T Wall & Sons was the largest ice cream manufacturer in the world.
Richard Wall (1777/8 – 1838), pork butcher, was apprenticed to Edmund Cotterill, a pork butcher in St James’ Market, London. He became a partner, and was the sole proprietor from 1807.
Richard Wall received his first Royal Appointment as “pork butcher to the Prince of Wales” in 1812. This was renewed when the prince succeeded as George IV in 1820, and by William IV in 1830.
Richard Wall leased larger premises at 113 Jermyn Street from 1834.
Wall died in 1838 and was succeeded by his widow, and then his son, Thomas Wall (1817 – 1884).
Thomas Wall Jr (1846 – 1930) became partner in 1870. He was joined by his brother Frederick C Wall (1855 – 1924) from 1878 and the firm became known as Thomas Wall & Sons.
Thomas and Frederick Wall transformed the firm into the best-known sausage business in Britain. Queen Victoria was supplied with sausages on a weekly basis from the Jermyn Street shop. The sausages for the monarch had a special recipe including freshly laid eggs and hand-chopped mince.
The firm was beginning to wholesale across Britain by 1900. Increasing demand saw a factory opened at Battersea in 1903.
The business was registered as T Wall & Sons Ltd in 1905, when it acquired an Acton rival.
The six acre Friary House and grounds in Acton was acquired in 1919, and a large sausage factory was built there.
William Hesketh Lever (1851 – 1925) acquired the company in 1920. He sold the business to Lever Brothers in 1922, which from 1929 became a part of Unilever. At Lever’s request, the company began to produce ice cream during the summer months, when sausage sales slacked off. Production began in 1922 at a rate of 150 gallons a week.
Thomas Wall Jr was devoted to charities dedicated to the education of young people. The capital released from the sale of his company allowed him to established the Thomas Wall Trust, with capital of £233,000, to fund students at schools and universities. Wall died in 1930 with an estate valued at £288,116. The bulk of his estate went to the Thomas Wall Trust.
Seven million tons of ice cream were produced in 1945.
T Wall & Sons was the largest manufacturer of sausages and meat pies in Britain by 1954. They had a factory at Willesden.
A new sausage factory was opened at Godley, Cheshire in 1955. It had a weekly output of 350 tons.
Much of the meat business was relocated to Atlas Road, Park Royal, London from 1956, with Acton left to concentrate on ice cream production. The Acton factory employed 4,000 people by 1960.
20 million tons of ice cream were produced every year by 1960, and Wall’s was the largest manufacturer of ice cream in the world.
Mattessons, a processed meat manufacturer, was acquired in 1965.
Robert Lawson & Sons of Aberdeen was acquired for £2.6 million in 1965. Lawson had the largest bacon factory in Scotland, and had a valuable contract to supply Marks & Spencer.
C & E Morton was a large packaged food producer. Its workers established Millwall Football Club.
John Thomas Morton (1828 – 1897) established a small factory producing preserved foods in Aberdeen in 1849. He had established a base in London by 1851. Almost all production by J T Morton was for the export market.
Morton was a dedicated Puritan, and devoutly observed the Sabbath. He was a reserved man, with very few close associates. His only known sentiment was towards his mother. He was emotionally hard, but just and honest.
The head office was relocated to Leadenhall Street in the City of London in 1866.
A factory was established at Millwall around 1872, in a former oil factory belong to Price & Co. Millwall Football Club was established by J T Morton tinsmiths in 1885.
The Aberdeen factory employed hundreds of workers by the 1880s.
An additional factory had been established at Falmouth, Cornwall by 1897.
When John Thomas Morton died in 1897 he was an extremely wealthy man. He left an estate valued at £714,186. He dedicated over half of his wealth to churches and charities. His manager, who had been with the company for nearly 40 years, and helped to build his fortune, received nothing.
The business was inherited by his two sons, Charles Douglas Morton (1861 – 1944) and Edward Donald Morton (1866 – 1940). The two men had previously worked as underwriters for Lloyd’s, the insurance business. A curious codicil of their father’s will was that the two sons were not allowed to trade under the J T Morton name, so the firm became known as C & E Morton.
C D Morton was an energetic and generous man. The two brothers established agents in overseas markets, which increased sales. They travelled the world extensively to attend to their overseas trade.
C & E Morton was a substantial supplier of food to the military during the Boer War.
C & E Morton was registered as a public company with a capital of £650,000 in 1912. There were premises at Leadenhall Street, Millwall, Lowestoft, Aberdeen and Mevagissy, Polruan and West Looe in Cornwall.
1,500 workers at the Millwall factory went on strike in March 1914, in protest against girls under the age of 18 being hired, which they argued threatened to undercut their wages. The strike resulted in a victory for the workers.
Morton was singular among preserved provisions manufacturers in normally refusing to hire under 18 year olds. They claimed that they had been driven to do so because of difficulties in sourcing sufficient labour. They also asserted that their factory workers were among the highest paid in London.
During the First World War the company continued to pay half wages to its staff who were serving in the armed forces.
There were plans for Crosse & Blackwell to acquire C & E Morton in 1926, but the proposed deal fell through due to an uncertain economic climate.
Increasing import tariffs overseas hurt the business during the 1930s. Factories were established overseas to circumvent these charges.
There were three large factories at Millwall, Cubitt Town and Lowestoft in 1939. Thousands of people were employed. The Lowestoft site was the largest herring cannery in Britain.
E D Morton died in 1940 and left an estate valued at £213,295.
Beecham, a large consumer goods group, acquired the struggling C & E Morton for £180,000 in 1945. Beecham concentrated production at Lowestoft.
Morton Brands was sold to Hillsdown Holdings for £8.5 million in 1986. The Lowestoft factory produced tinned vegetables and fruit fillings. 160 people were employed and the assets had a book value of £6 million.
The Lowestoft factory was closed down in 1988, and the Morton brand name was phased out.
The Morton brand name is still used for tinned goods in India, although the former subsidiary has been independent since 1947.
Sharwood’s is the leading Asian food brand in Britain.
James Allen Sharwood (1859 – 1941) was born in Islington, London. He was named for his grandfather, a prosperous Fenchurch Street wholesale druggist.
Sharwood’s mother was a Scottish schoolmistress, who instilled in him the importance of paying attention to details.
Sharwood’s father was an excellent chemist, but a spoiled man. He spent extravagantly, and was sent to debtor’s prison after he was declared bankrupt in 1864. His marriage ended in divorce. J A Sharwood was to meet his father only once, in 1890, before he died in the workhouse in 1894.
J A Sharwood attended the Heath Mount School in Hampstead, and then went on to work in the City of London. He initially worked in insurance, before working as a manager for a wine and spirits distributor.
J A Sharwood established himself as a wholesale grocer on Carter Lane from 1888. Green Label mango chutney was introduced a year later.
Sharwood was to prove himself intelligent, hard-working, and innovative. He had a keen interest in overseas travel and was fluent in French and German.
Sharwood was introduced by a family friend to Lord Dufferin (1826 – 1902), the Viceroy of India. Dufferin asked Sharwood to bring his French chef some supplies from Europe.
Legend has it that the grateful chef recommended that Sharwood visit P Vencatachellum at No. 1 Popham’s Broadway in Madras. Vencatachellum made a famed curry powder, which blended stone-ground turmeric from Chittagong, coriander from Kerala, chillis from Orissa, and four secret ingredients. The mix impressed Sharwood, and he arranged to distribute “Vencat” curry powder in Britain from 1893.
J A Sharwood was incorporated as a limited company with capital of £50,000 in 1899. A factory, the Offley Works, was established at Vauxhall.
White Label Worcestershire Sauce was the main product by 1900. It was aged for five years.
F A Bovill & Co of City Road, London, a preserve manufacturer, was acquired in 1900.
J A Sharwood supplied the prestigious Cunard ocean liners with foodstuffs from 1902.
Sharwood had retired by 1927 and settled in Cape Town, South Africa.
J A Sharwood was advertising itself as “the largest dealers in Indian condiments in the world” by 1933.
Sharwood died in 1941 and his effects in England were valued at £7,296.
Cerebos, a British foods company, acquired J A Sharwood for £982,047 in 1962. The Offley Works were divested and production was relocated to Greatham, Hartlepool.
Sharwood’s dominated the chutney market by the 1970s.
Sharwood’s had a Royal Warrant from Queen Elizabeth II, to supply chutney and curry powder, by 1975.
Sharwood’s sales doubled between 1989 and 1994, as the British market for Indian groceries grew. Sharwood’s held 74 percent of the mango chutney market by 1991.
The Greatham factory was closed in 2001, and Sharwood’s production was relocated to Wythenshawe, Manchester.
RHM was acquired by Premier Foods for £1.2 billion in 2007. The Wythenshawe factory was closed in 2009, and Sharwood’s production was relocated to Worksop, Nottinghamshire.
According to food blogger Gareth Jones, the Sharwood archive was accidentally disposed of by a rookie marketer, and is no more.
United Biscuits produces McVitie’s Digestives, Jaffa Cakes, Jacob’s cream crackers and Carr’s water biscuits.
Two Scottish biscuit manufacturers, McVitie & Price and Macfarlane Lang merged in 1948 to form United Biscuits, with a capital of £3.5 million. The businesses continued to trade under their respective names.
The Harlesden, North London, facility became the first fully-automated biscuit factory in the world in 1948, increasing output by 1000 percent.
McVitie & Price produced around 450 different products in 1939. This had been streamlined to about twelve major lines, with corresponding cost efficiencies, by 1959.
United Biscuits held nearly 70 percent of the digestive biscuit market by 1959. It was also a leader in the sale of Rich Tea biscuits.
United Biscuits was the largest biscuit manufacturer in Britain by 1962.
William Crawford & Sons, the largest privately-owned biscuit manufacturer in the United Kingdom, was acquired in 1962 in a mostly share-based transaction which valued the company at £5.9 million.
United Biscuits increased its capital from £9 million to £13 million in 1963. Hector Laing (1923 -2010) became managing director of United Biscuits in 1964.
United Biscuits entered the packaged cake market in 1964. The company had taken a 14 percent share of the market by 1968, winning market share from J Lyons.
William Macdonald & Sons of Glasgow was acquired in 1965 for £2.8 million in cash and shares. The firm had introduced the Penguin chocolate-coated biscuit in 1932. It was experiencing strong growth, and held almost 20 percent of British chocolate biscuit exports.
The United Biscuits subsidiaries were absorbed into a single operating company in 1965. The company announced plans to close four of its nine factories, and to greatly increase production at Glasgow and Liverpool in 1966.
The McVitie & Price factory in Edinburgh was closed in 1967 with the loss of 541 jobs. The Macdonald factory at North Cardonald, Glasgow was closed with the loss of 497 jobs. The Crawford factory in Leith was closed in 1970 with the loss of 703 jobs, and the Macdonald factory at Hillington, Glasgow was closed with the loss of 497 jobs. The factories that were closed had no room for expansion, and it made economic sense to rationalise production at a smaller number of larger sites.
The Macfarlane Lang factory at Tollcross, Glasgow was doubled in size at a cost of £2.3 million in 1969. The labour force was increased from 250 to 1,350. The factory would supply the Scotland, Northern Ireland and North of England markets.
The Crawford factory at Liverpool increased capacity by 50 percent following a £2 million investment in the 1970.
Sales of the McVitie’s brand doubled between 1962 and 1967, and McVitie’s had by far the most brand recognition in its category. The McVitie’s Chocolate Home Wheat (a chocolate digestive) was its highest seller.
Meredith & Drew was acquired in 1967. Following the acquisition, United Biscuits produced over one third of all biscuits consumed in Britain.
Kenyon, Son & Craven, with the KP salted peanuts brand, was acquired in 1968 in a share exchange which valued the private company at £3.5 million.
United Biscuits was the largest biscuit manufacturing company in Europe by 1969.
Hector Laing became company chairman in 1972. That year, United Biscuits took over the biscuit interests of Cavenham, which included Carr’s of Carlisle and Wright’s of South Shields for £4 million in cash.
The South Shields factory was closed in 1973 with the loss of 823 jobs.
A total of four factories and four offices were closed in the early 1970s in a spate of rationalisation. The McVitie, Crawford and Macfarlane sales teams were merged in the early 1970s.
United Biscuits acquired Keebler, the second largest US biscuit manufacturer, in 1974.
United Biscuits employed 36,000 people in 1976. Its products were sold in 92 countries. The company controlled 41.6 percent of the British biscuit market, and boasted eight out of the ten highest selling products.
Not every venture was a success however, and United Biscuits was prepared to admit defeat when appropriate; in 1977 the company withdrew from the packaged cakes market.
By 1978 United Biscuits sold 75 million biscuits every day.
In 1980 it was announced that the former Macfarlane Lang factory at Osterley, West London would be closed with the loss of 2,000 jobs.
The Hobnob biscuit was introduced in 1985.
In an admission of defeat in the American snacks market, Keebler was divested for $500 million in 1995.
United Biscuits employed 22,500 people in 22 countries in 1999.
Jacob’s, a Liverpool biscuit manufacturer, was acquired from Danone of France for £200 million in 2004.
United Biscuits was acquired by private equity firms Blackstone and PAI Partners for £1.6 billion in 2006.
In 2012 the snacks division of United Biscuits, including Hula Hoops crisps and KP nuts, was sold to Intersnack of Germany, manufacturer of Pom-Bear crisps and Penn State pretzels, for £504 million.
In 2013 United Biscuits was sold to Yildiz Holding of Istanbul for over £2 billion to create the third largest biscuit manufacturer in the world, behind Mondelez and Kellogg.
From 2014 United Biscuits rebranded all of its sweet biscuits under the McVitie’s name, and all of its savoury biscuits under the Jacob’s name. McVitie’s gained the Club, Fig Rolls, BN and Iced Gems products from Jacob’s, whilst Jacob’s gained the Cheddars snacks products. The Crawford’s name was repositioned as a value brand, and products such as Family Circle were rebranded as McVitie’s.
As of 2017 the Harlesden site is the largest biscuit factory in Europe. The facility employs 580 workers. 22 different lines are produced, including Digestives, Hob Nobs and Mini Cheddars.
Today, the KP brand is best known for peanuts, crisps and chocolate dip pots.
Charles Kenyon (1832 – 1893) was born at Brierley, South Yorkshire. He served an apprenticeship to a confectioner in Barnsley, before establishing his own business on College Street, Rotherham, from 1853. His principal product was jam.
Kenyon relocated production to Morpeth Street in Rotherham to cope with increasing demand, and was joined by his son, Harry Kenyon (1862 – 1932). He employed 27 people (five men, five boys, eight women and nine girls) by 1881.
Charles Kenyon became an alderman, representing the Liberal party. A keen Wesleyan Methodist, it was through the church that he met Matthew Smith Craven (1845 – 1923), who produced jam at a large factory on Scarborough Street, Hull.
Kenyon and Craven merged their interests in 1891, and the firm was incorporated as Kenyon, Son & Craven. Pickles, sauces and confectionery were produced, as well as jam.
The Hull factory was divested in 1930, and all production was centralised at Rotherham. The reduced overheads allowed the company to reduce its capital from £50,000 to £25,000.
Harry Kenyon died in 1932, and left a net personalty of £829.
Simon Heller (1906 – 1989) of the Leeds-based Hercules Nut Company became chairman in 1943. A new 40,000 sq ft factory at Eastwood, Rotherham was established in 1947. After his own factory in Leeds burned down, Heller acquired Kenyon, Son & Craven in 1948, and began to produce roasted and salted hazelnuts.
KP salted peanuts were introduced from 1953, and soon achieved nationwide distribution.
Kenyon, Son & Craven virtually created the salted peanut category in Britain, and achieved national dominance of KP Nuts with very little advertising. Manufacture of other products was discontinued in order to concentrate on peanuts.
Kenyon, Son & Craven employed over 1,500 people by 1965.
Kenyon, Son & Craven was acquired by United Biscuits in 1968 in a share exchange which valued the private company at £3.5 million.
Kenyon Son & Craven was the largest nut processor in Europe by 1970.
Simon Heller died in 1989 and left an estate valued at £3.8 million.
H J Packer was the largest low-cost chocolate manufacturer in the world.
Packer and Burrows
Edward Packer (1848 – 1887) was a Quaker who worked for J S Fry & Sons of Bristol, a chocolate manufacturer, in the 1870s.
Edward Packer left Fry to commence chocolate manufacture for himself in 1881. He worked from his house at 11 Armory Square, and was assisted by his wife. Soon he employed eight people.
Packer entered into partnership with Henry John Burrows (born 1853). Unfortunately, trade immediately declined, and all employees other than members of the Packer family had to be laid off. The partnership was dissolved leaving Burrows as sole proprietor from 1884. Burrows added his own initials to the company name, and began trading as H J Packer & Co.
Caleb Bruce Cole
Caleb Bruce Cole (1862 -1912) was a confectionery salesman in Bristol. He was impressed during his contact with H J Packer & Co, and borrowed £1,000 from his father to acquire the business in 1886. Around nine people were employed.
Cole identified a gap in the market, and began to manufacture high quality chocolate at an affordable price. The chocolates found a keen market among children.
Cole subverted the notion that low-cost food production need sacrifice standards of cleanliness or provision for the workforce.
In 1896 Cole was joined by his brother Horace, and William John Mansfield (1846 -1912) was employed as general manager.
A new factory was opened at Greenbank, Bristol in 1903. It covered four acres and was the largest low-cost chocolate factory in the world. Greenbank was situated on a major railway line, which allowed for convenient distribution. Two large dining halls, each with a capacity of 400 people were erected, and food was available to workers at cost price.
H J Packer & Co became a limited company from 1908.
Carsons Ltd of Glasgow, with a share capital of £50,000, was acquired in January 1912. A high quality manufacturer, Carsons had been the first company to introduce tray chocolates.
Charles Bruce Cole died in June 1912. A progressive man, he was described as quiet and likeable. He left an estate valued at £259,937.
H J Packer & Co had a capital of £750,000 and employed 1,000 people by 1912.
A dedicated Carsons chocolate factory was opened in Bristol in 1913.
Packers was the fourth largest chocolate manufacturer in Britain by 1922, and the largest manufacturer of low-cost chocolate in the world.
The company struggled during the Great Depression.
The Carsons factory was divested in 1960 due to overcapacity.
The company name was changed to Carsons Ltd from 1962. The Carsons brand had become well known as Britain’s largest producer of chocolate liqueurs, filled with some of the leading spirits, liqueur and fortified wine brands in the world.
Until 1961 liqueur chocolates could only be sold from licensed premises. This opening up of the market provided an opportunity.
Cavenham Foods, managed by James Goldsmith (1933 – 1997), gained control of Carsons in 1964.
Goldsmith modernised the Carsons plant. He then retired all of the Carsons chocolate lines except for liqueurs, the only sector of the market which was experiencing a growth in sales. The liqueur chocolate market was largely dominated by imported brands such as Lindt, Ringer, Rademaker and Trumpf.
Carsons held over 29 percent of the liqueur chocolate market by 1966. This was achieved with minimal advertising. Instead Carson’s benefited from the advertising campaigns of spirits brands that were inside their chocolates; names such as Harvey’s Bristol Cream and Hennessey cognac.
Carsons liqueurs were being marketed under the Famous Names brand by 1966.
Elizabeth Shaw, an upmarket chocolate manufacturer, was acquired in 1968.
Carsons held over 40 percent of the British chocolate liqueur market by the late 1970s.
Cavenham Confectionery was subject to a management buyout in 1981, and the company was renamed Famous Names Ltd. It was acquired by Imperial Tobacco in 1985.
Management bought control of Famous Names Ltd in 1988, and the company was renamed Elizabeth Shaw Ltd. Elizabeth Shaw Ltd was acquired by Leaf of Finland in 1990.
Elizabeth Shaw closed its outdated Greenbank factory in 2006. Production was relocated to factories across Britain and Europe.
Epps was the leading brand of cocoa in Victorian Britain.
James Epps (1821 – 1907) was the son of a Calvinist London merchant.
His brother, Dr John Epps (1805 – 1869), was one of the pioneers of homeopathy in Britain. He established premises at Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, and was joined by his brother James from 1837.
Epps’ cocoa was first sold from 1839 for the use of patients for whom tea and coffee were restricted. It was an instant cocoa powder, made by adding hot water or milk.
The almost prohibitive duty on cocoa was greatly reduced in 1832, allowing the market to grow exponentially. Easily prepared cocoa had been difficult to procure, and the fat in the raw material was unpalatable for many. Dr John Epps discovered a way to make it more appetising, mixing the cocoa with 20 percent West Indies arrowroot and 13 percent sugar.
Dr John Epps was not the first person to invent soluble cocoa powder, but James Epps was largely responsible for presenting the product to the mass market.
He heavily advertised Epps’ Cocoa, and by 1855 had coined a distinctive slogan, “grateful and comforting”.
Epps’ Cocoa was initially produced under contract by Daniel Dunn of Pentonville Road, who had invented instant cocoa powder in 1819.
Epps had established his own factory at 398 Euston Road, London by 1863. He installed his nephew, Hahnemann Epps (1843 – 1916), as manager.
A new steam-powered works was established at Holland Street, Blackfriars in 1878. Epps was the largest cocoa powder producer in Britain, with an output of nearly five million pounds a year. At its peak the firm processed half of all cocoa imports into Britain.
A short and slight man, James Epps kept a low public profile, unlike his gregarious brother John. He was known only for his work in business, and had few outside interests. He allowed his portrait to be taken only once, and not once did he grant an interview or issue a public statement. He was a hard worker, keen on a bargain, and somewhat controlling. Despite his massive wealth he lived in an unfashionable area of London.
The business was converted into a private joint stock limited company in 1893 known as James Epps & Co. The directors were James Epps, Hahnemann Epps and James Epps Jr (1856 – 1905), and the company had a capital of £200,000. The company remained under family control, and no shares were offered to the public.
Epps’ Cocoa had been overtaken in sales by Dr Tibbles’ Vi-Cocoa and Rowntree by 1898.
James Epps Jr (also known as Willie James Epps), the only son of James Epps, died of a heart attack in Jamaica in 1905. His gross estate was valued at £162,422.
James Epps died in 1907 and his gross estate was valued at £735,387. This was a larger estate than contemporaries in the food industry such as Jeremiah James Colman (1830 – 1898), Alfred Bird (1849 – 1922) or James Horlick (1844 – 1921).
The estate was inherited by his nieces and nephews, principally James Washington Epps (1874 -1955). Hahnemann Epps became chairman and James W Epps became managing director of James Epps & Co.
Taylor Brothers Ltd, a London cocoa manufacturer, was acquired in 1907.
Epps’ Cocoa powder had been reformulated to include 44 percent sugar, 40 percent cocoa and 16 percent West Indies arrowroot by 1924.
James Epps & Co was acquired by Rowntree of York in 1926 for £70,000. The Epps factory was closed in 1930, and the manufacture of Epps products was transferred to Whitefields Ltd of Plaistow.
Frank Cooper’s is one of the best known marmalade brands in Britain.
Frank Cooper (1844 – 1927), owned a grocery business on 83-84 High Street, Oxford, formerly the premises of the Angel Hotel. His wife Sarah (1848 – 1932) filled the first jars of Frank Cooper marmalade in 1874, using a recipe from her mother.
Sarah Cooper continued to produce the marmalade in the kitchen of the Angel Hotel, Oxford, until she entered into retirement in 1899. Production was relocated to a purpose-built factory on Park End Street, Oxford in 1901.
The business was registered as Frank Cooper Ltd in 1913. The company had a Royal Warrant from the King by 1914.
Sarah Cooper died in 1932. In an obituary the Yorkshire Post described her as the founder of the company.
Frank Cooper Ltd employed about 100 people by 1938.
Production of the marmalade was relocated to Botley Road, Oxford, in the former premises of an ice rink, in 1947.
Secret agent James Bond consumes Frank Cooper’s marmalade in From Russia With Love (1957) by Ian Fleming.
One quarter of the company’s capital of £350,000 was offered to the public in 1961, it’s first public offering.
An eleven acre site was acquired at Wantage to provide additional production capacity in 1963. Around 15 percent of production was exported overseas by 1964.
Frank Cooper Ltd was acquired by Brown & Polson for £866,250 in cash in 1964. The company cited increasing costs and a lack of capital as its motivation for agreeing to the takeover.
Brown & Polson was able to afford Frank Cooper’s range of five marmalades and eleven jams and jellies wider distribution.
Frank Cooper production was relocated to the Brown & Polson factory in Paisley, Scotland in 1967.
The company continued to operate the original Oxford shop, which latterly also functioned as a museum, until its closure in 1992.
Heinz acquired the Frank Cooper’s brand in 1997. By this time the product was manufactured at a site in Redditch, Worcestershire.
Frank Cooper’s was later acquired by Rank Hovis McDougall, a large British consumer foods group. RHM was acquired by Premier Foods in 2006. Premier sold its sweet spreads business to Hain Celestial in 2012.
This article continues from Part I. Part II chronicles the decline of Huntley & Palmers.
Registered as a company
George Palmer (1818 – 1897), the driving force behind the firm, died in 1897 and the following year Huntley & Palmers was registered as a private limited company. The company had 4,000 employees in 1899.
Huntley & Palmers was the 38th largest British industrial company in 1905, with a capital of £2.4 million (c. £255 million in 2014). It had 6,500 employees.
Iced gems were introduced in 1910.
As late as 1910, Huntley & Palmers largely eschewed advertising.
Huntley & Palmers had a regular staff of 7,000 by 1911, plus additional staff during peak times. That year the company was accused of dismissing without notice workers who were affiliated with trade unions, although company officials denied the accusation.
By 1914 almost half of production was exported, 50 percent of which was destined for the Far East and Africa.
The company supplied the British army with hard tack biscuits during the First World War.
The export trade was slow to rebuild after the First World War; in 1924 only 25 percent of output was exported. Meanwhile, domestic sales declined as H&P failed to introduce new products or update existing ones. Marketing was poor, with inadequate advertising, fewer salesman than other firms and no depots outside Reading.
It has been argued that Huntley & Palmers had too many product lines to produce efficiently, and that the Palmer family paid themselves overly generous dividends and salaries, funds which might otherwise have been reinvested into the business.
By 1920 Huntley & Palmers operated 24 acres of factories across 36 acres of floorspace. 90 percent of the thousands of tons of flour used annually was grown and milled in the area around Reading. The Osborne (similar to a digestive) was their most popular biscuit, followed by the Marie (rich tea) and the Ginger Nut.
Associated Biscuit Manufacturers
High income tax and death duties persuaded H&P to merge with Peek Frean of Bermondsey, under a holding company called Associated Biscuit Manufacturers, in 1921. Individual production and marketing strategies were maintained by the two companies.
By neglecting the commodity category of the biscuit market, ABM’s domestic market share had declined to 15 percent.
William Howard Palmer died in 1923 with an estate valued at £536,794.
A factory was opened near Paris in 1923. At the time it was decried in Britain as the transfer of jobs overseas.
80 percent of the 6,000 strong workforce at the Reading factory went on strike in 1924. The dispute, regarding worker efficiency, was settled within three days after Huntley & Palmers agreed to recognise the worker’s union.
Peek Frean turnover and profits had exceeded those of Huntley & Palmers by 1927. Peek Frean installed automated biscuit plants in the early 1930s, but H&P did not do so until 1938.
ABM employed 7,245 people in 1935.
Two large rivals emerged: the value biscuit manufacturer George Weston had established production volumes that equalled ABM by 1938. In 1948 the Scottish firms McVitie & Price and MacFarlane Lang merged to form United Biscuits, with 3,350 employees.
Factories were opened in Canada, the United States and Australia in 1949. The Reading factory employed 3,000 people in 1954. A new factory was opened in Huyton, Liverpool in 1955.
The Cornish Wafer was H&P’s highest selling biscuit by 1954. Associated Biscuits concentrated on cream, savoury and assorted biscuits. Around 15 to 20 percent of production was exported in 1959.
Jacob’s joins Associated Biscuit Manufacturers Jacob’s, the third largest biscuit manufacturer in Britain, was acquired by ABM in 1960. ABM was reorganised as Associated Biscuits in 1969.
AB employed 9,856 people in 1972. From 1972 the company dedicated the vast majority of its advertising spend to the Jacob’s brand. One third of sales came from overseas, with factories in Australia, Canada and India.
Associated Biscuits had an 18 percent share of the British biscuit market in 1976. It was behind United Biscuits with 40 percent.
The Reading factory was closed, with production relocated to Liverpool and Bermondsey, in 1976. Associated Biscuits claimed that the 21-acre site was “surplus to requirements”, and it was sold for £4 million in 1979.
Overseas production was dedicated to British-style biscuits. Digestives and shortcakes were popular in Canada, whilst the Indian market preferred cream crackers and Thin Arrowroot.
In 1982 Associated Biscuits employed over 14,000 people in Britain, and 3,100 overseas.
Acquisition by Nabisco
Nabisco, the American manufacturer of Shredded Wheat and Ritz crackers, acquired Associated Biscuits in 1982. Nabisco was interested in the Huntley & Palmers brand, as well as its worldwide distribution network, particularly in Singapore, Canada, France and Germany.
The five Associated Biscuits factories in Britain were operating at half to two thirds capacity, and the business became loss-making. The Huyton factory was closed with the loss of 770 jobs in 1984, and production was relocated to Aintree, Liverpool.
Huntley & Palmers was positioned as the Associated Biscuits premium sweet biscuit brand. However it accounted for just five percent of company production by weight by 1988.
Nabisco did not successfully manage their British biscuit operations. Their market share in biscuits declined to 11.7 percent by 1988, and they were forced to reverse their decision to discontinue production of Bath Oliver biscuits following popular protest.
The Peek Frean factory at Bermondsey was closed in 1989 with the loss of 1,022 jobs. The site was closed due to high overheads and traffic congestion. Production was transferred to Aintree and Leicestershire.
Takeover by BSN
Associated Biscuits was acquired by BSN of France in 1989.
The Huntley & Palmers brand was phased out in favour of the Jacob’s name in 1990. It made sense to concentrate resources behind a single brand, and the Jacob’s name was better known, and believed to have a more contemporary image than the Huntley & Palmers brand. Huntley & Palmers products subjected to a re-branding included Romany and Crumbles.
The head office was relocated from Reading to Liverpool in 1996.
Sale to United Biscuits
BSN (now called Danone) sold its UK and Irish biscuit operations to United Biscuits for £200 million in 2004.
Former Huntley & Palmers products such as Lemon Puffs and Cornish Wafers are still sold under the Jacob’s brand, and Thin Arrowroots under the McVitie’s name.
Huntley & Palmers biscuits are still produced in New Zealand.
Since around 2018 the Huntley & Palmers brand in the United Kingdom appears to have been acquired by Freemans Confectionery, a Walsall-based confectionery wholesaler, who use the brand to market own-label products such as cakes.
R S Murray & Co introduced American style caramels to Britain, but remains best-known for Murray Mints.
Robert Stuart Murray (1854 – 1912), a confectionery salesman from Chicago, Illinois, found a ready sale for his American style caramels, made from milk or cream and sugar, in Victorian England.
Strong demand for the imported caramels saw Murray establish a factory at 67 Turnmill Street, Clerkenwell, London in 1882. He was joined in partnership by Charles Hubbard and Walter Michael Price (1826 – 1919).
£8,000 worth of caramel producing machinery was imported from America. The factory employed 300 workers, and five to six tons of confectionery were produced on a daily basis.
R S Murray & Co was registered as a limited company with a capital of £50,000 in 1900.
The company had diversified into chocolate manufacturing by 1906.
There was a strike at R S Murray & Co in 1911. The largely female strikers were supported by the women’s’ rights campaigner Mary Macarthur (1880 – 1921).
Robert Stuart Murray died in 1912 with an estate valued at £22,844. Herbert John Norton (1874 – 1958) was nominated managing director.
The works covered over three acres by 1914, and a staff of 1,500 to 2,000 was employed.
After the First World War, Norton was nominated chairman.
A chocolate manufacturing subsidiary was established in Australia in 1920, located at De Carle Street, East Brunswick, a suburb of Melbourne.
A manufacturing presence was established in Ireland as a joint venture called Clarnico Murray from 1926.
The Australian factory employed over 300 people by 1931. Rowntree of York and Murray merged their Australian interests into a joint venture from 1934.