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The fizzy history of Barratt & Co

Barratt & Co was once the largest sugar confectionery manufacturer in the world. Today it is best known for children’s confectionery products such as Sherbet Fountains and Dip Dabs.

George Osborne Barratt (1827 – 1906), a pastry cook, entered into partnership with his brother, James John Barratt (1825 – 1872) at 9 Albert Place, City Road, Shoreditch in 1848.

One day George Barratt sold some hard brandy snaps that were half-baked. These were to prove popular.

George Barratt relocated to Shepherdess Walk in Hoxton and established himself independently as a confectioner from 1852. He initially produced a few pounds of sweets a day, and was assisted by his wife and one employee, a sugar boiler.

Barratt’s next success was “coconut chips”; grated coconut coated in crystallised sugar. Barratt then had success with various types of rock confectionery.

The breakthrough for the business occurred when Barratt accidentally invented a new type of toffee. Branded as “Stickjaw”, he targeted the working class market with low prices.

Barratt was always more of an inventor than a skilled producer of sweets himself.

No’s 9 and 10 were occupied at Shepherdess Walk by 1864, to give Barratt factories on both sides of the street.

One of the Shepherdess Walk factories was destroyed by fire in 1883. Around 500 people were employed by this time.

Barratt was one of the largest manufacturers of jam and confectionery in London by 1884.

Another fire occurred at Barratt’s factories at 30 and 32 Shepherdess Walk in 1885.

The factory employed 600 people by 1890. That year around 200 staff, mostly young men and women, went on strike.

Barratt had 2,000 employees by 1899. That year, the factory was struck by fire, causing £100,000 worth of damage.

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

Barratt was the largest confectionery manufacturer in the world by 1906. The company employed nearly 2,000 people and produced 350 tons of sweets every week, across a site of nearly five acres.

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

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

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

There were 2,000 employees by 1913.

The Sherbet Fountain was introduced from 1925.

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

The Dip Dab was introduced from 1940.

Barratt was acquired by George Bassett of Sheffield for almost £4 million in 1966.

The Wood Green factory was closed with the loss of 750 jobs in 1975. The closure was due to labour sourcing issues and an outdated factory.

Bassett was acquired by Cadbury in 1989.

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

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