A history of Terry’s of York

Terry’s is the ninth largest chocolate confectionery brand in Britain and is best known for the Chocolate Orange.

Early history
Balydon & Berry established a confectionery manufacturing business at York, England, in 1767. The business principally supplied candies and lozenges to chemists shops.

Joseph Terry (1793 – 1850) was the son of a baker from Pocklington, outside York. The Terry family were Anglicans. He trained as an apothecary and established a chemist’s shop at Walmgate in York.

Joseph Terry married Harriet, the sister in law of Robert Berry. Terry became involved in the Robert Berry & Co confectionery business.

William Balydon retired in 1821, and Robert Berry died in 1825. Joseph Terry divested his apothecary business and formed a partnership with George Berry, son of Robert Berry, to take over the confectionery business at St Helen’s Square. The two men traded as Terry & Berry.

Terry’s training as an apothecary and his upbringing in a baker’s shop gave him an excellent background for the confectionery business.

George Berry sold his stake in the business to Joseph Terry in 1828. Terry established retail agencies in 75 towns, mostly in the North of England and the Midlands, but also in London and Luton, during the 1830s. Joseph Terry & Co expanded rapidly throughout the 1840s.

Joseph Terry died in 1850, and after a brief period in custodianship, the business passed to his second son, Joseph Terry Jr (1828 – 1898) and his two younger brothers in 1854.

Joseph Terry & Sons was the second largest employer in York by 1851, with a 127-strong workforce.

Joseph Terry & Sons was producing chocolate confectionery by the 1860s.

Growing trade saw Joseph Terry & Sons establish a new steam-powered manufacturing site near Skeldergate Bridge in York from 1864.

Thomas Terry, the eldest son of Joseph Terry, became a partner from 1880. He developed an extensive export trade to new markets such as Australia and New Zealand.

Joseph Terry & Sons was best known for its candied peels. jujubes, pastilles, gum-based confectionery, lozenges and boiled sweets.

Joseph Terry was knighted in 1887 in recognition of his service as Lord Mayor of York.

Sir Joseph Terry (1828 – 1898) by George Fall (1897). Image used with permission from York Mansion House and Guildhall, via Art UK.

A dedicated chocolate factory was established from 1888, with a staff of fifty.

Confectionery was the leading industry in York, with Joseph Terry & Sons at the forefront.

Joseph Terry & Sons was incorporated with a capital of £50,000 in 1895. The first directors were Sir Joseph Terry and Thomas W L Terry, and the business remained under family control. There were 300 employees.

The First World War was to prove a profitable time for the company. Many men picked up the habit of eating sweets during military service.

Joseph Terry & Sons had emerged as the national leader in chocolate assortment sales by the 1920s.

Joseph Terry & Sons acquired cocoa estates in the Venezuelan Andes in 1922, and palm trees were added to the Terry’s logo to reflect this. The estate produced the highly-regarded Criollo beans.

The Bishopthorpe Road factory was established in 1926

Terry’s relocated to a purpose-built factory at Bishopthorpe Road in York from 1926. The Chocolate Apple was introduced that year. The All Gold chocolate assortment was introduced from 1930 and the Chocolate Orange was produced from 1931. Originally, each Chocolate Orange was made with 22 cocoa beans.

Terry’s had a share capital of £812,490 (around £51 million in 2014) in 1934. Terry’s employed 2,500 people by 1937.

Terry’s was built up entirely from its own profits and with very little advertising. The first national press advertising campaign appeared in 1938.

Terry’s divested its Venezuelan estates in 1940.

A portion of the factory was requisitioned by the British government during the Second World War and became a repair site for Jablo propellers.

Cocoa supplies were limited in post-war Britain, and the Chocolate Apple was discontinued from 1954 in order to maintain production levels of the more popular Chocolate Orange line.

Sale by the family
Following the death of Francis Terry in 1960, rumours emerged that the family were willing to sell the company. Forte, a hotels and catering business, acquired Terry’s in an exchange of shares which valued the business at £4.25 million (around £78 million in 2014) in 1963. Noel Goddard Terry (1889 – 1980) joined the Forte board of directors.

Forte installed new machinery and methods to dramatically increase production. The advertising budget was increased. 3,600 employees were reduced to 2,300. The profitability of the business was significantly improved.

Chocolate Orange sales rose three-fold between 1973 and 1976.

Forte required capital to acquire the hotel assets of J Lyons, and sold Terry’s to Colgate-Palmolive, the American consumer goods company, for £17.5 million in cash (around £95 million in 2014) in 1977. Around 2,000 people were employed.

The Terry’s All Gold chocolate assortment had been established as the leading product by the late 1970s. A Chocolate Lemon was briefly introduced in 1979.

59 office jobs were lost in 1981 due to declining sales.

A 1936 brochure advertises the Chocolate Apple and the Chocolate Orange
A 1936 brochure advertises the Chocolate Apple and the Chocolate Orange

Colgate sold Terry’s to United Biscuits for £24.5 million (around £75.5 million in 2014) as part of a drive to rationalise its business in 1982. United Biscuits planned to use its large distribution network in Britain, North America and Europe, to increase Terry’s sales.

United Biscuits invested heavily to internationalise its confectionery business, which it renamed Terry’s Group. It acquired Callard & Bowser of Bridgend, Wales, which had a large US export market, Chocometz in France, and Aura in Italy. A deal was agreed with Marabou of Norway to distribute Dime bars in the UK.

Terry’s grew substantially under United Biscuits. The business avoided direct competition with larger rivals such as Cadbury by focusing on the premium market.

The family connection to the company ended when Peter Terry retired as chairman in 1986.

Terry’s was the fourth largest chocolate manufacturer in Britain by 1993, and held five percent of the British confectionery market. Its main product lines were All Gold, Moonlight and Chocolate Orange. Eight million Chocolate Oranges were produced every year.

Kraft takeover and subsequent ownership
United Biscuits sold Terry’s to Kraft of Chicago for £220 million in 1993 in order to reduce debt and concentrate on biscuits and savoury snacks. The sale also included the United Biscuits confectionery business. There were 2,270 employees across the businesses, with 1,350 employed at Terry’s in York.

Kraft already maintained a presence in European confectionery through Suchard of Switzerland, manufacturer of Toblerone, and Marabou of Norway. The acquisition of Terry’s afforded the business an increased presence in the British market.

Kraft announced plans to increase exports at Terry’s. A Kraft spokesman suggested that the York site might be used to produce Suchard product lines such as Toblerone for the British market, although this ultimately did not occur.

The number of employees at Terry’s had been reduced from 1,350 to 775 by 1996. That year, Kraft announced that there would be a further 300 job losses, leaving a staff of 475.

Kraft phased out the lower-volume Terry’s product lines in 2002, leaving just All Gold, Twilight, Chocolate Orange and York Fruits.

Kraft closed the York site in 2005 with the loss of 316 full time jobs, and 150 seasonal jobs. Kraft explained that sales had declined between 2000 and 2004, mostly due to a decline in Chocolate Orange exports. This, together with the size and age of the Terry’s site, made production unviable. Production was transferred to plants in Poland and Slovakia.

The York Fruits brand was sold to Smith Kendon in 2008. The Terry’s name no longer appears on its packaging.

Kraft spun off its snacks and confectionery business as Mondelez in 2012.

The Terry’s Chocolate Orange was reduced in size in 2016, from 175 grams to 157 grams.

Mondelez sold Terry’s to Eurazeo in 2017. Production was relocated to France from 2018.

One thought on “A history of Terry’s of York”

  1. Hi Tom,

    This was a really informative read.

    I’m making a documentary series about chocolate for Channel 5 – and in episode we feature the Chocolate Orange.

    Could I possibly ask where you sourced your post-war Terry’s info – particularly the sales figures from the seventies regarding sales trebling.

    I would like to quote that statistic if possible.


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