Category Archives: Confectionery

Sticky situation: James Keiller & Son

James Keiller & Son was the world’s leading marmalade manufacturer throughout much of the nineteenth century.

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

From the 1760s Janet Keiller operated a small confectionery business at Seagate, Dundee, where she produced jams. She modified a quince recipe to create “chip” (shredded peel) marmalade. It was believed that the addition of orange peel aided digestion.

Her son James Keiller (1775 – 1839) took over in 1797, and the business assumed his name. Marmalade was just one of their many 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 small. Alexander Keiller was a warm but reserved man, with steely determination. He moved the premises to Castle Street in 1845. He increased production with the introduction of steam-powered machinery. By 1851 he employed 60 people.

In the 1850s Keiller established a dedicated bakery department.

“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”.

Keiller was the largest confectioner in Britain by 1869. Around 300 people were employed at the Dundee site. John Mitchell Keiller assumed control of the company in 1877, following the death of his father.

Following the abolition of sugar duty in 1871, manufacturing offshore lost its rationale. The Guernsey operation was relocated to Tay Wharf at Silvertown, London in 1879. J M Keiller used the opportunity to oust his uncle William, and install his junior partner, 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 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 gave 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.

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.

In 1908 James Keiller & Son had a capital of £400,000, and company assets were valued at £443,000. Around 2,000 people were employed in 1914.

Keiller was sending 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 in 1918 sold his entire shareholding. 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. Keiller’s managing director, Robert Boyd, became chairman of C&B. The amalgamation gave C&B between 17 and 20 percent of the British jam market. Keiller continued to operate 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. In 1921 Keiller was described as the largest preserve manufacturer in the world.

The collapse of the post-war 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 after 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 was claiming to be the original creator of the Dundee cake by 1929. Dundee cake was the bakery division’s highest selling line, 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 in 1932.

All Keiller chocolate and confectionery production was centralised at Dundee from 1935, taking the number employed to around 900. In 1947 the Albert Square factory was closed, and production was relocated to new premises in the city at Maryfield.

By 1946 Keiller operation a chain of bakeries around the Dundee area. In 1948 Keiller opened its first retail shop in Blairgowrie, Scotland.

By the 1950s, shortbread was the company’s highest selling export. America, the Middle East and the Far East were the principal overseas markets.

Keiller preserves manufacture was transferred from Silvertown to Dundee in 1952, leaving Silvertown to produce Crosse & Blackwell branded goods.

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 of Paisley and Frank Cooper’s of Oxford in marmalade, and by Hartley’s, Chivers and Wilkins 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 Keiller began to lose money after a decline in sales and Nestle announced plans to close the factory. Sales were down so badly that the marmalade line only operated a half day a week.

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. In 1988 B&D sold the Keiller preserves brand to Rank Hovis McDougall, 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.

In 1988 Barker & Dobson sold its confectionery arm to Alma Holdings, the fourth largest confectionery company in Britain, for £40 million. 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 from a family of prosperous non-conformist London bakers. Members of the Callard family had been London bakers since the seventeenth century.

Callard became a master baker himself, and 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.

Control of the business had passed to Daniel’s 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.

Guinness hired a Major Allnatt to build up a confectionery subsidiary in 1951. Allnatt acquired an 80 percent stake in Callard & Bowser and William Nuttall of Doncaster, best known for its Mintoes boiled sweet. The remaining 20 percent stake was purchased in 1957. Allnatt also added Rileys of Halifax (best known for their Toffee Rolls) and Lavells, a confectionery store chain.

A factory on Silverdale Road at Hayes in Middlesex was acquired in 1956. Guinness acquired Rolls Confectionery of Greenford, Middlesex from J Lyons & Co in 1961. The confectionery subsidiary took on the Callard & Bowser name but had its headquarters in Halifax.

By the early 1960s, Edward Sharp & Sons, J A & P Holland, Callard & Bowser and Mackintosh controlled over half of the British toffee market.

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. In 1981 the Nuttall factory in Doncaster was closed down and production was transferred to Halifax. Following the closure C&B employed 1,186 people.

In 1981 the company had sales of £17 million.

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, 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. In 1987 combined sales totalled just under £24 million (about £59 million in 2014). Around half of all production was exported to 65 different countries.

In 1988, in an attempt to reduce debt, Beatrice sold Callard & Bowser to United Biscuits for £21.5 million in cash (about £50.4 million in 2014). By this time there were only two manufacturing plants remaining, Halifax and Bridgend. They employed 240 white collar staff and just over 400 hourly paid employees. The Times reported that UB 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 3 percent of the British sugar confectionery market. In 1991 C&B claimed 33 percent of the UK toffee market. Confectionery production ended at Halifax in 1992. In 1993 UB sold its confectionery operations to Kraft of Chicago.

From the late 1980s, the company had a major success in exporting its Altoids Curiously Strong Mints to America. Packaged in distinctive metal boxes, by 1997 40 million tins were produced every year. Riley’s Toffee Rolls were discontinued in the mid-1990s in favour of increased Altoids production. Cream Line toffees were discontinued in 2001.

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

In 2005 Wrigley closed down the Bridgend plant 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.

Wrigley inform me that Callard & Bowser branded Altoids are still sold in Tesco and Morrison’s in Britain, but they are now manufactured in America.

It’s not Terry’s, it’s Mondelez’s

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

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 was built up entirely from its own profits and with practically no advertising. In 1934 it had a share capital of £812,490 (around £51 million in 2014). In 1937 Terry’s employed 2,500 people.

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

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.

After Francis Terry died in 1960, rumours emerged that the family was willing to sell the company. In 1963 the hotels group Forte acquired Terry’s for £4.25 million (around £78 million in 2014). 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.

In 1977 Forte required funding to acquire the hotel assets of J Lyons. It sold Terry’s to the American consumer goods giant Colgate-Palmolive for £17.5 million in cash (around £95 million in 2014). By this time All Gold had been established as the leading Terry’s brand. In 1976, against a hot summer, Terry’s had made £2 million profit against a turnover of £22 million.

In 1979 a Chocolate Lemon was briefly introduced.

In 1982 the British company United Biscuits acquired Terry’s for £24.5 million (around £75.5 million in 2014). In 1981 Terry’s made pre-tax profits of £2.7 million against a turnover of £42.1 million. The book value of Terry’s net tangible assets was £20.5 million. United Biscuits reasoned 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 ended in 1986, when Peter Terry retired as chairman.

Terry’s was sold to Kraft 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 slashed from 1,350 to 775 by 1996. That year, Kraft announced that there would be a further 300 job losses, taking the total to 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.

In 2015 it was reported that Mondelez are 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 opened a pastry shop in Halifax, Yorkshire, in 1890. A hard-working and persevering man, Mackintosh was a loyal lifelong member of the Methodist New Connexion denomination (United Methodist Church from 1907).

Always keen to increase sales, Mackintosh invented his own unique chewy toffee which blended the qualities of Yorkshire butterscotch and American caramel. Previously English toffee had referred to a hard boiled sweet.

Aided by heavy advertising, the product was a great success, and Mackintosh began to distribute his product across Britain.

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 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.

Mackintosh toffee is still sold in Canada and Australasia. It is also available in Britain as Toffo and 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 in 1895 he began to manufacture confectionery. He was producing over 100 different lines by 1897.

The business eventually passed to Eric Smart Fox (1890 – 1963), the son of Walter. 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.

With a limited advertising budget, Fox’s displayed a 1.5 metre high stuffed polar bear at football matches and carnivals to promote the product until the 1960s.

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 moved to purpose-built premises in Braunstone, Leicester in 1965.

By the late 1960s the company was in debt and losing money. It was acquired in 1969 by Mackintosh & Son of Halifax, Yorkshire for almost £1 million in cash (around £14 million in 2014). 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.

Fox’s employs 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
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.

Viennetta
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.