A digested history of Eno’s Fruit Salts

How did Eno’s Fruit Salts became one of the best known branded medicines in the world?

J C Eno introduces Fruit Salts
James Crossley Eno (1827 – 1915) was born in Newcastle upon Tyne. He was appointed as dispensing chemist at the Newcastle Infirmary in 1846. He acquired the lease of a small chemist’s shop at 57 Groat Market in 1851.

Eno introduced Fruit Salts, an indigestion remedy, in 1868. The salts consisted of sodium bicarbonate, tartaric acid and citric acid. The Fruit Salts name represented the sources of the two acids, tartaric from grapes and citric from citrus fruit.

Seamen using the East Coast ports became heavy users of Eno’s Fruit Salts, and helped to establish the reputation of the brand across the country and overseas.

A 1924 advertisement

Eno soon found himself unable to meet increasing demand for his product, and he relocated his business to a factory on New Cross Road, London, in 1876. The business employed 50 people by 1884.

J C Eno was established as a limited company with a capital of £100,000 in 1891.

Eno entered into retirement from around 1904. He was succeeded as company chairman by his son-in-law, Commander Harold William Swithinbank (1858 – 1928).

Harold F Ritchie (1881 – 1933) of Toronto became the Canadian sales agent in 1907. Ritchie believed the J C Eno business was tradition-bound and staid. He promised to double Canadian sales within one year or else forfeit his commission; instead he quadrupled volumes. TIME magazine characterised Ritchie as the “world’s greatest salesman”.

Harold F Ritchie (1881 – 1933)

James Eno died in 1915. He left a gross estate valued at £1.6 million.

J C Eno company capital had been increased to £650,000 by 1920.

The Eno business is sold to Harold F Ritchie
Following the death of Commander Swithinbank the business was sold to Harold F Ritchie for over £1.5 million in 1928. Ritchie received the first option to acquire the business in recognition of his service to the company.

Ritchie maintained existing management. Between 1928 and 1932 he established factories in Canada, the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Australia, South Africa and Germany.

Ritchie died in 1933. His widow sold control of the company to the London & Yorkshire Trust for over £1 million in 1934.

Shares in Eno Proprietaries Limited were offered to the public. The business had a capitalisation of £3.25 million.

Eno’s Fruit Salts had become one of the best known proprietary medicines in the world. The product was sold in 83 countries. It was advertised in 73 countries with 26 different languages. The principal factory was in London, but there were two large factories in North America, and nine smaller factories across the rest of the world.

Beecham acquires the business
Eno Proprietaries was acquired by Beecham for just over £1 million in 1938. By far the majority of sales were made overseas, and it was the strong global distribution network that attracted Beecham to the business.

The New Cross factory was completely destroyed by Germany bombing during the Blitz in 1940. Production was transferred to the Macleans toothpaste factory in Brentford. Fruit Salt production was relocated to a site at Watford from 1946. The Watford site was closed in 1953, and production was returned to Macleans.

Eno purchased one third of the global supply of tartaric acid by the mid-1950s.

Eno Fruit Salts were introduced to the Indian market in 1972.

Eno’s Fruit Salts had been rebranded as simply “Eno” by the 1980s. It continued as a major Beecham product line.

Beecham was merged with SmithKline Beckman to form SmithKline Beecham in 1989. It amalgamated with GlaxoWellcome to create GlaxoSmithKline in 2000.

Eno is not available in the leading supermarkets and pharmacies of the UK, although it is available on Amazon. However it is still widely sold across the world as an antacid for the relief of indigestion. It is the leading over-the-counter heartburn treatment in India, where it holds 50 percent of the market, and Brazil, with other major markets including South Africa, Thailand, Malaysia, Venezuela, and Spain.

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