When two near identical products emerge in two separate markets, it can sometimes be a coincidence. Sometimes it’s just blatant imitation.
Polo and Life Savers are annular (ring-shaped) mints, sold in tube shaped packaging.
Clarence A Crane (1875 – 1931) was an American chocolate manufacturer. To offset low summer sales, he introduced the Life Saver mint in 1912. The ring shape of the mint was initially created by mistake, but Crane liked its distinctiveness. The Life Savers name was chosen as the shape of the mint resembled life belts (life preservers in US English).
Life Savers were launched in the United Kingdom in 1916. At a time when medical claims for products were unregulated, the mints were advertised as an aid to digestion. James Pascall, confectionery manufacturers of London, held the licence to distribute the product.
US sales of Life Savers had reached $5 million a year by 1921, with distribution across 84,000 outlets.
Life Savers were manufactured in Britain from at least 1923. As well as the original peppermint, there were cinnamon, liquorice and clove flavours. Sales peaked in 1931, when 2.28 million packets were sold. However confectionery rationing and limited imports during the Second World War meant that sales were practically non-existent by 1947.
Rowntree of York believed that the confection had potential when combined with their knowledge of the British market and manufacturing, advertising and distribution expertise. They had developed the Polo in 1939, but rationing saw its introduction delayed until 1948. The Polo followed a wave of 1930s innovations at Rowntree that included Aero, Smarties and Kit Kat.
Rowntree was aware that Polo was very similar to Life Savers, but as the company had not taken any action to protect their rights to the annular shape in mints, Rowntree was free to introduce its own version. To prevent legal action they stated “Made by Rowntree’s” clearly on the packaging.
Life Savers struggled to compete with the domestic strength of Rowntree, and British sales of Live Savers ended in 1956.
Small scale imports of Life Savers resumed in 1984, for sale in US military bases in Britain. Life Savers were reintroduced to the UK, imported from South Africa, in 1996. The relaunch was to prove unsuccessful.
James Keiller & Son was influential in popularising marmalade, and was the leading manufacturer of the preserve in the world throughout much of the nineteenth century.
Origins and growth
Dundee, in the east of Scotland, has a long history of fruit growing. Janet Keiller operated a small confectionery business at Seagate, Dundee from the 1760s. She produced jams, and modified a quince recipe to create “chip” (shredded peel) marmalade. It was believed that the addition of the fibrous orange peel aided digestion.
Her son James Keiller (1775 – 1839) took over the business from 1797, and the firm assumed his name. Marmalade was just one of their many product lines, which included jams, cakes and confectionery. The firm was known as James Keiller & Son by 1827.
Alexander Keiller (1821 – 1877) took over the firm from his father in 1839 when it was still relatively modest. Alexander Keiller was a warm but reserved man, with a steely determination. He moved the premises to Castle Street in 1845. He increased production with the introduction of steam-powered machinery. He employed 60 people by 1851.
Keiller established a dedicated bakery department from the 1850s.
“Dundee marmalade” had secured a worldwide reputation by 1857. Keiller was already exporting, mostly to expatriates in countries such as Australia and South Africa. The Dundee factory employed an average of 150 people (mostly women), rising to 200 during the marmalade season. Nearly 15 tons of sugar were used every week. Jams, candied peels and confectionery were produced when Seville oranges were out of season.
Alexander established a factory at St Peter Port, Guernsey, from 1857. The Channel Island location was chosen to avoid mainland sugar duty. Managed by his brother William (1829 – 1899), for twenty years, the site accounted for one third of the company’s 1,000 ton a year output. Around 200 people were employed by 1878. However, profits were to prove disappointing, and Alexander eventually bought out his brother’s third share in James Keiller & Son.
At a time when manufacturer’s adulteration of food was rife, Keiller invited The Lancet‘s food adulteration expert, Dr Arthur Hassall, to examine their marmalade in 1859, which he declared to be pure and “the finest he had ever tasted”.
James Boyd (1848 – 1926) joined the firm in 1864. He was promoted to junior partner from 1874.
Keiller was the largest confectionery manufacturer in Britain by 1869. Around 300 people were employed at the Dundee site. Following the death of his father, John Mitchell Keiller assumed control of the company from 1877.
With the abolition of sugar duty in 1871, manufacturing offshore lost its rationale. The Guernsey operation was relocated to Tay Wharf at Silvertown, London from 1879. J M Keiller used the opportunity to oust his uncle William, and install James Boyd as manager of the new factory, where around 260 people were employed.
Until the 1870s the jam was made with a 1:1 fruit to sugar ratio, and only the juice and peel of the fruit were used in order to maximise sweetness. The abolition of sugar duty gave preserve manufacturers the incentive to use all the bitter innards of the fruit, and simply increase the sugar content to compensate. This produced notable economies but decreased the quality of the product.
It was not until the 1880s that Keiller was surpassed by Cadbury and Rowntree as the largest confectionery manufacturer in Britain.
Formation of a limited company
James Keiller & Sons became a limited liability company with a capital of £300,000 (£35 million in 2015) in 1893. J M Keiller used this juncture as an opportunity to step back from management of the business, and James Boyd became managing director.
By 1897 marmalade output had risen to over 3,000 tons a year. A similar weight of confectionery was also produced.
When J M Keiller died in 1899 his gross estate was valued at £521,000. He was the last Keiller to sit on the company board of directors. His son, Alexander Keiller (1889 -1955), inherited the entire company.
The Silvertown factory was completely gutted by fire in 1899, with the damage estimated at over £100,000. 1,400 workers were temporarily thrown out of employment whilst it was rebuilt. The next year the Dundee factory at Albert Square also burned down, and was rebuilt at a cost of £30,000. The building, stock and machinery had been insured for £118,000.
Keiller had a turnover of £350,000 by 1900.
A German subsidiary was established in 1906 with capital of £150,000 and a factory at Tangermunde, near the sugar beet growing fields.
James Keiller & Son had a capital of £400,000 by 1908, and company assets were valued at £443,000. Around 2,000 people were employed in 1914.
Keiller was exporting millions of jars of marmalade and jam every month to British troops in France by 1917. In one year during the First World War 43,000 tons of jam and marmalade were produced. W M Mathew asserts that Keiller was the principal supplier of jam and marmalade to the Army.
Alexander Keiller did not engage in management of the company, and sold his entire shareholding in 1918. Much of his stake was acquired by the Boyd family.
James Keiller & Son is acquired by Crosse & Blackwell
James Keiller & Son was acquired by Crosse & Blackwell, the largest food processor in the British Empire, in 1919. Robert Boyd, managing director of Keiller, became chairman of C&B. The amalgamation gave C&B between 17 and 20 percent of the British jam market. Keiller continued to function as an independent concern with its own management, and only limited operations were merged.
There were nearly 800 employees in Dundee in 1920. There were over 1,000 workers in London in 1922. Keiller was described as the largest preserve manufacturer in the world in 1921.
The collapse of the post-war economic boom saw Keiller profits drop from £500,000 in 1919 to under £69,000 in 1920. Keiller announced a trading loss of £555,000 in 1921.
The German subsidiary was liquidated in 1923, after debts owed to it failed to be repaid following the end of the war. A fruit pulping and canning operation at Wisbech, Cambridgeshire was sold to Smedley & Co of Evesham in 1923.
Keiller marmalade production began at the Crosse & Blackwell factory in Vincennes outside Paris, France in 1925.
A new bakery plant was opened at Mains Loan, Dundee in 1928.
The glass jar with a metal lid was introduced for the UK market in 1928. The white jars were retained for export production.
Keiller claimed to be the original inventor of the Dundee cake by 1929. Dundee cake was the highest selling line of the bakery division, followed by shortbread.
Keiller supplied the King (marmalade) and Queen (chocolate) by royal appointment by 1931.
Keiller gained a licence to produce Toblerone in the UK from 1932.
All Keiller chocolate and confectionery production was centralised at Dundee from 1935, taking the number employed to around 900.
The Silvertown factory was completely destroyed during the Blitz, and had to be rebuilt.
The Albert Square factory was closed in 1947, and production was relocated to new premises in the city at Maryfield.
Keiller operated a chain of bakeries around the Dundee area by 1946. Keiller opened its first retail shop in Blairgowrie, Scotland in 1948.
Shortbread was the company’s highest selling export by the 1950s. America, the Middle East and the Far East were the principal overseas markets.
Keiller preserves manufacturing was transferred from Silvertown to Dundee in 1952, leaving Silvertown to produce Crosse & Blackwell branded goods.
From Nestle to the present
Crosse & Blackwell was acquired by Nestle of Switzerland in 1960.
Following the takeover of Chocolat Tobler by Associated Biscuits in 1967, Keiller lost the licence to produce Toblerone.
Keiller ranked among the top six confectionery manufacturers in Britain in 1980, with a four percent market share and a workforce of 320 people. However Keiller became loss-making following a sales decline. The marmalade line operated for just one half-day a week. Nestle announced plans to close the factory.
Okhai of Dundee acquired Keiller, with a reduced workforce of 145. Okhai invested heavily to transform a site that had been losing £2 million a year into one that made an annual profit of £400,000. Export value increased from £500,000 to £4 million a year. 60,000 jars of marmalade were produced every day by 1985, and Okhai was awarded a Queen’s Award for export achievement.
Barker & Dobson acquired Keiller for £4.9 million in 1985. Barker & Dobson sold the Keiller preserves brand to Rank Hovis McDougall, who owned the Robertson’s preserves company, for £4.9 million in 1988. The preserves business had employed a staff of just 14, and production was relocated to the Robertson site in Manchester.
Barker & Dobson sold its confectionery arm to Alma Holdings, a rival sweet manufacturer, for £10 million in 1988. Alma relocated its headquarters to Dundee, and invested £8.5 million to transform the Keiller factory into one of the most modern confectionery plants in Europe. The staffing levels at the Dundee plant were doubled to around 500 people. Keiller was a leader in butterscotch production.
The high cost of borrowing saw Alma enter into receivership in 1992. The Keiller and Barker & Dobson brands were acquired by Craven of York for £3 million. Craven was subsequently renamed to Craven Keiller. It was the third largest sugar confectionery manufacturer in Britain, behind Trebor Bassett and Nestle.
Craven Keiller was acquired by Cadbury in 1996, who spun off their sweets arm as Monkhill, which was later acquired by Tangerine Confectionery. The Keiller brand was eventually phased out, and now no confectionery bears the name.
Keiller marmalade was withdrawn from sale in Britain, but is still produced as an export brand at Histon, Cambridgeshire by Hain Celestial. It is distributed to the North American and Australasian markets.
Callard & Bowser produced the highest-selling butterscotch in the British Empire. The founding-family sold the business in the 1930s and its successive owners included Guinness, United Biscuits and Kraft.
Callard & Bowser developed a large market for Altoids mints in the United States from the 1980s, and eventually discontinued all other lines in order to focus on their leading product.
Daniel James Callard (1824 – 1903) was born to a prosperous non-conformist family of London bakers. Members of the Callard family had been bakers in the metropolis since the seventeenth century.
Daniel Callard became a master baker himself. He had entered into partnership with John Carrick Bowser (1828 – 1912), his brother-in-law, by 1855.
The two men established a wholesale grocery business at St John’s Wood. The business initially manufactured infant formula, but began to concentrate on confectionery production from 1861.
Daniel Callard bought out John Bowser’s stake in the business in 1872, but continued to trade under the established brand name of “Callard & Bowser”. The firm grew through strong branding and a dedication to product quality and purity, at a time when standards were often inconsistent.
Daniel Callard received the 80th trademark issued in Britain in 1876.
Butterscotch, Turkish Delight and boiled sweets were established as the core products by 1878.
Daniel Callard employed 41 people by 1881. He had passed control of the business to his son, James Percival Callard (1859 – 1940), by 1891.
Growing sales saw the business relocate to Duke’s Road, Euston by 1894.
Daniel Callard died with an estate valued at £99,570 (around £11 million in 2015) in 1903.
Callard & Bowser butterscotch consisted of 11.7 percent butter fat and 79.3 percent sugar, according to an analysis conducted for the British Medical Journal in 1907.
James Callard sold the business to his son-in-law after the First World War. Callard & Bowser was the largest producer of butterscotch in the British Empire.
Callard & Bowser was sold to Major A E Allnatt (1889 – 1969) in 1933. He relocated production to land he owned at Western Avenue, Park Royal, adjacent to the London branch of the Guinness brewery.
Cream Line toffee was introduced from 1937, and was to prove one of the more successful products.
Callard & Bowser acquired William Nuttall of Doncaster, best known for the Mintoes boiled sweet, in 1948. The Nuttall factory was large and modern and the business had a strong export trade.
The Nuttall acquisition cemented Callard & Bowser’s position as one of the largest toffee manufacturers in Britain.
Callard & Bowser is sold to Guinness
Callard & Bowser was acquired by Guinness in 1951. Major Allnatt was retained as chairman. The stout brewer wanted to diversify from its core operation, and had decided to establish a confectionery subsidiary. Guinness was able to acquire Callard & Bowser at a depressed price as sweet rationing remained in force. The sweet ration was lifted in 1953, and this was to prove a major boon for the confectionery industry.
Profits from confectionery, amounting to £850,000 between 1951 and 1956, were reinvested into the business. Rileys of Halifax, best known for Toffee Rolls, and Lavells, a confectionery store chain, were acquired. Guinness invested heavily to install new factory equipment. A factory on Silverdale Road at Hayes, Middlesex was acquired in 1956.
Rolls Confectionery of Greenford, Middlesex was purchased from J Lyons & Co in 1961.
Callard & Bowser was not an extensive advertiser, and instead concentrated on developing strong relationships with wholesalers and retailers.
Callard & Bowser was the largest manufacturer of nougat in Britain by 1974.
The Park Royal factory was divested in 1974. Guinness indicated that rationalisation was essential in order to control costs in a highly competitive industry. Production was relocated to the Hayes factory, where there was space for expansion. All 250 staff at Park Royal were given the opportunity to transfer to the Hayes site.
The Nuttall factory in Doncaster was closed down in 1981 and production was transferred to Halifax.
Callard & Bowser had a turnover of £17 million in 1981. The business employed 1,186 people.
Takeover by Beatrice Foods
Guinness sold Callard & Bowser to Beatrice Foods of Chicago for £4 million in 1982 in order to focus on their core brewing operation.
Smith Kendon, which produced Altoids Curiously Strong Mints at Bridgend in Wales, was absorbed into Callard & Bowser.
High business rates and an ageing factory saw the Hayes site closed down with the loss of 500 jobs in 1983. Production was transferred to Bridgend.
Callard & Bowser claimed 25 percent of the British toffee market by 1985. Combined sales totalled just under £24 million in 1987. Around half of all production was exported to 65 different countries.
Sale to United Biscuits
Beatrice Foods sold Callard & Bowser to United Biscuits in 1988, in an attempt to reduce debt. United Biscuits paid £21.5 million in cash, a price that represented 83 times annual earnings at Callard & Bowser. The Halifax and Bridgend sites employed 240 white collar staff and just over 400 hourly-paid employees. The Times reported that United Biscuits had acquired “one of the best-known and most traditional names in confectionery, famed for its butterscotch”.
United Biscuits integrated Callard & Bowser with their own Terry’s confectionery subsidiary, best known for the Chocolate Orange, to form the Terry’s Group. The merged business held three percent of the British sugar confectionery market.
United Biscuits did not advertise Callard & Bowser products, but instead investing in packaging design and product formulation. The strategy worked: a 29 percent share of the toffee market had grown to 34 percent by 1992.
Confectionery production was discontinued at Halifax in 1992.
Takeover by Kraft
United Biscuits sold the Terry’s Group to Kraft of Chicago in 1993.
Altoids had enjoyed considerable success in the United States from the late 1980s. Altoids were the highest selling peppermint in the United States by 1997, with annual sales of 40 million tins.
Riley’s Toffee Rolls were discontinued in the mid-1990s in order to accommodate increased Altoids production. Cream Line toffees were discontinued in 2001, and all production of toffee appears to have ended by 2003.
Sale to Wrigley
Kraft sold Callard & Bowser, along with its Lifesavers mint brand, to Wrigley of Chicago for $1.48 billion in 2004. The Bridgend factory exported 8,000 tonnes of Altoids to America every year.
Wrigley closed down the Bridgend plant with the loss of 173 jobs in 2005. 90 percent of production was exported to America, so it made economic sense to transfer manufacturing to the United States. The Callard & Bowser and Nuttall’s brands were discontinued, with the exception of Altoids.
American-manufactured Callard & Bowser Altoids are still available in Britain.
Terry’s is best known for its Chocolate Orange product. Terry’s is the ninth largest chocolate confectionery brand in Britain.
Balydon & Berry established a confectionery manufacturing business at York, England, in 1767. The business principally supplied chemists shops with candies and lozenges.
Joseph Terry (1793 – 1850) was the son of a baker from Pocklington, outside York. The Terry family were Anglicans. He trained as an apothecary and established a chemist’s shop at Walmgate in York.
Joseph Terry married Harriet, the sister in law of Robert Berry. Terry became involved in the Robert Berry & Co confectionery business.
William Balydon retired in 1821, and Robert Berry died in 1825. Joseph Terry divested his apothecary business and formed a partnership with George Berry, son of Robert Berry, to take over the confectionery business at St Helen’s Square. The two men traded as Terry & Berry.
Terry’s training as an apothecary and his upbringing in a baker’s shop gave him an excellent background for the confectionery business.
George Berry sold his stake in the business to Joseph Terry in 1828. Terry established retail agencies in 75 towns, mostly in the North of England and the Midlands, but also in London and Luton, during the 1830s. Joseph Terry & Co expanded rapidly throughout the 1840s.
Joseph Terry died in 1850, and after a brief period in custodianship, the business passed to his second son, Joseph Terry Jr (1828 – 1898) and his two younger brothers in 1854.
Joseph Terry & Sons was the second largest employer in York by 1851, with a 127-strong workforce.
Joseph Terry & Sons was producing chocolate confectionery by the 1860s.
Growing trade saw Joseph Terry & Sons establish a new steam-powered manufacturing site near Skeldergate Bridge in York from 1864.
Thomas Terry, the eldest son of Joseph Terry, became a partner from 1880. He developed an extensive export trade to new markets such as Australia and New Zealand.
Joseph Terry & Sons was best known for its candied peels. jujubes, pastilles, gum-based confectionery, lozenges and boiled sweets.
Joseph Terry was knighted in 1887 in recognition of his service as Lord Mayor of York.
A dedicated chocolate factory was established from 1888, with a staff of fifty.
Confectionery was the leading industry in York, with Joseph Terry & Sons at the forefront.
Joseph Terry & Sons was incorporated with a capital of £50,000 in 1895. The first directors were Sir Joseph Terry and Thomas W L Terry, and the business remained under family control. There were 300 employees.
The First World War was to prove a profitable time for the company. Many men picked up the habit of eating sweets during military service.
Joseph Terry & Sons had emerged as the national leader in chocolate assortment sales by the 1920s.
Joseph Terry & Sons acquired cocoa estates in the Venezuelan Andes in 1922, and palm trees were added to the Terry’s logo to reflect this. The estate produced the highly-regarded Criollo beans.
Terry’s relocated to a purpose-built factory at Bishopthorpe Road in York from 1926. The Chocolate Apple was introduced that year. The All Gold chocolate assortment was introduced from 1930 and the Chocolate Orange was produced from 1931. Originally, each Chocolate Orange was made with 22 cocoa beans.
Terry’s had a share capital of £812,490 (around £51 million in 2014) in 1934. Terry’s employed 2,500 people by 1937.
Terry’s was built up entirely from its own profits and with very little advertising. The first national press advertising campaign appeared in 1938.
Terry’s divested its Venezuelan estates in 1940.
A portion of the factory was requisitioned by the British government during the Second World War and became a repair site for Jablo propellers.
Cocoa supplies were limited in post-war Britain, and the Chocolate Apple was discontinued from 1954 in order to maintain production levels of the more popular Chocolate Orange line.
Sale by the family
Following the death of Francis Terry in 1960, rumours emerged that the family were willing to sell the company. Forte, a hotels and catering business, acquired Terry’s in an exchange of shares which valued the business at £4.25 million (around £78 million in 2014) in 1963. Noel Goddard Terry (1889 – 1980) joined the Forte board of directors.
Joseph Terry & Sons was considered a high-grade chocolate manufacturer, and was not an extensive advertiser. Forte was determined to increase the profitability of the business, and increased the advertising budget. Chocolate Orange sales rose three-fold between 1973 and 1976.
Joseph Terry & Sons and rival Rowntree employed over 15,000 people, or half of the working population of York, by the mid-1970s.
Forte required capital to acquire the hotel assets of J Lyons, and sold Terry’s to Colgate-Palmolive, the American consumer goods company, for £17.5 million in cash (around £95 million in 2014) in 1977.
The Terry’s All Gold chocolate assortment had been established as the leading product by the late 1970s. A Chocolate Lemon was briefly introduced in 1979.
Colgate sold Terry’s to United Biscuits for £24.5 million (around £75.5 million in 2014) as part of a drive to rationalise its business in 1982. United Biscuits planned to use its large distribution network in Britain, North America and Europe, to increase Terry’s sales.
United Biscuits invested heavily to internationalise its confectionery business, which it renamed Terry’s Group. It acquired Callard & Bowser of Bridgend, Wales, which had a large US export market, Chocometz in France, and Aura in Italy. A deal was agreed with Marabou of Norway to distribute Dime bars in the UK.
Terry’s grew substantially under United Biscuits. The business avoided direct competition with larger rivals such as Cadbury by focusing on the premium market.
The family connection to the company ended when Peter Terry retired as chairman in 1986.
Terry’s was the fourth largest chocolate manufacturer in Britain by 1993, and held five percent of the British confectionery market. Its main product lines were All Gold, Moonlight and Chocolate Orange. Eight million Chocolate Oranges were produced every year.
Kraft takeover and subsequent ownership
United Biscuits sold Terry’s to Kraft of Chicago for £220 million in 1993 in order to reduce debt and concentrate on biscuits and savoury snacks. The sale also included the United Biscuits confectionery business. There were 2,270 employees across the businesses, with 1,350 employed at Terry’s in York.
Kraft already maintained a presence in European confectionery through Suchard of Switzerland, manufacturer of Toblerone, and Marabou of Norway. The acquisition of Terry’s afforded the business an increased presence in the British market.
Kraft announced plans to increase exports at Terry’s. A Kraft spokesman suggested that the York site might be used to produce Suchard product lines such as Toblerone for the British market, although this ultimately did not occur.
The number of employees at Terry’s had been reduced from 1,350 to 775 by 1996. That year, Kraft announced that there would be a further 300 job losses, leaving a staff of 475.
Kraft phased out the lower-volume Terry’s product lines in 2002, leaving just All Gold, Twilight, Chocolate Orange and York Fruits.
Kraft closed the York site in 2005 with the loss of 316 full time jobs, and 150 seasonal jobs. Kraft explained that sales had declined between 2000 and 2004, mostly due to a decline in Chocolate Orange exports. This, together with the size and age of the Terry’s site, made production unviable. Production was transferred to plants in Poland and Slovakia.
The York Fruits brand was sold to Smith Kendon in 2008. The Terry’s name no longer appears on its packaging.
Kraft spun off its snacks and confectionery business as Mondelez in 2012.
The Terry’s Chocolate Orange was reduced in size in 2016, from 175 grams to 157 grams.
Mondelez sold Terry’s to Eurazeo in 2017. Production was relocated from Poland and Slovakia to France in 2018.
Mackintosh was the largest manufacturer of toffee in the world. The company introduced iconic brands such as Quality Street, Rolo and Toffee Crisp.
Violet Mackintosh creates a new toffee
John Mackintosh (1868 – 1920) and his wife Violet (1866 – 1932) opened a pastry shop in Halifax, Yorkshire, in 1890. The couple were lifelong members of the Methodist New Connexion denomination (United Methodist Church from 1907).
Business was to prove slow, so Violet Mackintosh invented a new product: a unique chewy toffee which blended the qualities of Yorkshire butterscotch and American caramel. Previously English toffee had referred to a hard boiled sweet.
The product was to prove a great success, and soon the product began to be distributed across Britain.
Mackintosh becomes the largest manufacturer of toffee in the world
John Mackintosh was the largest toffee manufacturer in the world by 1905. He sold an average of one hundred tons of toffee every week in England. He claimed to be the largest consumer of butter in the world.
Export sales proved promising, and Mackintosh established a factory in Germany, outside of Dusseldorf, from 1906.
A factory was opened at Brockville, Ontario in Canada in 1908. It had a manufacturing capacity of seven tons of toffee a day.
Over 8,000 tons of toffee were sold in Britain every year by 1910.
The German business was closed shortly before the First World War.
John Mackintosh Ltd employed some 1,000 people by 1914.
A factory had been established in Australia by 1914.
John Mackintosh died from a heart attack in 1920. He left an estate valued at over £150,000, and his company had assets of £350,000.
Control of the business passed to Harold Mackintosh (1891 – 1964), the eldest son of the founder.
Company shares were first offered to the public in 1921 in order to fund the duty on John Mackintosh’s estate.
Mackintosh could produce seven million pieces of toffee every day by 1921. The company employed 2,000 people in factories in Britain and overseas by 1932.
Acquisition of A J Caley and new product launches A J Caley, the Norwich chocolate manufacturer, was acquired from Unilever for £138,000 in 1933. The loss-making operation had a capital of £1 million and employed 1,000 people.
Mackintosh overhauled the business, repositioning it into the premium quality sector. Mackintosh combined its expertise in toffee with Caley’s expertise in chocolate. As a result, the Quality Street sweet tin was launched in 1936. This was quickly followed by the Rolo in 1937. The Rolo was designed to fit easily inside a pocket, and was an immediate success. A J Caley sales grew eightfold between 1933 and 1938.
Mackintosh supplied over 10,000 tons of confectionery to the British armed forces during the Second World War, principally toffee and butterscotch.
Quality Street had overtaken Mackintosh’s toffee to be regarded by the company as its premier product by the early 1950s. Rolo was perceived as an adequate rival to the foremost Cadbury and Rowntree lines.
Further product launches included Munchies (1957), Caramac (1959), Tooty Frooties and Toffee Crisp (both 1963) and Toffo (1964).
Mackintosh employed 5,000 people, including 2,000 at Norwich, by 1962. The company opened a new factory in Halifax, Yorkshire, in 1964.
Mackintosh became one of the “Big Five” of British chocolate manufacturers, alongside Cadbury, Rowntree, Mars and Nestle.
Fox’s of Leicester, manufacturer of Glacier Mints, was acquired for £1 million in cash in 1969.
Mackintosh merges with Rowntree
Mackintosh underwent a friendly merger with Rowntree of York to form Rowntree Mackintosh in 1969. At the time, Mackintosh shares were still majority held by family interests. Rowntree dominated the merger, which was seen as a defensive move following a £49 million bid for Rowntree from General Food of America. The merged company held 25 percent of the British confectionery market.
Quality Street had the largest sale of any confectionery assortment in the world by 1972.
Rowntree was acquired by Nestle of Switzerland in 1988. The Norwich factory was closed in 1994.
Toffo was discontinued in Britain in 2012. It continues to be manufactured and sold in the Middle East.
The Halifax factory continues to manufacture Quality Street, as well as Easter eggs and After Eights.
Mackintosh toffee is still sold in Canada and Australasia. It is also available in Britain as a variety within the Quality Street assortment.
Fox’s Glacier Mints are the leading mint-flavoured boiled sweets in Britain.
Walter Fox establishes the business
Walter Richard Fox (1862 – 1951) was born to a Baptist Leicestershire farming family. He built up a wholesale grocery business on York Road in Leicester.
Fox was an inventor, and began to manufacture confectionery from 1895. He was producing over 100 different lines by 1897.
Eric Fox joins the business and introduces Glacier Mints
Walter Fox was joined in business by his son, Eric Smart Fox (1890 – 1963), from 1914. Eric Fox had spent four years in the United States in order to learn American business methods and advertising techniques. Eric Fox became the driving force of the company, and persuaded his father to move away from low-cost sweets and produce premium-priced confectionery.
Eric Fox invented the Glacier Mint, a transparent peppermint, apparently by mistake, during the First World War. However the conflict prevented him from installing the necessary machinery to mass produce the product. Clear Mint Fingers were finally introduced from 1918, and were sold in large glass jars. Acting on his wife’s advice, Fox renamed the sweets Glacier Mints from 1919, and introduced the polar bear trademark. Fox believed in the potential of Glacier Mints, which soon became the leading product.
Eric Fox drove the growth of the company from a purely local business to a national concern. He advertised extensively in newspapers.
Expanding production saw the business relocate to Oxford Street, Leicester from 1923. Production was increased eightfold. The export market began to be pursued from 1924.
Eric Fox would later relate that he had not set out to make a lot of money, but to serve the public with a quality product.
Walter Fox retired from the business in 1935.
A factory was established in Castlereagh, Belfast, from 1954. Around 200 people were employed.
Fox’s Glacier Fruits were introduced from 1956.
Eric Smart Fox died with an estate valued at £150,000 in 1963. He was succeeded as chairman by his son, Bruce Vaughan Fox (born 1918).
The Castlereagh plant was closed with the loss of around 100 jobs in 1964.
The Fox family sell the business; subsequent owners
Fox’s relocated to purpose-built premises at Braunstone, Leicester, from 1967. It was the most modern automated confectionery plant in Europe. The business employed around 400 people.
Fox’s had taken on debt in order to build the new factory, and consequently lacked sufficient capital for expansion. The company was acquired by Mackintosh & Son of Halifax for almost £1 million in cash (around £14 million in 2014) in 1969. It was reasoned that Mackintosh would be able to improve distribution of Fox’s products and increase exports. Mackintosh was acquired by Rowntree later that year.
The Leicester factory began to produce the fruit-flavoured variants of Rowntree’s Polo mint brand from the 1980s.
Rowntree was acquired by Nestle of Switzerland in 1988.
Declining sales meant that the future of the Leicester factory was in doubt by 2000. The business was saved when it was acquired by Northern Foods for £8.4 million in 2001. Nestle relocated production of the fruit-flavoured Polo mints to a factory in the Czech Republic. Northern Foods closed its Croydon confectionery factory, and relocated production of Paynes Poppets and Just Brazils brands to the Leicester site.
Fox’s was subject to a £9.4 million management buyout in 2003. Renamed as the Big Bear Group, the business acquired other brands such as Sugar Puffs cereal.
Big Bear was acquired by Raiso Group of Finland for £80 million in 2011. Raiso was best known for the Benecol health drink.
Fox’s employed around 150 people in 2014. Its leading brands were Glacier Mints, XXX strong mints, Payne’s Poppets and Just Brazils.
Big Bear Confectionery was sold to Valeo Foods in 2017.
The Leicester factory was closed in 2019 and production was transferred to York.
Viennetta is produced at the Wall’s factory in Gloucester. Wall’s is owned by Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant. Unilever is the largest producer of ice cream in the world, and also manufactures the Magnum, Solero and Ben & Jerry’s brands.
Sales of Viennetta totalled £328 million worldwide in 2013, according to Euromonitor.
Viennetta is an ice cream imitation of the French millefeuille cake. Unilever saved money by adapting the product from a Belgian Cornetto recipe. The packaging was based on a German Christmas log manufactured by Langnese, another Unilever subsidiary. There are no imitations of Viennetta because the process by which it is produced is protected by patent.
Viennetta was introduced from 1982. It was originally sold only in the United Kingdom, and was a Christmas-only special. The launch was successful, and Viennetta was introduced as a year-round product from 1984. Such was its popularity that Unilever did not have to lobby supermarkets to stock the product, but instead the supermarkets lobbied them. Unilever was consequently able to achieve excellent margins on the product, which the supermarkets often sold as a loss-leader.
According to Professor Geoffrey Jones, Viennetta introduced the concept of the branded ice cream dessert. For the first time, ice cream was the main item of a dessert, and not just an accompaniment to something else on the bowl or plate.
Perhaps the product’s vaguely European-sounding name was considered sophisticated in the early 1980s. Viennetta’s star may be rising worldwide, but it has a reduced presence in its native UK. In 2014 value sales were far below what they were in 1990, not even accounting for inflation.
Cadbury is the second highest selling confectionery brand in the world after Wrigley’s chewing gum. Similar to the Coca-Cola Company, much of Cadbury’s success has been driven by a single product, the Dairy Milk bar. When someone says Cadbury, you instantly think of Dairy Milk, it’s purple packaging, and the famous “glass of milk and a half” slogan.
The Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate bar was introduced in 1905. Developed by George Cadbury Jr, it was the first milk chocolate bar to be mass produced in the UK. By 1914, it was the highest selling Cadbury line. The economies of mass production combined with rising incomes meant that the working classes could afford chocolate for the first time.
However, other manufacturers such as Fry and Rowntree soon caught up with Cadbury’s mass production methods. So why were none of their own product lines as successful as Dairy Milk? There is first mover advantage, yet it took seventy years for a product to seriously challenge Dairy Milk in the UK market. The Rowntree Yorkie bar made inroads in the 1970s, but has since faded somewhat. The Mars Bar built market share throughout the 1970 and 80s, largely because it retailed for half the price of Dairy Milk, so it was hardly battling on equal terms.
Why has Dairy Milk been so successful? There are two consistent brand selling points: Quality/Healthfulness and Luxury.
The brand has always been advertised as affordable luxury. Purple has been the dominant colour in the packaging since 1920. When you see purple on the shelf of the supermarket, you can be almost certain that it’s a Cadbury product. Purple reinforces the brand image: purple is regal and elegant and represents luxury. By dressing their product in purple regalia, Cadbury are expressing their confidence in the quality of their product. The packaging implies “Fit for Kings”, without the arrogance of explicitly saying so.
There is also an implicit ego boost associated with consuming a product that is “fit for royalty”. “You are good enough to consume this regal product”. The brand is egalitarian, which ties into the egalitarian nature of the Quakers, of which the Cadbury family were members.
This ties in with the original context of the product, which was offering the once luxury product, only affordable for the few, to the masses.
The luxury connotations of Dairy Milk reinforce the notion of a chocolate bar as a form of self-treating. The idea of chocolate as a reward, which is a powerful one, as consuming chocolate triggers the release of endorphins into the brain, which are the body’s “reward mechanisms”.
Since 1928, the product has been represented by the famous slogan, “A glass and a half”. This refers to the amount of milk (426ml) that a half pound (227g) bar of Dairy Milk contains. The slogan represents quality: no other competitor claims to contain as much milk, and milk is a simple, pure, quality ingredient.
Milk also suggests a certain amount of healthfulness. Milk grows bones and is/was given to schoolchildren. Milk is also a natural product, which counteracts the natural suspicions the individual may have regarding processed food.
Meanwhile, the name “Dairy” conjures up wholesome, rural imagery. The countryside has healthy and natural connotations. Interestingly, the second most successful Cadbury product after Dairy Milk is the Creme Egg, which also uses the double “dairy” imagery.
Dairy Milk line extensions continue to reinforce this image. To the modern consumer, “Fruit and Nut” and “Whole Nut” sound more like health bars or healthy cereals than high calorie confections. Again, fruits and nuts are products with healthy and natural connotations that professionals are always recommending we eat more of.
This healthfulness connotations help to allay the individual’s principal reason for not buying chocolate: it’s not good for you as it has a high sugar and fat content.