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.