Rocky road: Fox’s Biscuits

Fox’s is best known for the Rocky and Party Rings biscuits. Brandy snaps, its original product, are still sold.

Michael Spedding establishes the business
Michael Spedding (1834 – 1927) was born to poor circumstances at Marsh, near Huddersfield in Yorkshire. He received just three months of formal education.

Spedding found work at a cotton mill in nearby Meltham. His grandfather encouraged him to relocate to Batley, where prospects were better. Spedding was poor, and made the 15-mile journey on foot. His economic position was such that on some nights he would sleep in barns.

Spedding married Susan Fox (1834 – 1895), the daughter of a bone-setter, in 1854.

Party Rings, a leading Fox’s product

Spedding had established himself as a food seller by 1863. He began to concentrate on the confectionery trade, with an initial focus on brandy snap biscuits.

Spedding had been joined in business by his daughter Hannah and his son-in-law Fred Ellis Fox (1871 – 1938) by 1891. The business began to trade as F E Fox & Co from 1897. Spedding retired in 1900.

F E Fox & Son
Fred Fox was joined by his son, Michael Spedding Fox (1896 – 1963), and the business began to trade as F E Fox & Son.

F E Fox & Son relocated to a new site at Batley from 1927. Ginger biscuits began to be produced alongside brandy snaps.

Michael Spedding died as one of the oldest men in his district in 1927.

F E Fox & Son was incorporated as a private company in 1938. The business was still a regional concern at this time.

Fred Fox died in 1938 and left an estate valued at £19,243. Michael Spedding Fox became managing director of the company.

Fox’s Biscuits becomes a national business
The Batley factory was expanded and modernised in the post-war period. F E Fox & Son had around 500 employees by 1955.

F E Fox & Son won a valuable contract to produce biscuits for Marks & Spencer in 1958. The contract accounted for half of all production.

F E Fox & Son required capital to fulfil its ambitions of becoming a nationally recognised company. The business went public in 1960 as Fox’s Biscuits with an authorised share capital of £400,000. There were around 950 employees.

The offices at Batley in 2007

Parkinson’s Biscuits of Kirkham, Preston was acquired in 1966.

J Lyons & Co acquired a 25 percent stake in Fox’s Biscuits in 1972.

Acquisition by Northern Foods
Fox’s Biscuits was acquired by Northern Foods in 1977. Following the merger of their interests, Northern Foods supplied Marks & Spencer with around 40 percent of its cake and biscuits.

Alfred Henry Fox died with an estate valued at £124,375 in 1977.

Fox’s Biscuits was one of the largest biscuit manufacturers in Britain by 1986. Around 2,500 people were employed.

Elkes Biscuits of Uttoxeter was acquired in 1986.

Northern Foods invested £20 million to increase production at Fox’s Biscuits in 1987.

Fox’s Biscuits was best known for its Rocky and Party Rings biscuits by the 1990s.

The Elkes brand was repositioned as a budget product.

2 Sisters Food Group and Ferrero
Northern Foods was acquired by 2 Sisters Food Group in 2011.

Fox’s ranked fourth in the British biscuit market, with a four percent share in 2019. The business employed 2,000 people. Own-label and contact work accounted for around 25 percent of production.

Ferrero, an Italian confectionery manufacturer, acquired Fox’s Biscuits, including the Batley and Kirkham sites, for £246 million in 2020. The own-label biscuit business, with a factory at Uttoxeter, was retained by 2 Sisters.

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