Category Archives: Confectionery

Sticky situation: James Keiller & Son

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.

A modern day jar of Keiller orange marmalade (for export only!)
Keiller marmalade jar (2016)

“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 for export manufacture in 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 disappointing, and Alexander eventually bought out his brother’s third share in James Keiller & Son.

By the 1860s, Keiller was filling millions of these earthenware pots every year. They were made by Maling of Newcastle upon Tyne.
By the 1860s, Keiller was filling millions of these earthenware pots every year. They were made by Maling of Newcastle upon Tyne.

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.

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 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 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.

Nestle and beyond
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 had been overtaken by Robertson’s and Frank Cooper’s in marmalade, and by Hartley’s, Chivers and Wilkin in jams by the 1970s.

Keiller was in the top six confectionery manufacturers in Britain in 1980, employing 320 people with a four percent market share. However sales declined, and Keiller began to lose money. The marmalade line operated for just one half day a week. Nestle announced plans to close the factory.

Okhai of Dundee stepped in to acquire the company, with a reduced workforce of 145. Okhai transformed 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. B&D sold the Keiller preserves brand to Rank Hovis McDougall in 1988, who owned the Robertson’s preserves company, for £4.9 million. The preserves arm had employed a mere 14 staff, and production was relocated to the Robertson site in Manchester.

Barker & Dobson sold its confectionery arm to Alma Holdings, the fourth largest confectionery company in Britain, for £40 million in 1988. Alma relocated its headquarters to Dundee where it invested £8.5 million to transform the Keiller factory into one of Europe’s most modern confectionery plants. The high cost of borrowing saw Alma enter receivership in 1992. Keiller was the market leader in butterscotch at this time.

The Keiller and Barker & Dobson brands were acquired by Craven of York for £3 million. The company subsequently renamed itself Craven Keiller. It was the third largest sugar confectioner in Britain after 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 is produced by Hain Celestial at Histon, Cambridgeshire, for export only, to markets such as America, Australia and New Zealand.

A breath of fresh air: Callard & Bowser

Callard & Bowser was an English confectioner that specialised in butterscotch and toffee.

Daniel James Callard (1824 – 1903) was born to a family of prosperous non-conformist London bakers. Members of the Callard family had been bakers in the metropolis since the seventeenth century.

Callard became a master baker himself, and had entered into partnership with his brother-in-law, John Carrick Bowser (1828 – 1912) by 1855.

The two men established a wholesale grocery business at St John’s Wood. The firm initially manufactured infant formula, before concentrating on confectionery from 1861.

Callard bought out Bowser in 1872, but continued to trade under the by now 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 low.

Callard & Bowser had “agents in all parts of the world” and their butterscotch was “sold by most confectioners” according to an 1872 advertisement. Daniel Callard received the 80th trademark issued in Britain in 1876. The thistle logo would adorn his butterscotch into the twentieth century.

Callard employed five men, one boys and 35 girls by 1881.

Daniel Callard had passed control of the business to his son, James Percival Callard (1859 – 1940), by 1891.

Expansion had seen the business move to Euston by 1894.

Daniel James Callard died in 1903 with an estate valued at £99,570 (around £11 million in 2015).

A 1907 analysis for the British Medical Journal highly recommended the company’s butterscotch, which it found to consist of 11.7 percent butter fat and 79.3 percent sugar.

Production was relocated to Western Avenue at Park Royal, adjacent to the Guinness brewery, in the 1930s. The high-selling “Cream Line” toffee was introduced in 1937.

Callard & Bowser was acquired by Guinness, who wanted to build a confectionery subsidiary, in 1951. Guinness also acquired William Nuttall of Doncaster, best known for its Mintoes boiled sweet, Rileys of Halifax (best known for their Toffee Rolls) and Lavells, a confectionery store chain. The confectionery subsidiary took on the Callard & Bowser name but had its headquarters in Halifax.

Guinness acquired a factory on Silverdale Road at Hayes, Middlesex in 1956. Rolls Confectionery of Greenford, Middlesex was purchased from J Lyons & Co in 1961.

Through investment in machinery and increased exports, sales grew significantly following the Guinness takeover.

Edward Sharp & Sons, J A & P Holland, Callard & Bowser and Mackintosh controlled over half of the British toffee market by the early 1960s. Callard & Bowser was not an extensive advertiser, and instead concentrated on developing strong relationships with wholesalers and retailers.

The Park Royal factory closed in the 1970s. The Nuttall factory in Doncaster was closed down in 1981 and production was transferred to Halifax.

Callard & Bowser employed 1,186 people and had annual sales of £17 million by 1981.

Guinness sold Callard & Bowser to Beatrice Foods of Chicago for £4 million in 1982, as part of a drive to focus on its core brewing operation. Beatrice owned the Smith Kendon confectionery group of Bridgend in Wales, manufacturer of Altoids Curiously Strong Mints, and it became a subsidiary of Callard & Bowser.

High business rates and an ageing factory saw the Hayes site closed down in 1983, with the loss of 500 jobs. The South Wales site had opened in 1974, but in 1984 it was thoroughly modernised and re-opened by Princess Diana.

Callard & Bowser claimed 25 percent of the UK toffee market by 1985. Combined sales in 1987 totalled just under £24 million. Around half of all production was exported to 65 different countries.

In an attempt to reduce debt, Beatrice Foods sold Callard & Bowser to United Biscuits for £21.5 million in cash in 1988. By this time there were only two manufacturing plants remaining, Halifax and Bridgend. The sites employed 240 white collar staff and just over 400 hourly-paid employees. The Times commented that United Biscuits had acquired “one of the best-known and most traditional names in confectionery, famed for its butterscotch”.

Callard & Bowser was fully integrated with United Biscuits’s own Terry’s confectionery company to form the Terrys Group. The combined group had three percent of the British sugar confectionery market. Callard & Bowser claimed 33 percent of the UK toffee market in 1991.

Confectionery production was discontinued at Halifax in 1992.

United Biscuits sold its confectionery operations to Kraft of Chicago in 1993.

Beginning in Seattle, Altoids Curiously Strong Mints enjoyed considerable success in America from the late 1980s. Packaged in distinctive metal boxes, it was the highest selling peppermint in the USA by 1997, with an annual sale of 40 million tins.

Riley’s Toffee Rolls were discontinued in the mid-1990s to accommodate increased Altoids production. Cream Line toffees were discontinued in 2001, and all production of toffee appears to have ended by 2003.

Kraft sold Callard & Bowser, along with its Lifesavers mint brand, to Wrigley of Chicago for $1.48 billion in 2004. By this time Bridgend was shipping 8,000 tonnes of Altoids to America every year.

Wrigley closed down the Bridgend plant in 2005 with the loss of 173 jobs. Wrigley explained the 90 percent of production was being exported to the US, so it was more economical to transfer production there. With the exception of Altoids, the Callard & Bowser and Nuttall’s brands were discontinued.

Callard & Bowser branded Altoids are still available in Britain, but they are now manufactured in America.

It’s not Terry’s, it’s Mondelez’s

Terry’s is the ninth largest chocolate confectionery brand in Britain. Best known for the Chocolate Orange, Terry’s is currently owned by Mondelez.

For much of the twentieth century there were four major chocolate manufacturers in Britain: Cadbury-Fry, Rowntree, Mars and Terry’s. Terry’s held between two and five percent of the British chocolate market. It was considered to be more upmarket than its higher-selling rivals.

Early history
Terry’s traces its origins to 1767, with the foundation of the Balydon & Berry confectionery business in York, England. They established premises in St Helen’s Square.

Joseph Terry (1793 – 1850) was the son of a baker from Pocklington, outside York. He received his training as an apothecary and established a chemist’s shop at Walmgate in York. Terry married Harriet, the sister in law of Robert Berry. After William Balydon left the business, Terry joined to form the partnership of Terry & Berry. His training as an apothecary and his upbringing in a baker’s shop gave him an excellent background for the confectionery business.

Robert Berry died, and his son George sold his stake in the business to Terry in 1828. During the 1830s Terry established retail agencies in 75 towns, mostly in the North of England and the Midlands, but also in London and Luton. The company rapidly expanded 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. The business was the second largest employer in York by 1851, with 127 workers.

The firm was producing chocolate confectionery by the 1860s. Terry opened a new steam-powered manufacturing site in York in 1864. Joseph’s eldest son, Thomas, became a partner after 1880. He developed the export trade to new markets such as Australia and New Zealand. A dedicated chocolate factory was opened in 1886.

The business was incorporated as Joseph Terry & Sons Ltd in 1895, by which time it had 300 employees.

Terry’s had emerged as the leader in chocolate assortment sales by the 1920s.

Terry’s 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 high quality Criollo beans.

The Bishopthorpe Road factory was established in 1926

Terry’s relocated to a purpose-built factory at Bishopthorpe Road in York from 1926. Its two most iconic products were first produced at the site, All Gold in 1930 and Chocolate Orange in 1931. Originally, each Chocolate Orange was made with 22 cocoa beans. The Chocolate Orange was preceded by the Chocolate Apple, introduced in 1926.

Terry’s had a share capital of £812,490 (around £51 million in 2014) in 1934. Terry’s employed 2,500 people in 1937.

A 1936 brochure advertises the Chocolate Apple and the Chocolate Orange
A 1936 brochure advertises the Chocolate Apple and the Chocolate Orange

Terry’s was built up entirely from its own profits and with practically no advertising. The first national press advertising campaign appeared in 1938.

During World War II part of the factory was requisitioned by the government and became a repair site for Jablo propellers. Terry’s sold its Venezuelan estates in 1940.

The Chocolate Apple was discontinued in 1954 as cocoa supplies were limited in post-war Britain, and Terry’s wanted to concentrate on 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, the hotels group, acquired Terry’s for £4.25 million (around £78 million in 2014) in 1963. At this time the company was still not an extensive advertiser and was considered a high-grade chocolate manufacturer.

Forte increased advertising, and between 1973 and 1976 trebled the sales of Chocolate Orange. Against a hot summer, Terry’s made a £2 million profit against a turnover of £22 million in 1976.

Forte required funding to acquire the hotel assets of J Lyons. Forte 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.

Terry’s made pre-tax profits of £2.7 million against a turnover of £42.1 million in 1981.

United Biscuits acquired Terry’s for £24.5 million (around £75.5 million in 2014) in 1982. The book value of Terry’s net tangible assets was £20.5 million. United Biscuits determined that it would be able to improve Terry’s sales through its large distribution network, both in Britain and overseas.

United Biscuits invested heavily to internationalise its confectionery business, which it renamed Terrys Group. It acquired Callard & Bowser at 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.

The family connection to the company ended when Peter Terry retired as chairman in 1986.

Kraft takeover
Terry’s was sold to Kraft of Chicago for £220 million in 1993. It was the fourth largest chocolate company in Britain. Its main lines were All Gold, Moonlight and Chocolate Orange. 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.

By this time eight million Chocolate Oranges were produced every year. A Kraft spokesman suggested that the Terry’s factory might be used to produce Suchard product lines such as Toblerone for the UK market (this never happened).

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 changed the brand name from “Terry’s of York” to “Terry’s”. Kraft phased out all 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 and moved production to Poland, with the loss of 316 full time jobs, and 150 seasonal jobs. Kraft explained that volumes had declined between 2000 and 2004, mostly due to reduced export sales of Chocolate Orange. This, together with the size and age of the Terry’s site, made production unviable.

The York Fruits brand was sold to Smith Kendon in 2008. The Terry’s name no longer appears on its packaging.

Many looked back warily to the closure of Terry’s when Kraft acquired Cadbury in 2010. Kraft spun off its snacks business as Mondelez in 2012.

It was reported in 2015 that Mondelez were exploring a sale of the Terry’s brand.

Chewing it over: Mackintosh toffee

Mackintosh was the largest manufacturer of toffee in the world. The company introduced iconic brands such as Quality Street, Rolo and Toffee Crisp.

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 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.

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 in 1906 Mackintosh opened a factory in Germany, outside of Dusseldorf.

In 1908 a factory was opened at Brockville, Ontario in Canada. 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. John Mackintosh Ltd employed some 1,000 people by 1914. By 1914 a factory had been established in Australia.

John Mackintosh died from a heart attack in 1920. He left over £150,000, and his company had assets of £350,000. In 1921 the company went public in order to pay estate duty.

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.

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 was now able to combine 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.

By the early 1950s, Quality Street had overtaken Mackintosh’s toffee to be regarded by the company as its premier product. Rolo was perceived as an adequate rival to the foremost Cadbury and Rowntree lines. The company employed 4,000 people by 1953.

Further product launches included Munchies (1957), Caramac (1959), Tooty Frooties and Toffee Crisp (both 1963) and Toffo (1964).

By 1962 Mackintosh employed 5,000 people, including 2,000 at Norwich. The company opened a new factory in Halifax in 1964.

Fox’s of Leicester, manufacturer of Glacier Mints, was acquired for £1 million in cash in 1969.

Later in 1969, Mackintosh underwent a friendly merger with Rowntree of York to form Rowntree Mackintosh. 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 UK 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. The Halifax factory continues to manufacture Quality Street, as well as Easter eggs and After Eights.

Toffo was discontinued in Britain in 2012.

Mackintosh toffee is still sold in Canada and Australasia. It is also available in Britain as a variety within the Quality Street assortment.

Buy polar: Fox’s Glacier Mints

Fox’s Glacier Mints is the leading boiled mint brand in Britain.

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 he began to manufacture confectionery from 1895. He was producing over 100 different lines by 1897.

The business eventually passed to his son, Eric Smart Fox (1890 – 1963). He had received training in the new American business methods and advertising techniques.

Fox invented the Glacier Mint, by mistake in 1918. The transparent peppermints were originally called Clear Mint Fingers, and sold in large glass jars. Acting on his wife’s advice, Fox renamed the sweets Glacier Mints in 1919.

Expanding production saw the business move to Oxford Street, Leicester from 1923.

Fox’s Glacier Fruits were introduced in 1956.

The company employed 200 people by 1960.

Eric Smart Fox died in 1963 and left £150,000 in his will (around £2.7 million in 2014).

The company closed a manufacturing plant in Castlereagh, Belfast in Northern Ireland, with the loss of around 100 jobs in 1964.

The company relocated to purpose-built premises in Braunstone, Leicester from 1965.

The company was in debt and losing money by the late 1960s. It was acquired by Mackintosh & Son of Halifax, Yorkshire for almost £1 million in cash (around £14 million in 2014) in 1969. Later that same year, Mackintosh was acquired by Rowntree. Rowntree Mackintosh soon restored Fox’s to profitability.

From the 1980s, the Leicester factory began to produce the fruit-flavoured variants of Rowntree’s popular Polo mint brand.

Rowntree was acquired by Nestle of Switzerland in 1988.

Declining sales saw Nestle consider closing the Leicester factory, before Northern Foods offered £8.4 million for the business in 2001. Nestle relocated production of the fruit-flavoured Polo mints to a factory in the Czech Republic. Meanwhile Northern Foods concentrated its confectionery business at the Leicester factory, closing its Croydon plant and bringing the Paynes Poppets and Just Brazils brands to Fox’s.

Fox’s was subject to a management buyout for £9.4 million in 2003. Called the Big Bear Group, it acquired other brands such as Sugar Puffs cereal. Big Bear was acquired by Raiso Group of Finland for £80 million in 2011. Raiso own the Benecol health drink brand.

Big Bear Confectionery was sold to Valeo Foods in 2017.

Fox’s employed around 150 people as of 2014. Its other brands include XXX strong mints, Payne’s Poppets and Just Brazils.

Viennetta: the first branded ice cream dessert

A look into the background of Wall’s Viennetta.

Viennetta is produced by Wall’s in Gloucester, who also sell the Magnum and Solero brand ice creams. Wall’s is in turn owned by Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant. Unilever is the largest producer of ice cream in the world, and also owns the Ben & Jerry’s brand.


Worldwide sales of Viennetta totalled £328 million in 2013, according to Euromonitor.

There are no imitations of Viennetta because the process by which it is produced is protected by patent. The product is actually 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.

A French millefeuille cake

Viennetta was first launched in the UK in 1982. Originally it was a Christmas-only special. However, it proved so successful that it was launched year-round in 1984. Unusually for Unilever, they did not have to lobby supermarkets to stock the product, instead, the supermarkets lobbied them. Unilever was consequently able to achieve excellent margins for itself 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 is 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 Dairy Milk

Cadbury Dairy Milk

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.