KP is the second largest snack foods manufacturer in Britain.
Charles Kenyon establishes the business
Charles Kenyon (1832 – 1893) was born at Brierley in South Yorkshire. He served an apprenticeship to a confectioner in Barnsley.
Kenyon established a confectionery business on College Street, Rotherham, from 1853. His main manufacture was jam.
Kenyon relocated production to a larger site at Morpeth Street in Rotherham in order to meet increasing demand for his products. He was joined by his only son, Harry Kenyon (1862 – 1932), a warm and jovial man.
Charles Kenyon employed 27 people (five men, five boys, eight women and nine girls) by 1881.
Charles Kenyon was a conscientious, kind and generous man. He became an alderman in 1889, representing the Liberal party.
Kenyon, Son & Craven
Charles Kenyon was a keen Wesleyan Methodist, and 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 business was incorporated as Kenyon, Son & Craven. Pickles, sauces and confectionery were produced, as well as jam.
All production was centralised at Rotherham from 1930, and the Hull factory was divested. 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 acquires the business
Simon Heller (1906 – 1989) was born in Lithuania, and emigrated to Britain with his family as a child. He was proprietor of the Leeds-based Hercules Nut Company. Heller was appointed chairman of Kenyon, Son & Craven from 1943.
A new 40,000 sq ft factory was established at Eastwood in Rotherham from 1947.
Heller acquired Kenyon, Son & Craven in 1948, after his own factory in Leeds burned down. He began to produce roasted and salted hazelnuts.
KP salted peanuts were introduced from 1953, and soon achieved nationwide distribution.
Heller possessed a keen mathematical mind. He became a leading authority on nuts.
Kenyon, Son & Craven virtually created the salted peanut category in Britain, and achieved national dominance of KP Nuts with very little advertising. Production of jams and pickles were discontinued in order to focus on nut processing.
Kenyon, Son & Craven employed over 1,500 people by 1965.
Acquisition by United Biscuits
Kenyon, Son & Craven was acquired by United Biscuits for £3.5 million in 1968. Kenyon, Son & Craven was merged into Meredith & Drew, a United Biscuits subsidiary that it already supplied.
Kenyon Son & Craven was the largest nut processor in Europe by 1970. The peanuts were generally sourced from Malawi in Southeast Africa.
The following decades saw a number of important crisp launches, including Hula Hoops (1973), Skips (1974), Discos (1979), McCoy’s thick-ridged crisps (1985), budget-brand Space Raiders (1987), Frisps (1989) and Roysters bubble crisps (1992). Additionally, the Choc Dip product was introduced from 1982.
Simon Heller died in 1989 and left an estate valued at £3.8 million.
KP Foods acquired the Nik Naks and Wheat Crunchies brands in 2006.
KP Snacks was sold to Intersnack of Germany for around £500 million in 2012. The business employed around 1,500 people across factories in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Rotherham, and Billingham and Consett in County Durham.