Clarnico of Hackney Wick (1872 – 2019)

Clarnico was the largest sugar confectionery manufacturer in Britain during the interwar period. It became a national leader in redistribution of profits to its staff. Clarnico was acquired by Trebor in 1969, who closed down the London and Irish factories. The Clarnico Mint Cream continued to be produced until 2019.

Establishment of Clarnico
Clarke Nickolls & Co was established as a jam and marmalade manufacturer at Hackney Wick in East London in 1872. There was an initial workforce of ten people.

Robert Coombs (1836 – 1919) joined the business as a partner from 1875, and developed a sugar confectionery manufacturing subsidiary called Clarnico.

George Mathieson (1844 – 1940) and Alexander Horn (1851 – 1923) joined the business as partners soon afterwards, and were instrumental in its subsequent expansion. Mathieson and Horn both came from the village of Insch in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

The growth of the sugar beet industry in Britain, with a consequent reduction in ingredients costs, allowed Clarnico to enter into rapid growth. Clarke, Nickolls & Coombs employed 300 people by 1881.

Clarke, Nickolls & Coombs is established as a public company; a profit-sharing scheme is introduced
Clarke, Nickolls & Coombs was incorporated as a public company with a share capital of £80,000 in 1887. It was one of the largest confectionery companies in Britain. Control of the business was in the hands of George Mathieson and Alexander Horn by this time, and Mathieson was appointed managing director.

Mathieson and Horn introduced a profit-sharing scheme for the workforce from 1890. After paying a six percent dividend, the company split the remaining profit equally between the shareholders and the workforce. 840 people shared a total of £1,700 in 1893. The scheme gave staff the incentive to work harder, and enhanced employee retention levels.

The business grew rapidly throughout the 1890s. 1,000 men were employed in 1891. Around 1,300 people were employed by 1892, around 1,500 in 1896, and 2,000 by 1899. The factory site covered five acres by 1896.

Clarnico becomes the largest sugar confectionery manufacturer in Britain
Clarnico Caramels became the best known product, and Clarnico was the largest producer of unwrapped caramels in Britain.

The Hackney Wick site had over ten acres of floorspace by 1908. Over 3,000 people were employed by 1911.

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The Clarnico Mint Cream had been introduced by 1912.

Clarnico was the largest sugar confectionery company in Britain during the interwar period. Over 700 different varieties of sweets were produced. The Clarnico site was the largest sugar confectionery factory in Britain.

Clarnico formed a joint venture with R S Murray & Co to establish an Irish factory from 1926.

The Clarnico factory suffered significant bomb damage during the London Blitz in 1940.

An overhead view of the Clarnico Works in 1921. Image used with kind permission of Britain From Above.

Clarnico distributed £700,000 in profits to its workforce between 1890 and 1944, a figure beaten only by J T & J Taylor of Batley and Reckitt & Colman.

Clarnico Murray held around ten percent of the Irish confectionery market by 1969.

Clarnico is acquired by Trebor
The sugar confectionery market had become stagnant by the end of the 1960s. Competition was further hampered by the emergence of larger rivals. Clarke, Nickolls & Coombs sold Clarnico to its London-rival Trebor for £900,000 in 1969. The merged business was the fourth largest confectionery manufacturer in Britain.

The Clarnico factory in London was closed down in 1973.

The Irish manufacturing presence was closed down in 1974, and the market was thereafter served by imports from Britain.

Clarnico products continued to be sold, including Mint Creams, fudge, Fruit Jellies and Chocolate Peppermint Creams.

Trebor was acquired by Cadbury for £120 million in 1989.

Clarnico Mint Cream manufacturing was relocated to France and the product was sold under the Maynards Bassetts brand. The sweet was discontinued in 2019, after over 100 years in production, thus ending the Clarnico link to confectionery.


4 thoughts on “Clarnico of Hackney Wick (1872 – 2019)”

  1. my grandfather george cousins was a security guard and doorkeeper during the second world war and the family lived in one of clarnico cottages on hackney wick with his wife and 8 children my mother used to speak fondly of those early days at the cottages in fact in his younger days he represented the company at sports i think it was running

  2. My late grandfather worked for Clarnico, I think perhaps as a travelling salesman. He lived in South Norwood, south London. A relative has told me he believes there was a Clarnico factory in the Penge area, which is only 2 miles from South Norwood. Can you tell me please? I cant find any direct evidence from the Internet.

    1. I am sure there was not a Clarnico actory in Penge – the only one was Hachney Wick, something in Norwich, Ireland, and at one time, South Africa.

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