James Pascall was one of the largest sugar confectionery manufacturers in Britain. The company claimed to have invented the individually-wrapped bon-bon. Pascall remains a leading sweets brand in Australia.
James Pascall establishes the business
James Pascall (1838 – 1918) was born in the south London town of Croydon. He was the son of a baker and confectioner of Huguenot descent.
James Pascall worked as a salesman for Cadbury until 1866, when he established his own confectionery business in partnership with his brother Arthur Pascall. The two brothers had been taught how to make sweets by their father. The first premises was a small two room shop on Wells Street, off Oxford Street, London.
The business was to prove successful, and operations were relocated to a larger site at Valentine Place on Blackfriars Road from 1877.
Chocolate production was introduced from 1878.
The Blackfriars factory was largely rebuilt in 1895.
There were 300 employees, mostly women, by 1897.
A simple-minded employee deliberately burned down the factory in 1897, causing £20,000 worth of damage, and leaving only the offices intact. Rival confectionery manufacturers offered Pascall the use of their factories as a stop-gap measure.
By the turn of the century, one of the company’s most successful lines was Golden Maltex, a malt extract confectionery product. In marketing, the company focused on the purity of its products.
James Pascall is established as a limited company
James Pascall became a private limited company, with a capital of £50,000, from 1898.
Over 600 people were employed by 1902, and over 25 percent of production was exported.
James Pascall enjoyed strong relations with its staff. The standard working day was eight hours, and never more than ten hours, even during the busiest periods.
Expanding sales saw a new factory established at Mitcham in Surrey in 1904. The site offered ample opportunity for future expansion.
James Pascall employed over 2,000 people in Britain by 1915.
James Pascall acquired the licence to manufacture Life Savers for the British market from 1916.
Sydney Pascall and Edward Cassleton Elliott
James Pascall died in 1918 and his son, Sydney Pascall (1877 – 1949), was appointed as managing director and chairman.
James Pascall had a capital of £650,000 by 1920.
James Pascall formed a joint venture with Cadbury-Fry in the Australian market, and a factory was established at Hobart, Tasmania at a cost of between £300,000 to £400,000 in 1921. Wilfred Gover Pascall (1878 – 1958), the son of James Pascall, was appointed managing director of the operation.
The Queen and Princess Mary visited the Mitcham factory in 1921. The Prince of Wales awarded the company his royal warrant in 1922.
Company advertising in 1930 claimed that James Pascall was the originator of the individually-wrapped bon-bon.
James Pascall began to struggle with profit losses and an immense overdraft, and Sydney Pascall resigned as managing director in 1930, and as chairman in 1932, although he remained as a company director.
Edward Cassleton Elliott (1881 – 1964) was appointed chairman in 1932. He was what we would now term a business-turnaround specialist. Elliott reduced capital to £433,000, and soon returned the company to profitability.
The Blackfriars factory was destroyed in the Blitz during the Second World War.
The Mitcham factory employed around 1,000 people in 1949.
James Pascall made a profit before tax of nearly £500,000 in 1957. In both 1957 and 1958 an impressive dividend of 55 percent was paid out. The company had just over £2 million in assets by 1959.
Acquisition by Beecham and merger with R S Murray
James Pascall was acquired by Beecham for £2.5 million in cash in 1959. Pascall directors agreed to the deal, citing the pressure of increasing competition in the confectionery industry.
Beecham merged Pascall with its R S Murray confectionery subsidiary, best known for Murraymints, to create perhaps the fourth largest confectionery company in Britain. The production of Murray lines was concentrated at Mitcham.
The Chocolate Eclair product (chewy toffee with a milk chocolate centre) was introduced in 1960.
Pascall-Murray is acquired by Cadbury
Beecham chairman Henry George Lazell (1903 – 1982) explained, “we set up confectionery development laboratories, transferred some good marketing men, authorized development expenditure and an increased sales force and substantial advertising, but all to little effect”. Pascall-Murray lacked sufficient scale to make considerable profit, and Beecham decided to concentrate on its pharmaceuticals, soft drinks and toiletries businesses. Pascall-Murray was sold to Cadbury for £1.75 million in 1964.
The Pascall Chocolate Eclair was rebranded as Cadbury’s from 1965, and the filling was changed to Dairy Milk chocolate.
Cadbury marketed Pascall-Murray confectionery through its Fry subsidiary, and sales were buoyant, with the Mitcham factory working at full capacity.
Cadbury announced the closure of the Mitcham factory, which employed around 1,200 people, in 1970. Cadbury cited increased capacity at its other factories and persistent problems in sourcing sufficient labour at Mitcham. Production was largely transferred to Bristol, as well as Bournville.
The leading Pascall products in 1974 included Eclairs, Murraymints, bon-bons, fruit pastilles and marshmallows. Many of its sweets were sold in shops direct from the jar.
Cadbury expanded its confectionery subsidiary in 1989 with the acquisition of Bassett of Sheffield, best known for Liquorice Allsorts, and Trebor of London, best known for its mints.
Cadbury branded all of its fruit sweets under the Pascall name, and was introducing new Pascall branded products into the late 1990s.
Cadbury divested its British sugar sweets subsidiary to Tangerine Confectionery for £52 million in 2008.
Pascall products, such as bon-bons, have since been rebranded under the Bassett’s name in the UK. Pascall remains a major brand in Australia and New Zealand, where the brand survives as the sugar confectionery arm of Cadbury for that region.