Payne’s are best known for Poppets, a chocolate-coated toffee confectionery.
George Daniel Payne (1845 – 1927) was a forthright figure. He was a tea buyer and blender for Brooke Bond.
Payne established himself as a tea and coffee blender in 1896. The factory was at Queen Elizabeth Street, Tower Bridge, Bermondsey. James Finlay & Co, a Scottish tea merchant, held a 30 percent stake in George Payne & Co.
George Payne & Co packed tea for J Sainsbury, a grocery chain for which it introduced the Red Label brand, from 1903.
Expansion into cocoa in 1905 led to their entrance into the confectionery market from 1910. To accommodate increased production, the Tower Bridge factory was extended to five storeys.
A new confectionery factory was opened at Croydon Road, Beddington in 1919. It prospered by concentrating on a limited number of product lines.
George Daniel Payne died in 1927 and left a gross estate valued at £81,491.
The Tower Bridge factory burned down in 1929 and had to be rebuilt.
The Poppets trademark was first registered in 1936. Poppets quickly became one of the firm’s leading products. The firm continued to have a significant own-label tea and coffee packaging business.
George Payne & Co employed 500 people by the late 1930s.
Robert Henry Payne (1892 – 1946), chairman and managing director of George Payne & Co, died in 1946 with an estate valued at £163,567.
Following the death of R H Payne, James Finlay & Co increased its stake in the firm to take overall control.
The Tower Bridge site was closed in 1990 and tea processing was relocated to a new site near Doncaster, Yorkshire.
In 1996 Just Brazils was a top ten boxed chocolate, and Poppets was the eighth highest selling children’s confectionery.
The Payne’s confectionery business was acquired by Northern Foods for £10 million in 1998.
According to research by Candy Industry magazine, George Payne & Co was the 48th largest confectionery manufacturer in the world in 2000. It had an annual turnover of $120 million, and employed 500 people.
The Beddington factory was closed in 2001, with the loss of 157 jobs. The site was outdated, with limited potential for growth, and production was relocated to Leicester.
Northern Foods sold its confectionery arm, including Fox’s glacier mints as well as Payne’s, to Big Bear for £9.4 million in 2003.