Category Archives: Confectionery

For your pleasure: George Payne & Co

George Payne & Co became the largest tea merchant firm in the world. The business is best-known today for Poppets, a chocolate-coated toffee confectionery.

Largest tea merchants in the world
George Daniel Payne (1845 – 1927) was a tea buyer and blender for Brooke Bond. He was recognised as 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. George Payne & Co was the largest tea merchant business in the world by 1910.

George Payne & Co expanded into cocoa production from 1905, and this led to their entrance into the confectionery market from 1910. The Tower Bridge factory was extended to five storeys to accommodate increasing production.

Payne’s enters into mass production of confectionery
A new confectionery factory was opened at Croydon Road, Beddington in 1919. Built across one storey on a 55-acre site, it produced cocoa, chocolate and confectionery. 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. Management of the business was taken over by Robert Henry Payne (1892 – 1946).

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

One of the most popular product lines was the dragée, a bite-sized sweet with a chocolate coating, based on a confection popular in Vienna. The name was eventually anglicised to Payne’s Poppets, and the trademark was registered in 1936.

Poppets quickly became a leading product for the business. They were popular with cinema and theatre-goers as their cardboard-box packaging made them less noisy and more convenient to handle. Also, the “polished” chocolate coating did not readily melt, which reduced mess.

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

Robert Henry Payne died with an estate valued at £163,567 in 1946. Management of the business was taken over by his brother, Ronald George Payne (born 1910).

By the mid-1950s Poppets were available in a variety of flavours: Milk and Plain assortment, Brazils, Hazelnut, Almonds and All Nut assortment and Vanilla and Peppermint Creams.

Despite the success of Poppets, George Payne & Co continued as one of the largest tea blenders in Britain.

James Finlay & Co increased its stake in George Payne & Co to take overall control of the business in the 1950s.

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

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

Subsequent ownership
James Finlay & Co decided to focus on their tea and coffee interests. The George Payne & Co confectionery business was sold to Northern Foods for £10 million in 1998.

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 had become outdated, and offered limited potential for expansion. It was closed with the loss of 157 jobs in 2002, 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.

The Leicester factory was closed in 2019, and production of Poppets was relocated to York.

Needlers confectionery

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

Fred Needler
Fred Needler (1865 – 1932) was born in Arnold, a hamlet in the East Riding of Yorkshire, about nine miles outside Hull.

Needler became general assistant to a small confectioner on Osborne Street, Hull from 1881. His employer was an alcoholic, an unreliable, blustering and bullying man. Conditions were bad, and the hours were long.

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

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 growing business removed to a larger site at Spring Street from 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.

Fred Needler was a charming man, and highly principled and scrupulous. He was a staunch Primitive 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.

Arthur and Raymond Needler
Fred 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. Needler 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. The problems were blamed on a shift in public taste from sugar confectionery to chocolate, and the decline of the traditional corner sweet shop due to the growth of the supermarkets. In order 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.

Loss of independence and closure of the factory
Needler 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.

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. The business held 93 percent of the British gum market in 2016.

Establishment of the business
William Wrigley Jr (1861 – 1932) established a British subsidiary with a capital of £2,000 in 1911. Based in London, there was a warehouse on Lambeth Palace Road 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 Britons 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.

Murison and Wembley
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.

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.

The business relocates to Plymouth
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. The 3.5 acre Wembley site was sold for £500,000.

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.

All in their hands: Walters’ Palm Toffee

Walters’ Palm Toffee was one of the largest toffee manufacturers in Britain.

Nathan Baraf Walters (1867 – 1957) was a Jewish Romanian from Botosani. He established a toffee manufacturing business at Poplar, London in 1887. Palm Toffee was the main product, so-called because it was made from palm butter.

Walters was naturalised as a British subject in 1899.

Production was relocated to a former aircraft factory at Westfields Road, Acton from 1926. Located on a 1.5 acre site, it was one of the largest toffee manufacturing plants in Britain.

Walters’ Palm Toffee Ltd had a share capital of £240,000 in 1928. That year, export sales to Europe and the British Empire began.

Palm Toffee was a high quality product available at a reasonable price. It appears to have been mainly produced for the working class market.

Around 800 people were employed at the Acton factory by 1935, including 200 night workers.

The factory was destroyed by fire in 1935. The colossal blaze could be witnessed from miles away. Major Arthur Baraf Walters (1892 – 1973), a director of the company and son of the founder, collapsed at the scene from shock and had to be hospitalised. The factory was rebuilt.

Nathan Walters died in 1957. He left the entirety of his estate to Jewish charities, and his four sons received nothing. The Walters family unsuccessfully contested the last will in the Probate Court.


The end of sugar rationing in 1954 saw a boom in confectionery sales. However by the end of the 1950s this boom was over, as an increasingly prosperous society began to favour chocolate. As a result of this financial pressure and stagnation, the industry began to consolidate.

Walters’ Palm Toffee became loss-making, and was acquired by J & P Holland of Southport, the largest toffee manufacturers in the world, in a friendly takeover which valued the business at £385,000 in 1960.

J A & P Holland closed the Acton factory in 1961. Production of Palm confectionery was transferred to Holland factories in Southport and Birmingham.

Palm Toffee remained in production as late as the 1970s.

Does anyone remember Palm Toffee? Did one of your relatives work at the Acton factory? Feel free to leave comments below.


The fame of Halls: the highest-selling sweet in the world

Halls is the leading sugar confectionery brand in the world. How did a cough drop from Lancashire conquer the global market?

Hall Brothers is established
Thomas Harold Hall (1872 – 1944) and Norman Smith Hall (1874 – 1946) were the sons of a Radcliffe, Lancashire millwright.

The two Hall brothers entered into partnership as jam manufacturers at the State Confectionery Works on Stanley Road, Whitefield, Lancashire from 1893.

Production had been extended into boiled sweets by 1901.

Hall Brothers was incorporated as a public company in 1912. The two brothers served as joint-managing directors.


After the First World War the company entered into caramel production.

Hall Brothers had introduced Maskots, a “compound pastille” which was marketed for its ability to fight colds, by 1921.

The company ceased jam production from 1924.

Thomas Hall retired from the business in 1926, and Norman Hall continued as sole managing director.

Halls Mentho-lyptus cough sweets are introduced
Halls Mentho-lyptus were introduced from 1927. They were oval sweets made with menthol and eucalyptus.

Thomas Hall died in 1944 with a net estate valued at £74,248.

Norman Hall died in 1946, and he was succeeded as managing director by his son, Roland Fletcher Hall (1901 -1969).

Roland Fletcher Hall initiated an ambitious strategy of expansion. Profits were reinvested into the business. The factory was expanded and the machinery was modernised. Capacity was tripled and sales grew.

Hall Brothers (Whitefield) Ltd had a fully-paid capital of £100,000 in 1953. The company specialised in boiled sweets and caramels, and Hall’s “Mentho-lyptus tablets” was the principal product. 185 people were employed.

Halls cough drops were introduced to the United States from 1953.

A fire destroyed the Whitefield factory in the early 1960s, and the site was rebuilt.

Sales were extended into London and the Home Counties in 1961. Over 20 percent of production was exported by 1962.

Hall Brothers is acquired by Warner Lambert
Warner Lambert, an American pharmaceuticals company best known for Listerine, acquired Hall Brothers for £1.3 million in 1964. The Hall Brothers directors, with 17 percent of the equity, supported the sale. Hall Brothers enjoyed strong growth, and Warner Lambert was keen to diversify. Warner Lambert already owned the Smiths Brothers cough sweet business in the United States.

Halls held around a third of the British cough drop market by the mid-1960s.

A new factory was established at Dumers Lane, Radcliffe, Lancashire in 1970. That same year, Hall Brothers received a Queen’s Award for export achievement.

Distribution of Halls in the United States increased significantly following the acquisition by Warner Lambert. Halls was the leading cough drop in the United States by 1971, and held 40 percent of the cough drop market by 1975.

Sales were developed in Latin America in the 1970s.

The Whitefield factory was closed in the late 1980s.

Halls had global sales of $258 million by 1988.

Thailand represented the second-largest territory for Halls sales after the United States by 1990. Halls sweets were marketed in the Southern hemisphere as a refreshment, rather than as a medical product.

Halls Soothers, a milder version of Mentho-Lyptus with a liquid centre and throat-soothing properties, were launched in the United Kingdom in 1992. Sales quickly came to overtake the original product in its home market.

Halls was the highest-selling cough drop in the world, with annual sales of over $400 million by 1993.

The Radcliffe site employed 600 people by 2000. The factory had an annual output of 30,000 tonnes of medicated confectionery, with 90 percent of production exported to America and Europe.

Subsequent owners and the end of production in Britain
Warner Lambert was acquired by Pfizer, a pharmaceuticals company, for $90.3 billion in 2000.

Cadbury Schweppes acquired Hall’s from Pfizer in 2002.

130 jobs were lost at the Radcliffe factory in 2004, after a proportion of production was relocated to Toronto in Canada.

The Radcliffe site was closed with the loss of a further 310 jobs in 2005. 80 percent of output was exported to the Americas, and it made economic sense to relocate production closer to the brand’s major markets.

Cadbury became a part of the Mondelez snacks group from 2012.

Halls accounts for 20 percent of medicated sweets sales worldwide, and is the leading sugar confectionery brand in the world according to research by Euromonitor. Its three largest markets are the United States, Brazil and Thailand. Sales amounted to $700 million in 2018.

Just Chewit: Holland of Southport

How did a Lancashire manufacturer become the largest producer of toffee in the world?

John Holland establishes the business
Following the death of his mother and the subsequent alcoholism of his father, John Holland (born 1860) was adopted by his uncle, James Ford (born 1840), a prosperous confectioner in Ormskirk, Lancashire, in 1868.

John Holland served an apprenticeship to Ford, who later gave him premises of his own at 23a Cross Street, Southport.

John Holland developed a new method for producing creamy toffee in the 1890s. Before boiling, all the ingredients except for flavouring and colouring were cold-mixed at high speed in vats until a smooth consistency was achieved.

The highest-selling product was Everton Toffee, made with just sugar and butter.

The business enters into mass production; a factory is established at Virginia Street
A production line factory was built outside Southport during the First World War. The firm was thus well-placed to cope with the post-war rise in demand for confectionery products.

The next generation also joined the business; John Arthur Holland Sr (1886 – 1962) was appointed manager of a new toffee factory on Virginia Street, Southport from 1927. John Arthur Holland was a cheerful and lively man.

The firm traded as John Holland & Sons by 1932.

John Arthur Holland evidently made a success of his factory, as the Cross Street site was sold off in 1934, with all production centralised at Virginia Street.

John Arthur Holland took over the business from 1936. He relaunched Invalide Toffee, a discontinued brand that had been first introduced around 1900. Sales grew, aided by a confident new marketing slogan, “Best on Earth”.

A fire at the factory in 1940 caused an estimated £5,000 to £6,000 worth of damage. The works were out of use for three weeks, but Holland refused to leave staff out of work, and instead engaged them in the clean-up process.

Post-war expansion
Originally a local firm, the post-war period saw a boom in sales, and the factory entered into 24 hours a day production. National advertising had been introduced by 1950. An office was established in New York to handle increasing sales in the United States.

A £75,000 investment was used to extend the factory in 1952. That year, the firm was passed to John Arthur Holland Sr’s two sons, John Arthur Holland Jr (1913 – 2001) and Peter Holland (born 1923), and renamed J A & P Holland.

J A & P Holland was listed on the Liverpool Stock Exchange with an authorized capital of £250,000 in 1953. That year, the company began exporting toffee to the United States.

A new four-storey factory was erected at Virginia Street, Southport in 1954. Around 7,000 tonnes of confectionery were produced each year.

The toffee market had entered into decline by the late 1950s. John Arthur Holland Jr and Peter Holland became convinced that the company should grow by acquiring competitors. J A & P Holland became the largest toffee manufacturer in the United Kingdom after it acquired Fillerys of Birmingham in 1960. Fillerys produced higher-end toffee, and had a substantial own-label contract with Marks & Spencer.

Later in 1960 Walters Palm Toffee of Acton was acquired for £385,000; and Ewbanks of Pontefract, best known for liquorice, for £72,600.

The company listed on the London Stock Exchange in May 1960, with an ordinary capital of over £500,000.

S Parkinson & Son of Doncaster, best known for butterscotch, was acquired in 1961. Harper Paper, a sweet wrapper manufacturer, was also acquired that same year for £1.25 million.

J A & P Holland was the largest manufacturer of toffee and caramel in the world by 1961, and the largest exporter of toffee and caramel to the United States. Over one billion toffees were produced every year. The company held 25 percent of the British toffee market.

John Arthur Holland Sr died in 1962 and left an estate valued at £117,243.

Some subsidiaries were loss-making, particularly the paper interests, and J A & P Holland was unable to pay a dividend in 1963 or 1964. Independent shareholders found themselves in disagreement with the Holland family regarding company strategy.

J A & P Holland was best known for Penny Arrows and Goodies White Mice when the Chewits line was introduced in 1965.

Acquisition by Cavenham Foods
Cavenham Foods acquired J A & P Holland in 1965. It joined the Cavenham Confectionery subsidiary alongside Carson’s, which made chocolate liqueurs.

J A & P Holland management was replaced. The paper and plastic interests were divested. Cavenham closed down the smaller factories that it had inherited, leaving just Bristol, Southport and Doncaster. Cavenham invested heavily in new machinery at the Southport factory.

Cavenham Confectionery was loss-making between 1966 and 1969.

Cavenham provided strong advertising support for Holland brands, with Chewits and Arrows advertised on television in the 1970s.

The Doncaster factory was closed due to the rising cost of sugar in 1977. All administrative functions and chocolate production were centralised at Bristol.  Sugar confectionery production was concentrated at Southport.

Cavenham Confectionery had re-entered profitability by 1980, with annual sales of £24 million.

Subsequent ownership; production is moved overseas
Cavenham Confectionery was subject to a management-buyout backed by Candover, a private equity firm, for around £8 million in 1981. 1,050 people were employed at Bristol and Southport. Its main products included Elizabeth Shaw, liqueur chocolates, children’s sweet lines and own-label chocolate for Marks & Spencer. The business was renamed Famous Names.

Candover sold Famous Names to Imperial Tobacco for £15.5 million in 1985. By this time the number of employees had been downsized to 650.

The Southport factory employed around 250 people in 1986, and produced the Chewits, Goodies and Parkinson’s confectionery lines.

Famous Names Ltd changed its name to Elizabeth Shaw Ltd in 1988.

Elizabeth Shaw Ltd was subject to another management buyout for £24.7 million in 1989. Leaf of Amsterdam took a minority stake in the venture, before acquiring full control the following year. By this time Chewits was the leading fruit chew brand in Britain.

Chewits were the eighth highest-selling sugar confectionery line in Britain by 1997.

The Southport factory, with a four-floor layout, was outdated, and was operating at 40 percent capacity. It was closed with the loss of 150 jobs in 2006. Production was relocated to Slovakia and the Southport factory was demolished in 2008.

On point: Edward Sharp & Sons

Edward Sharp & Sons was the largest toffee manufacturer in the world.

Edward Sharp establishes a confectionery factory
Edward Sharp (1854 – 1931) was born in Maidstone, Kent. He was a dedicated Congregationalist.

After attending the local grammar school, Sharp became an apprentice at the Springfield Mill, a Maidstone paper factory where his father was manager.

Sharp was dismissed after he declined to raise his cap to the managing director, Richard James Balston. Sharp later referred to the incident as, “the finest day’s work I have ever done in my life”.

Embed from Getty Images

Sharp established a grocery business on Week Street, Maidstone. His wife began to make homemade sweets, principally toffee and nougat, which Sharp sold in his shop from 1878.

The business was initially modest, and Sharp employed one man and one boy in 1881. Sharp acted as his own salesman, and travelled around Kent on his bicycle.

The confectionery sideline was to prosper, and Sharp divested his grocery business in 1898 and established a dedicated toffee factory in a former roller skating rink on Sandling Road, Maidstone.

Kreemy Toffee helps to establish sales, and a new factory is built
Sharp introduced a new type of creamy nougat. It was recast by the works manager, Alfred Edward Malins (1867 – 1933), to create a creamy toffee, which was branded as “Kreemy Toffee” from 1910.

A new factory, the Kreemy Works, was established at St Peter’s Street, Maidstone, from 1912. Increased capacity allowed Edward Sharp to begin to distribute Kreemy Toffee nationwide.

Sharp’s success was credited to improved methods of manufacture, careful advertising and a national increase in toffee sales during and following the First World War. The business claimed to be the largest toffee manufacturer in the world in 1922, and Sharp was made a baronet.

Sharp’s wife died in 1925, and to widespread surprise he married his secretary when he was 74 years old in 1928. Sharp died in 1931 and left an estate valued at £156,367.

Sharp’s sons Herbert Edward Sharp (1879 – 1936) and Wilfred James Sharp (1880 – 1945) became joint-managing directors of the company.

Edward Sharp & Sons toffee sales continued to grow, and it was the largest toffee manufacturer in the world in 1933. The company owed its success to heavy advertising and a quality product.

H E Sharp died in 1936 and left an estate valued at £79,943.

Restricted supplies of raw materials forced Sharps to concentrate on the export trade during the Second World War and up to the early 1950s.

W J Sharp died in 1945 and left an estate valued at £194,219. John Rayner Edgar Sharp (1917 – 1994) and Harold Sharp, grandsons of the founder, became joint-managing directors.

An illustrated Sharps toffee tin

Sharps was one of the foremost sugar confectionery manufacturers in Britain in 1951. The business targeted the high-quality market. Super Kreem toffee was the highest-selling product line. The factory could produce 600 wrapped sweets a minute.

Employees were allowed to consume as much confectionery as they could eat on the premises, but were not permitted to take produce home.

Sugar rationing ended in 1953, and butter rationing ended in 1954. To cope with increasing sales, 24-hour production was introduced, and 350 men were employed on the night shift alone by 1954.

Edward Sharp & Sons loses its independence, the brand is withdrawn and the factory is closed
Following the post-rationing boom, an increasingly affluent society began to favour chocolate over sugar confectionery. Edward Sharp & Sons was acquired by Trebor, a privately-owned London confectionery manufacturer, in 1961. The sales forces were merged in 1968, and the company became known as Trebor Sharp.

The Maidstone plant focused on Easter eggs, toffee, fudge and chocolate-coated products by 1980.

Trebor Sharp was acquired by Cadbury in 1989.

Sharp’s toffee was discontinued in 1998.

The Maidstone factory was closed as part of an efficiency drive in 2000, with the loss of over 300 jobs. The factory had produced Softmints, toffee and fudge. Manufacturing was relocated to Chesterfield and Sheffield. The factory was demolished and replaced by housing in 2002.

The brand was relaunched as Sharps of York from 2004. The Sharps brand was acquired by Tangerine Confectionery in 2008. The Sharps brand had been discontinued by 2016.

It takes Allsorts: George Bassett of Sheffield

George Bassett & Co was the largest sugar confectionery manufacturer in the world throughout much of the nineteenth century. Liquorice Allsorts became one of the highest-selling sweets in Britain.

George Bassett establishes the business
George Bassett (1818 – 1886) was the son of a farmer at Ashover, Derbyshire. He served an apprenticeship to William Haslam, a confectioner in Chesterfield.

Bassett was from a Wesleyan Methodist background, and remained strongly committed to the church throughout his life. He was a shrewd and painstaking man, with a dogged perseverance.

Bassett relocated to Sheffield, Yorkshire, from 1842, and established himself as a retail confectioner at 30 Broad Street, Park. He later opened shops at Market Hall and Westbar. Additional premises were opened at Snig Hill.

Liquorice Allsorts
Liquorice Allsorts

The retail trade was to prove slow, and Bassett decided to enter the confectionery manufacturing business. He sold his retail business in 1859 and took on a partner, William Lodge, and they traded as Bassett & Lodge. A new steam-powered confectionery works was opened at Portland Street, Infirmary Road, Sheffield.

The Bassett & Lodge partnership failed to work out, and was dissolved in 1861.

George Bassett employed 36 men, 30 boys and 12 girls in 1861. He was regarded as a kindly employer.

S M Johnson enters the firm
George Bassett entered into partnership with Samuel Meggitt Johnson (1837 – 1925), who had previously worked for him as an apprentice, from 1864.

Bassett employed 150 people by 1871. The Portland Street factory was the largest confectionery works in the world by 1876.

George Bassett was elected Mayor of Sheffield in 1876. The former United States President, Ulysses S Grant, stayed at Bassett’s house on his visit to Britain in 1877.

After suffering a paralytic stroke in 1878, George Bassett was forced to resign from business and public service. S M Johnson took full control of Bassett & Co.

George Bassett died in 1886 with a personalty of £91,524. He had given generously to various charitable causes throughout his life. The business he had built up was one of the largest confectionery manufacturers in the world, and the largest in Britain.

The Don Works, Bridge Street had also been opened in Sheffield by 1890. The Don Works employed 180 women. The Portland Street works employed 300 people.

A view of the Bassett factory at Owlerton, Sheffield, in 2008. Photo credit to Terry Robinson.

S M Johnson was highly regarded as an employer.

Charles Thompson, the company’s sole sales representative, called on a Leicester wholesaler called Walker in 1899. A shop assistant knocked over his tray of sweets. Walker liked the look of the scattered sweets, and ordered a batch. Thus, the sale of Liquorice Allsorts began.

Liquorice Allsorts were an immediate success, and drove sales at the company.

A new factory was established at Owlerton from 1900.

The business was converted into a private limited company in 1919.

The Don Works had been closed down by 1924.

Johnson died in 1926, with an estate valued at £818,360. In his obituary in The Times he was heralded as one of Sheffield’s most benevolent citizens.

Growth and acquisitions
George Bassett was incorporated in 1926 with a capital of £350,000. Two of S M Johnson’s sons, Percy Johnson and William Johnson, became company directors.

The Owlerton site was expanded in 1933.

Percy Johnson died in 1936 with a net personalty valued at £486,409.

Geo Bassett & Co employed a workforce of 1,500 people in 1939.

The Portland Street factory was closed down in 1941, with all production subsequently concentrated at Owlerton.

Geo Bassett & Co was the largest producer of sugar confectionery in Britain, and probably the largest manufacturer of liquorice confectionery in the world.

Geo Bassett & Co accounted for over 35 percent of British confectionery exports to the United States in 1952.

William Johnson died in 1954, and left a net estate valued at £132,222.

Geo Bassett & Co employed 2,500 people by 1955, and controlled around half of the British liquorice industry.

One million dollars worth of Licorice Allsorts were sold in the US and Canada in the 1956-7 financial year.

Over 20,000 tonnes of Bassett’s confectionery were sold in the 1958-9 financial year.

W R Wilkinson, manufacturers of Pontefract cakes and Bassett’s largest rival in the liquorice industry, was acquired for £1.1 million in cash in 1961. Following the takeover Bassett’s controlled over 90 percent of the liquorice allsorts market.

The three main products by the 1960s were Liquorice Allsorts, Jelly Babies and Dolly Mixture.

Barratt’s, with the leading position in the children’s confectionery market, was acquired for nearly £4 million in 1966.

Geo Bassett received a Queen’s Award for Export Achievement in 1967. Confectionery was exported to 40 countries.

Geo Bassett was the third largest confectionery manufacturer in Britain after Cadbury and Rowntree Mackintosh, and the largest sugar confectioner in Europe by 1972.

The Barratt factory in Wood Green, London was closed with the loss of 750 jobs in 1975. The closure was due to a shortage of labour in the area and the difficulty of modernising the factory.

Geo Bassett operated five factories by 1977: Owlerton, Pontefract, Uddingston, Breda in the Netherlands and Sydney, Australia. 30 percent of all its British production was exported to 62 countries.

Geo Bassett registered a profit loss in 1979-80 due to the strength of the pound sterling and strong competition from imports. As a result, the Allsorts product was repositioned as a mid-market rather than upmarket brand, in order to increase sales. 25 percent of the workforce was dismissed, leaving a total of 3,000 employees. The strategy worked, and Bassett’s had re-entered into profitability by the following year.

Geo Bassett also began to manufacture own-label confectionery for “discriminating retailers”, accounting for a quarter of production by 1987.

Geo Bassett had fallen to third place in the British sugar confectionery market by 1986, behind Trebor and Rowntree, with a seven percent market share. In order to utilise excess capacity,

Bassett is acquired by Cadbury; subsequent ownership
Geo Bassett was acquired by Cadbury for £91 million in 1989. Cadbury merged its own smaller sugar confectionery businesses of Pascall-Murray and Lion into the larger Bassett concern.

Later that year, Cadbury acquired Trebor for £110 million, and re-named its sugar confectionery subsidiary Trebor Bassett.

Bassett’s Liquorice Allsorts was the seventh highest-selling sugar confectionery line in Britain by 1991.

Cadbury was subject to a takeover by Kraft of Chicago in 2010. Kraft spun of its international business as Mondelez in 2012.

Mondelez introduced a £6 million biscuit production line to the Owlerton plant from 2013. The site manufactures Oreo, Ritz and Belvita biscuits.

Mondelez also upgraded the liquorice production line with an investment of £550,000, and the jelly production line received a £2.5 million investment.

Mondelez merged the Bassett and Maynards names to form the Maynards Bassetts brand from 2016.

The Owlerton factory is the largest sugar confectionery plant in Europe as of 2020, with an output of over 40,000 tonnes of sweets a year. It produces the Bassett’s products Liquorice Allsorts and Jelly Babies, as well as the Maynards and Trebor brands.

The fizzy history of Barratt & Co

Barratt’s is well-known in Britain for children’s confectionery products such as Sherbet Fountains and Dip Dabs. Less well-known is that the business was the first to introduce branded confectionery, and made sweets affordable to the working classes for the first time.

Barratt introduces low cost confectionery
Two brothers, George Osborne Barratt (1827 – 1906) and James John Barratt (1825 – 1872) formed a partnership as pastry chefs at 9 Albert Place on the City Road in Shoreditch in 1848 .

George Barratt became respected as a skilled developer of new types of confectionery. His first success was a half-baked brandy snap biscuit.

George Osborne Barratt (1827 – 1906) in his later years

The two brothers elected to go their separate ways in 1852, and George Barratt relocated to Shepherdess Walk in Hoxton to establish himself independently as a confectioner. Barratt initially produced a few pounds of sweets a day, and was assisted by his wife and one employee, a sugar boiler.

Barratt soon introduced a new product which was to prove popular: “coconut chips” consisted of grated coconut with a crystallised sugar coating. Barratt then had further success with various types of rock confectionery, including “Almond Rock”.

The breakthrough for the business occurred by accident, when Barratt discovered that his sugar boiler had failed to grain (or crystallize) a batch of coconut candy. Barratt poured the confectionery into tins and hoped it would set before it reached his customers. It didn’t set, but customers liked the new toffee “that sticks the jaw” and demanded more. Barratt branded the new product “Stickjaw”.

Barratt targeted the working class market with low prices, and was credited with making confectionery affordable to the poorest in society for the first time. He was also credited as the first person to package confectionery in labelled boxes, thus creating brand awareness and consumer loyalty.

The business grew, and Barratt had factories on both sides of Shepherdess Walk by 1864.

Barratt & Co becomes the largest confectionery manufacturer in the world
Barratt & Co was one of the largest manufacturers of jam and confectionery in London by 1884, with a workforce of around 500 people.

A sickness fund was introduced for the employees from 1890.

George Barratt began to wind down his involvement with the business from the 1890s due to his advancing years. His four sons, George William, Frank, Albert and Edward Barratt, took an increasing role in the management of the business he had built.

Barratt & Co claimed to possess the largest sugar confectionery factory in England by the 1890s.

Barratt & Co employed 2,000 people by 1899.

George Barratt entered into retirement from 1902, and divided his business between his four sons.

Barratt & Co was the largest confectionery manufacturer in the world by 1906. The company produced 350 tons of sweets every week from a five-acre site.

George Barratt died in 1906, with an estate valued at £153,830.

E W Barratt gifted every employee of the company a 14-carat gold watch, in memory of his father, in 1907.

Incorporation of the business
Barratt & Co was incorporated with a capital of £330,000 in 1909. All of the directors were members of the Barratt family, with George William Barratt as chairman.

Barratt & Co produced 2,000 different confectionery lines by 1910. The factory produced up to 400 tons of sweets a week.

Two popular chew sweets, the Fruit Salad and the Black Jack, were introduced in the 1920s.

The Sherbet Fountain was introduced from 1925.

George William Barratt died in 1928 and left an estate valued at £369,282.

The Dip Dab was introduced from 1940.

Barratt & Co is sold to George Bassett and subsequent ownership
Barratt & Co was subject to a friendly takeover by George Bassett of Sheffield for almost £4 million in 1966.

Barratt & Co was best known for sherbet fountains, foam shrimp, nougat and liquorice by 1974.

The Wood Green factory became outdated, and also struggled to source sufficient labour. It was closed with the loss of 750 jobs in 1975. Production was transferred to sites in Sheffield, Pontefract and Glasgow.

Bassett was acquired by Cadbury in 1989.

Cadbury sold Barratt, Butterkist popcorn and other smaller confectionery lines to Tangerine Confectionery for £58 million in 2008.

The Barratt name was rebranded as “Candyland” from 2013, but reintroduced from 2018.

Machinations: Batger & Co

Batger & Co was the largest jam manufacturer in Britain by the 1870s, and became one of the largest employers in East London, with a workforce of 2,000 people.

Batger & Co was acquired by Needlers in 1970. Is last-surviving product, Chinese Figs, was discontinued around the turn of the 21st century.

The Batger (pronounced Batch-er) family had a background in the London sugar refining trade. The business claimed that it was established by a Miss Batger in 1748.

John Batger (1754 – 1825), a Quaker, had established a grocery business at 16 Bishopsgate Street, London by 1783. He was manufacturing confectionery by at least 1813.

Batger & Co had a four-storey factory at 15-16 Bishopsgate Street by 1847.

Samuel Hanson & Son acquire Batger & Co
Batger & Co was acquired by Samuel Hanson & Son, wholesale grocers of Botolph Lane in Eastcheap, in 1856. There were around twelve employees.

An annual, expenses-paid excursion for staff was introduced from 1856. About 25 people were employed by around 1860.

A new factory was established at 103 Broad Street, Ratcliff, London from 1863.

Frederick Machin enters the business
Frederick Machin (1826 – 1902) and Samuel Hanson (1804 – 1882) had control of Batger & Co by 1864. Machin was responsible for the subsequent growth of a relatively small and declining business.

The Bishopsgate premises were divested in 1867.

Batger & Co employed 200 people by 1871. “Harlequin” Christmas crackers began to be produced from 1872.

Batger & Co was described as the largest jam manufacturer in Britain in 1873.

The Batger & Co factory covered two acres, all built upon, by 1875. 450 people were employed; rising to 550 at Christmas and 700 during the English fruit season, when jam was made. Around 2,000 tons of sugar and 1,000 tons of English fruits were used each year. Machinery was used extensively.

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Frederick Machin had assumed full control of Batger & Co by 1880.

Batger & Co employed 400 people (250 men, 100 women and 50 boys) by 1881. The company was one of the largest manufacturers of jam and confectionery in London.

Batger & Co employed a workforce of 500 to 600 people during peak periods by 1887.

Batger & Co was one of the largest confectionery manufacturers in Britain by the turn of the 20th century. Nearly 1,000 workers were employed. Batger & Co was credited as the longest-established confectionery business in Britain.

Frederick Machin died in 1902 with a net personalty valued at £48,995. Control of the firm passed to his son, Stanley Machin (1861 – 1939).

Sir Stanley Machin (1861 – 1939) in 1932

Batger had introduced Chinese Figs by 1903. They were oval sweets consisting of real figs, fruit jelly and a sugar coating.

Christmas crackers were a major part of the Batger & Co business, and proved popular due to their high quality and low price.

A healthy export trade saw Batger & Co enjoy record sales in 1906, and the factory was extended.

Batger & Co was the largest ratepayer in East London by 1910.

Batger & Co employed a workforce of up to 2,000 people during peak periods by 1912. Joseph Hetherington (1873 – 1937) was manager of the confectionery factory by this time.

Batger & Co won a lucrative contract to supply the Army with jam during the First World War.

Chinese Figs were well-established as the most important confectionery line by 1920, with thousands of boxes sold during the festive period.

Batger & Co is acquired by Crosse & Blackwell
Batger & Co was acquired by Crosse & Blackwell for £522,902 in 1920. Batger retained its old management, and Stanley Machin was appointed a director of Crosse & Blackwell.

Batger & Co was the sole profitable Crosse & Blackwell subsidiary in 1923. However Crosse & Blackwell directors discovered that a confectionery business lacked synergies with a company largely concerned with preserves.

Machin and Hetherington family ownership
Crosse & Blackwell divested Batger & Co Ltd as a private company under the sole control of Stanley Machin and Joseph Hetherington in 1926.

Stanley Machin died in 1939. An obituary hailed him as one of the “leaders of commercial life in the City of London”.

Harold Stanley Machin (1891 – 1979) succeeded his father as managing director of Batger & Co.

The Broad Street factories were destroyed during the Blitz in 1940. A new factory was opened at 44 Southside, Clapham Common.

Christmas cracker production is believed to have ended in around the late 1960s.

Sale to Needlers
Batger & Co was sold to Needlers Ltd of Hull, a rival confectionery manufacturer, for £263,000 in cash in 1970. John Hetherington and Colin Machin joined the Needlers board of directors.

The Batger factory in Clapham was sold for £330,000 in 1971, and production was relocated to Hull.

The last remaining Batger’s product, Chinese Figs, was discontinued around the year 2000. Its demise represented the end for one of the longest-established confectionery brands in Britain.