1955.

P I Jacobson died in 1961 with a gross estate of £353,003. H D Jacobson also died in 1961 with a gross estate of £865,359.

Scribbans-Kemp changed its name to S K Holdings in the early 1970s. However its name was soon changed to that of its better-known subsidiary, Barker & Dobson.

Waller & Hartley of Blackpool was acquired in 1972, and with it the Hacks and Victory V cough sweet brands.

Barker & Dobson distributed Ferrero products such as Tic-Tacs for the British market from 1974.

Barket & Dobson suffered heavy losses in the mid-1970s. A stake in Hacks Malaysia Senirian Berhad was disposed of in 1976.

Due to a change in the law, Barker & Dobson was forced to remove the 0.2 percent chloroform component from its Victory V sweet recipe from 1981. Victory V sales immediately slumped by 25 percent.

The Barker & Dobson factory in Dublin closed in 1982.

The Barker & Dobson factory in Everton closed in 1982, with the loss of about 370 jobs. 200 white-collar staff remained in Everton. Only Bury and Nelson, both in Lancashire, remained as large factories within the firm. There were also smaller factories in Dundee and east London.

Barker & Dobson sold its newsagents business, with 150 outlets, to Guinness for £10 million in 1985. A high-class chocolate shop on Bond Street, London was retained.

That year Keiller, the butterscotch and marmalade manufacturer, was acquired for £4.9 million.

The highest selling lines in 1985 were Hacks, Victory V and Everton Mints.

Barker & Dobson acquired Budgens supermarkets, with 148 outlets, from Booker McConnell for £80 million in 1986.

Alma Holdings acquired the heavily loss-making Barker & Dobson from Budgens for £9.75 million in 1988. The deal made Alma the fourth largest sugar confectionery manufacturer in Britain.

Alma entered receivership in 1992, and Hacks and Victory V were sold to Cadbury for £3.1 million, who relocated production to their Trebor Bassett factories. Barker & Dobson and Keiller were acquired by Portfolio Foods for £3 million.

The Barker & Dobson brand is currently owned by Tangerine Confectionery in Britain.Hacks remains a leading confectionery brand in Malaysia.

A refreshing change: Trebor

Trebor is best known today for its Extra Strong and Softmints. It also introduced Refreshers, Fruit Salad and Black Jack sweets. When it was acquired by Cadbury in 1989, it was the largest sugar confectionery manufacturer in Britain.

Trebor was founded in 1907 when William Woodcock (a sugar boiler), Robert Robertson (a grocer), Sydney Herbert Marks (a salesman) and Thomas King (a grocer) each invested £100 in a partnership to manufacture boiled sweets.

The firm originally traded as Robertson & Woodcock. Its factory in Forest Gate, London, was called the Trebor Works.

Horse-drawn vans were replaced by motor vehicles for distribution purposes in 1915.

Sydney J Marks (1900 – 1980), the son of S H Marks, was sent to Germany to learn the latest production methods in 1925. Information he acquired on powdered sugar enabled Trebor to introduce its two most famous products. Refreshers were introduced in 1935, and Extra Strong Peppermints were launched in 1937.

A factory was opened on a five acre site in Chesterfield in 1939. The site was chosen as it lowered distribution costs in the Midlands and the North of England. Initially around 300 people were employed.

S J Marks became managing director in 1941. By this time the company was controlled by the Marks family. S J Marks was a brilliant but autocratic businessman.

Sugar was rationed during the Second World War, so a sugar and lard mixture was used to make the product go further.

Jamesons Chocolates had been acquired by 1960.

Edward Sharp & Sons of Maidstone, a toffee manufacturer, was acquired in 1961.

Sharps and Trebor were merged in 1968 to form Trebor Sharps, a mid-sized confectioner based at Woodford Green, Essex.

An overseas trade flourished, and by the late 1960s, the company was the largest exporter of sugar confectionery in Britain, sending 15 percent of production to nearly 70 countries. More mints  were sold in Nigeria than in the domestic market, and the United States was the largest export destination.

Clarnico, the confectionery subsidiary of Clarke, Nickolls & Coombs, was acquired for £750,000 in 1969. The acquisition made Trebor the fourth largest confectionery company in Britain.

In 1970 Sydney J Marks became president of Trebor, and his son, John Marks (1930 – 2012), became chairman.

Guided by his Christian convictions, John Marks developed a paternalistic relationship with his workforce. In 1981 the firm banned night shifts in the belief that it was disruptive to domestic life.

The loss-making confectionery arm of Maynards, best known for wine gums, was acquired for £8.1 million in 1986.

Trebor was the leading sugar confectionery manufacturer in Britain by 1986, with a 12 percent market share, including 50 percent of all hard mint sales. It was the market leader in boiled sugar sweets and branded mints.

Unfortunately the firm found itself under increasing pressure from the larger confectionery firms, with larger marketing budgets. Trebor was sold to Cadbury in 1989 for £120 million. The Marks family gifted 15 percent of the sale value to their workforce.

Many of the 3,000 strong workforce were to lose their jobs. Redundancy costs were low, as many workers were only employed on three month contracts.

Cadbury recouped some of its takeover costs by divesting Trebor House, the head office and factory in North London.

In 2005 the Chesterfield factory was closed with the loss of 245 jobs. An outdated factory and declining sales of Fruit Salads and Black Jacks were blamed.

For your pleasure: George Payne & Co

Payne’s are best known for Poppets, a chocolate-coated toffee confectionery.

George Daniel Payne (1845 – 1927) was a tea buyer and blender for Brooke Bond.

A forthright figure, Payne established George Payne & Co, tea and coffee blenders, from 1896. The factory was at Queen Elizabeth Street, Tower Bridge, Bermondsey. James Finlay & Co, a Scottish tea merchant, held a 30 percent stake in the venture.

George Payne & Co blended and packed own-label tea for J Sainsbury, a grocery chain, under the Red Label name, from 1903.

Expansion into cocoa in 1905 led to their entrance into the confectionery market from 1910. To accommodate increased production, the Tower Bridge factory was extended to five storeys.

A new confectionery factory was opened at Croydon Road, Beddington in 1919. It prospered by concentrating on a limited number of product lines.

The Croydon Road, Beddington site, c.1991

George Daniel Payne died in 1927 and left a gross estate valued at £81,491.

The Tower Bridge factory was rebuilt following a destructive fire in 1929.

The Poppets trademark was first registered in 1936. Poppets quickly became a leading product for the firm. The firm continued to have a significant own-label tea and coffee packaging business.

George Payne & Co employed 500 people by the late 1930s.

Robert Henry Payne (1892 – 1946), chairman and managing director of George Payne & Co, died with an estate valued at £163,567 in 1946.

Following the death of R H Payne, James Finlay & Co increased its stake in the firm to take overall control.

The Tower Bridge site was closed in 1990 and tea processing was relocated to a new site near Doncaster, Yorkshire.

Just Brazils was a top ten boxed chocolate by 1996, and Poppets was the eighth highest selling children’s confectionery.

The Payne’s confectionery business was acquired by Northern Foods for £10 million in 1998.

According to research by Candy Industry magazine, George Payne & Co was the 48th largest confectionery manufacturer in the world in 2000. It had an annual turnover of $120 million, and employed 500 people.

The Beddington factory was closed in 2001, with the loss of 157 jobs. The site was outdated, with limited potential for growth, and production was relocated to Leicester.

Northern Foods sold its confectionery arm, including Fox’s glacier mints as well as Payne’s, to Big Bear for £9.4 million in 2003.

Chocs away: Needler of Hull

Needler’s was one of the largest regional confectionery firms in Britain.

Fred Needler (1865 – 1932) was born in Arnold, a hamlet in the East Riding of Yorkshire, about nine miles outside Hull. He became general assistant to a small confectioner on Osborne Street, Hull in 1881.

When the business failed in 1886, Needler borrowed £100 to buy the equipment and establish his own confectionery business at nearby Hanover Square. Initially working 15.5 hour days, he manufactured chocolate and boiled sweets.

A Needler's delivery van
A Needler’s delivery van

Needler relocated to larger premises on Brook Street in 1890. By this time around ten people were employed. The premises were removed to Spring Street in 1896.

The business was registered as Fred Needler Ltd in 1902. The company directors were recruited from Needler’s staff of 50.

The company relocated to a new factory on Sculcoates Lane from 1906, and changed its name to Needlers Ltd.

Needler was a staunch Methodist, and was guided by three principles: honesty, quality and fair treatment of his workforce. From the beginning there was an extensive profit-sharing scheme for staff. The company also covered sick pay and early retirement due to illness. Two holiday homes were established in seaside resorts. Newly-wed female employees were awarded a “dowry”.

The company employed over 1,400 people by 1924. The Prince of Wales toured the factory in 1926. Sales outlets were opened in Newcastle and London in 1929. Needlers opened a 6.5 acre recreation ground adjacent to its works for the use of its staff in 1930.

Fred Needler died in 1932 with an estate valued at £147,596. He had donated generously to local charities throughout his life. By this time Needlers was one of the largest businesses in Hull, with 2,000 employees.

Needler was succeeded by his son,  Arthur Percival Needler (1900 – 1976). The company struggled during the Great Depression.

Needler chemists discovered a method to produce clear (or glace) fruit drops by adding lactic acid in 1938. The glace drop was to prove a major success for the company.

A P Needler retired in 1970 and was succeeded by his son, Raymond F Needler. Needlers immediately acquired Batger & Co, a London toffee manufacturer, and centralised all production at Hull. Following the acquisition, Needlers employed 750 people.

Needlers experienced mixed success throughout the 1970s, and was steadily loss-making by the early 1980s. A shift in public tastes from sugar confectionery to chocolate was blamed. To reduce costs, a large number of low-margin, low-volume product lines were discontinued in 1977, and the workforce was downsized from 750 to 400.

Increased exports and private-label contracts allowed Needler to re-enter profitability in 1984. The company was acquired by Hillsdown Holdings for £3.4 million the following year.

Needler failed to invest in modern machinery, and entered a period of steady decline. Needler was acquired by Blue Bird Confectionery for £3.85 million in 1996.

According to research by Candy Industry magazine, Blue Bird Confectionery had an annual turnover of $66 million and 120 employees in 2000.

Ashbury Confectionery of Corby, a leading own-label chocolate manufacturer, acquired Blue Bird in 2001. The Hull factory was closed the following year.

Ashbury Confectionery entered administration in 2015, and was acquired by Baronie, a Belgian chocolate manufacturer.

Needler branded chocolates are still produced as of 2018.

By gum: Wrigley’s in the UK

Wrigley’s pioneered sales of chewing gum in Britain, and holds 93 percent of the British gum market as of 2016.

William Wrigley Jr (1861 – 1932) established a British subsidiary in 1911 with a capital of £2,000. Wrigley (Sales) Ltd had a warehouse on Lambeth Palace Road, London and an office at 164 Piccadilly. The first sales of Wrigley’s chewing gum were at Heppell’s, a Piccadilly chemist.

It was difficult to convince Edwardian Britain to chew gum, at a time when even sucking on a boiled sweet in public was against the social norm. The big change came with the First World War; British soldiers picked up the habit of chewing gum as a relief from boredom.

Previously engaged in sales, Stanley Lorimer Murison (1881 – 1932) was appointed managing director from 1921. A quiet and determined man, he invested heavily on advertising, and the company grew under his leadership.

Murison relocated the warehouse and office operations to Tottenham Court Road.

Wrigley advertised that their chewing gum was manufactured using only refined chicle, pure sugar and flavouring. The main two flavour varieties sold were Spearmint and “P.K.” (triple-distilled peppermint).

Sales grew sufficiently that it was decided to establish a manufacturing base in Britain. Eleven acres of former British Empire Exhibition land at Wembley were acquired to establish a factory in 1925. The site was chosen due to its strong transport links. Build, land and equipment costs totalled £200,000. The factory was opened in 1927 with 350 employees. A large proportion of Wembley production was exported overseas; to Europe, India, Egypt and South Africa.

Over 109 million packets of Wrigley gum were sold in Great Britain in 1929. Wrigley’s was the only sugar-coated chewing gum produced in Britain.

Company capital was reduced from £200,000 to £150,000 in 1930. Wrigley claimed that due to high sales of its product, it required less capital than previously.

Wrigley produced several tons of chewing gum in Britain every day by 1933. Its factory had a capacity of 300,000 sticks of gum a day.


The Second World War saw production levels soar, largely fuelled by British and Empire military consumption. Britain was the second largest exporter of chewing gum in the world by 1940, largely due to the Wrigley factory.

American GIs stationed in Britain also helped to promote the habit of chewing gum. Coupled with extensive advertising, sales reached the mass market level in the post-war period.

Expanding sales saw the company outgrow the Wembley facility. The factory and head office were relocated to a 39 acre site outside Plymouth in 1970. 25 percent of Wembley employees relocated to Plymouth.

Orbit, Britain’s first sugar-free gum, was launched in 1977. Wrigley’s Extra was introduced from 1989. Airwaves was launched in 1997. Extra Mints were launched in 2004.

Wrigley was acquired by Mars, the chocolate manufacturer, in 2008.

Wrigley employed nearly 500 people in Britain and Ireland in 2015, including 230 people at the Plymouth factory. Around 25 percent of Plymouth production is exported overseas. Wrigley held 90 percent of the British chewing gum market in 2017.