Category Archives: Tea

As easy as: ABC tea shops

The ABC tea shop was a ubiquitous part of early twentieth century London life, mentioned by T S Eliot and Virginia Woolf, and lambasted by George Orwell.

The Aerated Bread Company (ABC) was incorporated in London with a nominal capital of £500,000 in 1862. The business was formed in order to manufacture bread using a new patented process which used carbon dioxide instead of yeast.

As a mass producer of bread, ABC had a large number of contracts with institutions such as schools and hospitals. It also had a number of retail outlets in London from which its sold bread and cakes directly to customers.

Establishment of the ABC tea shop chain
In 1884 Miss Turnbull, a manager at a ABC bakery shop near London Bridge Station, suggested to the company directors that on-site sales of tea might increase revenues. Her suggestion was to prove successful, and soon all the ABC outlets sold tea as well as bread and cakes.

Competitors sold pre-prepared tea from a large container, and the quality was variable. ABC differentiated itself by preparing fresh tea to order.

The tea shops proved popular among clerical workers, who appreciated their affordable prices, and there were around 70 outlets by 1889.

An ABC shop at Ludgate Hill, date unknown
An ABC shop at Ludgate Hill, date unknown

Production at a centralised bakery in Camden Town from 1891 helped to keep costs low.

ABC did not escape criticism however; it became notorious for the meagre pay it gave its waitresses, who worked a 62-hour week.

ABC appears to have begun to exploit its monopoly position. Leo Chiozza Money (1870 – 1944) complained:

very high prices [were charged]. The shops were not attractive. The ABC scheme of decoration [was] simply appalling. The food was very plain and the portions served … were stingy.

Increased competition from J Lyons
J Lyons opened its first tea shop in 1894. Lyons branches were more upmarket and better managed than the ABC shops.

ABC transitioned its tea shops into affordable restaurants, with enlarged menus, in order to compete with Lyons.

Lyons had more central London outlets than ABC by 1911.

ABC served over 1.25 million customers across 150 branches in 1911. A contemporary commentator indicated that service was slow, but the quality of the tea was “beyond reproach”.

New management from Buszard
ABC acquired W & G Buszard, a London bakery chain with 140 shops, including the prestigious Criterion restaurant in Piccadilly, in 1918. ABC were attracted to the merger by the strong management team at Buszard. Buszard directors, led by Charles Cottier (1869 – 1928) and Frederick Hutter (1876 – 1927), quickly came to dominate the ABC board, with Cottier serving as chairman and Hutter as managing director.

Cottier was a forceful personality, and under his leadership ABC undertook numerous acquisitions from 1919. These were Bertram & Co (railway catering), James Cottle (Liverpool and Manchester restaurants), Cabins, JP Restaurants (with 80 outlets around London), Newberys (shop-fitters), Abford Estates (a large property development) and a controlling interest in W Hill & Sons (29 shops), at a combined cost of just under £500,000.

Frederick Hutter was described as the “Napoleon” of the London catering trade. He came from humble origins, and had begun his career as a baker’s assistant.

ABC operated 200 to 250 tea shops and restaurants by 1922. The manufacturing site at Camden Town covered over four acres.

ABC had 156 branches across London in 1926. That year also saw the prim black and white “Victorian” waitress uniforms replaced by blue dresses.

ABC opened the largest tea shop in Britain, opposite Victoria Station, in 1926. The site was bought from the Duke of Westminster, supposedly for £500,000.

Hutter died in 1927, and Cottier died the following year. It appears that the business suffered following the loss of their strong leadership.

Following a spate of low profits, Sir W H Peat (1878 – 1959), the well-known accountant, was contracted to perform an independent review of the company in 1929. Peat argued that the numerous recent acquisitions did not tie in with the core ABC business, and as such, very few economies of scale could be made. He also argued that the company had paid excessive dividends, and had failed to update and modernise its shops, which had become run-down.

The manufacture of aerated bread ended in 1954.

Allied Bakeries rejuvenates ABC
ABC had 164 outlets and was the second largest restaurant chain in Britain by the mid-1950s. However the business had become loss-making.

ABC was acquired by Allied Bakeries, controlled by W Garfield Weston (1898 – 1978), for £2.9 million in 1955. Allied Bakeries were motivated by the opportunity to increase the number of outlets for their bread and biscuits. Allied Bakeries had also privately valued the ABC real estate assets at between £1.7 million and £2 million.

Allied Bakeries sold six or seven ABC sites in central London for £1 million. The money was used to invest in the ABC business. The Camden Town factory was modernised. Unprofitable branches in the West End of London were sold, and new outlets opened in the suburbs. Shops across the chain were refurbished to bring them in line with competitors.

Allied Bakeries sold the Abford House subsidiary, which consisted of a large freehold property in Victoria, London, for over £500,000 to Spiers & Pond, a hotels and catering company, in 1959.

The previously loss-making venture had become one of the most profitable subsidiaries of Allied Bakeries by 1959. ABC reported a profit before tax of over £850,000 in 1962. A pre-tax profit of £735,000 was reported in 1966.

Decline of the ABC tea shop
Trade at the tea shops began to decline from the 1960s and into the 1970s. Rising ingredients costs had rendered handmade cakes an unaffordable luxury. 20 ABC tea shops were closed in 1975, and a further 35 the following year. 30 more were closed in 1976. Some outlets switched to a takeaway sandwich model.

Production of hand-finished cakes at the Camden Town site was ended in 1976, resulting in the loss of over 400 jobs. Bread production also ended.

The Camden Town site was antiquated and unsuited for modern production, and it was closed with the loss of 200 jobs in 1982. The remaining ABC tea shops also disappeared at around this time. The Camden site was demolished a few years later, and a Sainsbury’s supermarket now stands in its place.

Brewing up a storm: Tetley tea

Joseph Tetley became the largest tea packer in America. The business popularised the tea bag in Britain.

Joseph Tetley & Co
Joseph Tetley (1811 -1899) and his brother Edward began to sell salt from a horse and cart in Bradford, Yorkshire from 1837. Before long, tea was added to their wares.

The business had relocated to Huddersfield by 1851, and employed 14 people. The Tetley brothers relocated to 25 Cullum Street in London, close to the tea auction houses of Mincing Lane, from 1856. The business employed 18 people in 1861.

Edward Tetley left the business in 1865. Joseph Ackland entered the business as a partner and the business traded as Joseph Tetley & Co.

Tetley & Co became the first firm to introduce India and Ceylon tea to the British market. Previously only Chinese tea had been sold.

Joseph took on his son, Joseph Tetley Jr (1850 – 1935) and long-term employee Samuel Furniss as partners in the business from 1871. Tetley & Co also expanded into blending and packaging tea for itself.

Joseph Tetley and his son acquired the Ackland and Furniss stakes in 1880. By this time the premises were at 31 Fenchurch Street.

Success in America
Joseph Tetley & Co established a sales agency in New York from 1888. The firm became the first to introduce India and Ceylon tea to the American market.

Joseph Tetley & Co was the second largest tea blender in the world by 1901, behind only Thomas Lipton. The two businesses dominated the market for Ceylon tea.

Joseph Tetley & Co was incorporated as public company in 1907, and as a private company a year later. Tetley was the largest purchaser of India and Ceylon tea by this time.

Joseph Tetley was the largest tea business in the world by 1911.

An American subsidiary was established in New York from 1913. Due to difficulties importing packaged tea from Britain during the First World War a six storey tea packing plant was acquired on Greenwich Street in New York in 1917.

Tetley Ironside Tetley-Jones introduces the tea bag to Britain
Joseph Tetley Jr died in 1935 with an estate valued at £75,000 (equivalent to £29.5 million in 2015). His nephew, William Tetley-Jones took over the company, but died just a few months later. The company was inherited by his son, Tetley Ironside Tetley-Jones (1912 – 1990).

Tetley-Jones visited America in 1939, where he encountered the growing popularity of the tea bag, as opposed to brewing with loose leaves. Tetley-Jones pioneered mass production of the tea bag in Britain from 1940. Initially production was for export only, due to rationing in Britain.

The London premises were damaged during the Blitz in 1941, and a new production facility was opened at Bletchley in Buckinghamshire. By this time the head office was at Mansell Street, still close to Mincing Lane.

Joseph Tetley & Co was converted back into a public company with a share capital of £410,000 (£50.7 million in 2015), in 1951. Net assets were valued at just under £600,000 (£74 million in 2015). The company ranked among the four largest tea packers in the United States.

The end of rationing allowed Tetley-Jones to introduce the tea bag to the British consumer from 1953. Tetley-Jones spearheaded the initiative, and had to fight the scepticism of his board of directors. The head tea buyer for Brooke Bond, the largest tea company in the world, announced that his company would never produce tea bags, which he believed imparted the taste of paper to the product.

The Bletchley plant was divested in 1958, and all production was relocated to a new factory at Eaglescliffe in County Durham. The same year, a new factory was opened at Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Total company capital rose to £750,000 (£58 million in 2015).

Joseph Tetley & Co is sold to Beech-Nut Life Savers
Tetley Ironside Tetley-Jones believed that the business was too small to compete against larger companies such as Brooke Bond, and had been searching for a buyer for years. Joseph Tetley & Co was acquired by Beech-Nut Life Savers of New York for £2.3 million in cash (£148 million in 2015) in 1961. Whilst a leader in the small British tea bag market, most company profits came from the American subsidiary. Tetley-Jones was retained as chairman.

Beech-Nut Life Savers provided the capital necessary for expansion of production and marketing of the tea bags. Tea bags had taken five percent of the British market by 1964, and all the production belonged to Tetley. It was only that year that the major tea packers introduced their own tea bags.

Tetley tea bag sales grew by 58 percent to the catering trade, and by 41 percent to the domestic trade in 1965. The company was exporting millions of tea bags every year.

Tetley tea bag sales rose 63 percent to a total of two billion bags in 1967. Tetley held two thirds of the retail market for tea bags, and 50 percent of the catering market.

Tetley sold 5,000 tonnes of tea bags in 1968. Tetley held 65 percent of the British tea bag market in 1969.

Tetley-Jones retired in 1970.

J Lyons acquires Tetley
J Lyons, the British catering giant, and a major tea producer itself, acquired Tetley for £23 million (£524 million in 2015) in 1973. Following the takeover, Lyons Tetley held around 17 percent of the British tea market.

The “Tetley tea folk “advertising campaign was launched in 1973.

The Eaglescliffe plant was the largest tea bag factory in the world by 1986.

Tetley introduced the round tea bag from 1989.

Tetley was acquired by Tata, an Indian conglomerate, for £271 million in 2000.

Tetley is the fourth highest-selling tea brand in Britain as of 2019.

Note: all current day wealth calculations are measured as a percentage of GDP, and are taken from

Top tips: Typhoo tea

How did Typhoo become one of the highest-selling tea brands in Britain?

Early history and introduction of Typhoo
William Sumner (born c. 1796) acquired Pratchett & Noble, a chemist and grocery business at 97 High Street Birmingham, in 1820. The sale of tea soon became a major component of the business. Control of the business passed to his son, John Sumner Snr (born 1824), from 1852.

John Sumner Jr (1856 – 1934) joined the family business after leaving school. He began to package and market a blend of Ceylon tea leaf tips from 1903. Leaf was generally sold loose from shops, and pre-packaged tea was still a relatively unknown product.

John Sumner Jr (1856 – 1934)

Sumner successfully marketed the tea as a cure for nervousness and an aid to digestion, under the brand name Typhoo Tipps. He derived the Typhoo name from a Chinese word meaning doctor.

John Sumner Jr divested the grocery business in 1905 and founded a private company to produce and market his packaged tea. A factory was established at Castle Street in Digbeth, Birmingham. Rapid expansion occurred, accompanied by aggressive marketing.

Sumner established a blending operation in Ceylon in 1909. This allowed him to buy directly from growers, thus saving costs by cutting out the middleman.

Sumner retired in 1926 and dedicated much of the rest of his life to philanthropy. The business was taken over by his son, John Richard Hugh Sumner (1887 – 1971). The factory was relocated to Bordesley Street, also in Digbeth, in 1930.

Typhoo becomes a mass market brand
Typhoo tea was sold in over 40,000 outlets by the early 1930s, making it one of the highest-selling packet teas in Britain.

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Operations ended in Ceylon in 1933, after it was discovered that the Ceylon agents had overcharged the business for inferior tea.

John Sumner died in 1934 and left an estate valued at £740,041.

Wartime bombing damaged over two thirds of the Birmingham factory in 1941. With reconstruction materials scarce, limited production was relocated to Brooke Bond and J Lyons for the remainder of the war.

Typhoo was incorporated with a capital of £750,000 in 1949. This figure was increased to £1.1 million in 1954.

Typhoo established a high degree of efficiency by concentrating on a single product, in a single pack, with a single price.

A £22 million takeover bid by Kraft of Chicago was rejected in 1960. Kraft had been attracted by a growing market for tea in the United States.

Typhoo held around 15 percent of the British tea market throughout the 1960s, behind Brooke Bond and the Co-op, and alongside J Lyons.

Sumner retired in 1966 and the managing director, Henry Claude Kelley (1897 – 1974), became chairman.

Typhoo began to manufacture tea bags from 1967. Typhoo had been slow to respond to the innovation, and had allowed rivals such as Tetley and Brooke Bond to steal a significant lead.

Typhoo is acquired by Schweppes
Typhoo was acquired by Schweppes, the soft drinks concern, for £45 million in 1968. Schweppes intended to utilise its strong marketing skills and global distribution network to increase Typhoo sales. It was almost a merger of equals, with Typhoo shareholders holding around 40 percent of the combined entity. H C Kelley joined the Schweppes board of directors.

Schweppes merged with Cadbury in 1969.

The Kenco coffee company was acquired for around £2 million in 1969 and merged with the Typhoo business.


The 160,000 sq ft factory in Digbeth, Birmingham employed 550 workers when it was closed in 1978. All the workers were offered alternative employment by Cadbury, who had significant operations in the area. The closure occurred as the Birmingham site was unsuitable for conversion to high-speed production.

Production was relocated to Moreton, Merseyside, which had been acquired by Cadbury in 1953 as a biscuit production plant. Moreton is conveniently located just a short distance away from the Port of Liverpool, where tea arrives by boat.

Typhoo held around 14 percent of the British tea market by 1984, behind only Brooke Bond and Lyons Tetley.

Sale by Schweppes and subsequent ownership
Typhoo was acquired by its management in 1986, and the company became known as Premier Brands. That year Melrose, the Scottish tea business, was acquired.

Typhoo was acquired by Premier Foods in 1990. In a marketing-led industry, the brand lacked an advertising campaign with the memorability of the PG Tips chimpanzees or the Tetley tea folk. Its share of the tea market had dwindled to just three percent by 1993.

Premier Foods sold Typhoo to Apeejay Surrendra Group of India for £80 million in 2005.

Typhoo placed fifth in the British tea market in 2015, with a market share of around ten percent. Typhoo was the eighth highest-selling tea in Britain in 2019.

The Moreton site became the largest packer of own-label tea in the UK, producing around 25 percent of all tea consumed in Britain.

Typhoo was sold to Zetland Capital in 2021.

The Moreton factory was closed in 2023, with the loss of 85 jobs. Production of Typhoo tea was subcontracted to third party suppliers.

A history of the largest tea companies in Britain

The highly competitive nature of the British tea industry has seen a number of different market leaders emerge at different points in time.

Horniman & Co was the first company in the world to package tea (as opposed to loose-leaf sales by grocers). By 1867 they claimed to have the largest stock of tea in Britain in their warehouses. By 1880 they sold over 5 million packets a year. By 1890 they had export sales of 500,000 lbs a week.

By 1892 Horniman had been overtaken by Mazawattee, who sold over 14 million packets of tea each year. Mazawattee had introduced a brand that was blended entirely from fashionable Ceylon tea leaves. They also advertised more heavily than Horniman.

By 1897 Lipton & Co claimed the largest sales of tea in the world, with one million packets sold each week. Lipton had acquired their own tea plantations in Ceylon, and by cutting out the middleman, were able to offer lower prices to the consumer.

In 1903 John Sumner began to package a new blend which used only the tips of the tea leaf. With the distinctive name of Typhoo, it had lower tannin levels and a higher caffeine content, Sumner claimed digestive properties for his product.

By 1915 J Lyons & Co sold 5 million packets of tea each week, and were far and away the market leader in Britain, stocked in 160,000 outlets. In 1922 they claimed that 7 million people drank their tea every week.

In 1923 the Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS) claimed that it was the largest tea business in the world, with a sale of over 60 million lbs of tea every year. By 1932 this figure had increased to 100 million lbs a year.

In 1939 the CWS was the largest tea blender and distributor in the United Kingdom, controlling around 25 percent of the supply. It was followed by Lyons, Brooke Bond and Allied Suppliers (who controlled Lipton).

CWS tea sales declined with the rise of the supermarket chains: the new chains saw CWS, who operated their own grocery stores, as a rival, and refused to stock their tea.

By 1957 Brooke Bond was probably the largest tea company in the world, with around one third of the British and Indian tea markets.

In the 1960s, Tetley grew from a minor player to a major force in tea after it pioneered the use of the tea bag in Britain.

Brooke Bond was still the largest tea company in the world when it was acquired by Unilever in 1984. Unilever had acquired Lipton in 1971.

Today Lipton is the largest tea brand in the world, with most production centered on a single site in Dubai.

A potted history of Twining & Co

Twinings is the leading premium tea brand in the world, and the highest-selling tea brand in Britain.

The first two hundred years
The Twining family originated from Gloucestershire, where they frequently found employment in the weaving industry. Recession in the trade led Daniel Twining to migrate to London with his family in 1684. His son, Thomas Twining (1675 – 1741), acquired Tom’s Coffee House on Deveraux Court, at the back of 216 Strand, in 1706. The shop was well-sited to serve the aristocracy.

As well as coffee, Twining began to sell the rare but fashionable tea. Twining was supplying tea by royal appointment to Queen Anne by 1711. Twining acquired the Golden Lyon at 216 Strand in 1717: the company still trades from the same premises today.

The Twining tea shop on the Strand, central London.
The Twining tea shop on the Strand, central London.

Coffee had been phased out in order to focus on tea by 1734.

Thomas’s son, Daniel Twining, took over the business, and by 1749 was exporting tea to America. The business was run by Daniel’s widow, Mary Twining, between 1762 and 1782.

Richard Twining (1749 – 1824) took over management of the business from 1782. He advised the Prime Minister, William Pitt the Younger, to dramatically reduce the tax on tea in order to reduce smuggling in 1784. Tea sales subsequently quadrupled.

Twinings introduced its current logo, reputedly the oldest commercial logo to be in continuous use since its inception, from 1787.


Jane Austen revealed herself to be a Twinings tea customer in an 1814 letter.

Twinings also developed a substantial banking subsidiary. It was spun-off as an independent business from 1824.

Twinings received a Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria in 1838. It has held a Royal Warrant from each successive British monarch ever since.

Twinings sourced their tea from China. Tea from India and Assam began to be used from 1839. Ceylon tea began to be used from 1879.

From the eighteenth century until the late nineteenth century, staff in the shop wore swallow tail coats and white ties.

The Twinings bank struggled to compete as rivals grew larger, and it was acquired by Lloyds Bank in 1892.

Twinings in the twentieth century
Twining & Co survived by keeping up with modern developments. Also, Twinings was fortunate in that all of the family members who had had controlled the business had been competent managers. Also, unlike many other tea companies, Twinings never owned tea plantations, which meant that it wasn’t tied to its own producers, and was free to select the best tea crops each year.

Twinings was registered as a limited liability company with a capital of £100,000 in 1904.

The tea interests of Harrisons Crosfield of Bankside were acquired in 1916. The merged business was registered as a private company called Twining Crosfield, with a share capital of £50,000. It was likely the second largest tea blending concern after Brooke Bond.

Part of the Twinings shop and the entire back premises were destroyed during the Blitz in 1941. Business continued throughout the war, although the damage necessitated that administration was relocated to Vincent Square in Westminster, followed by the Minories in the City of London, until the premises were rebuilt in 1953.

Twinings became a public company with a share capital of £400,000 in 1952. The company employed a staff of 450, and had net assets of almost £525,000. Manufacturing premises were at Wellclose Square, with floorspace of over 42,000 sq ft. There were also smaller factories at Belfast and Staffordshire. As well as the Strand location, the company operated shops at Wigmore Street and William Street, Knightsbridge.

Twinings undertook advertising for the first time in 1956. This move was prompted by the rise in sales of branded teas such as PG Tips.

Twinings is acquired by Associated British Foods
Twinings was acquired by Associated British Foods for £2 million in 1964. The friendly takeover by ABF, controlled by W G Weston (1898 – 1978), beat a hostile bid from Beech-Nut Life Savers of New York. Beech-Nut had planned to merge Twinings with its own Tetley Tea operation. ABF vowed to allow Twinings to continue to operate independently.

The main factory in southeast London was struggling to cope with demand. Production was relocated to a new £3 million plant in Andover, Hampshire from 1966. Andover was chosen as it was halfway between London and Avonmouth, where the tea docked, and close to Southampton, from where it was exported. Eighty families were relocated to the new factory. The seven acre site contained one of the most modern automated factories in the world, and employed 700 workers.

An additional factory was opened at North Shields in the North East of England from 1970.

A dedicated marketing manager, Brynley Evans (born 1940), was brought in from the Rank Organisation. Evans was appointed as managing director from 1973.

Twinings tea had strong sales overseas by the 1970s. Japan and France were the leading export markets, whilst American sales continued to grow strongly, with a 55 percent rise between January and October 1971. Meanwhile the company gained distribution in British supermarkets with its speciality teas such as Earl Grey.

Twinings was the second largest supplier of black tea in Japan by 1974, with 32 percent of the market.

Company turnover was over £18 million in 1976. Export sales more than quadrupled to £8 million between 1969 and 1976, and Twinings tea was exported to over 80 countries. The company blended and packed 23 different types of tea. Twinings was the biggest British buyer of tea from China. Twinings supplied 26 percent of all the tea consumed in France.

Twinings opened a $6 million tea manufacturing facility at Greensboro, North Carolina from 1980.

Annual export sales had reached £17 million by 1983. Twinings was a brand leader in Japan by this time.

Twinings was the largest British exporter of tea to America by 1984. Earl Grey was the company’s bestseller worldwide.

The Greensboro plant was closed with the loss of 90 jobs in 2005.

Twinings closed the North Shields factory in 2011 and halved the workforce at the Andover plant. All export production was relocated to Swarzedz in Poland, with the loss of nearly 400 jobs in Britain. Twinings also applied to the European Union for €12 million in investment grants to assist with the relocation, but this was denied.

Twinings overtook PG Tips to become the highest-selling tea in the UK in 2019.

Twinings is sold in 115 countries across the world as of 2020.

Monkey business: Brooke Bond

Brooke Bond became the largest tea company in the world. PG Tips remains the second highest-selling tea brand in Britain.

Arthur Brooke (1845 – 1918), was the son of a tea dealer from Ashton under Lyne, Lancashire. He trained at Peek Brothers & Winch, wholesale tea dealers, at Liverpool and London.

Brooke opened a shop in Manchester selling tea, coffee and sugar in 1869. He traded as “Brooke, Bond & Co”, because he liked the sound of the name.

At a time when groceries were largely sold on credit, Brooke took cash payments only. Within three years he had opened shops in Liverpool, Leeds and Bradford.

Brooke relocated to London and established a blending warehouse on Whitechapel High Street in 1872. By controlling his own distribution he was able to ensure product freshness.

A tea trade depression in the 1870s convinced Brooke to concentrate on the wholesale trade, and the London and Scottish stores were divested.

Brooke was a model employer who pioneered the eight hour working day, and paid higher wages than his competitors. Brooke was also an early adopter of profit-sharing. First introduced for his 154 employees in 1882, the scheme accounted for an average of a ten percent staff bonus every year by 1891.

Conversion into a company
Brooke Bond was converted into a limited liability company with a share capital of £150,000 in 1892. A four-storey warehouse was acquired in Leeds with a floor space of 54,000 sq ft.

Brooke Bond had a 1/30th share of the British tea market by 1893. It was claimed that two million Britons drank Brooke Bond every day by 1897. The company employed a staff of 500, and sold through 30,000 outlets by 1902.

Brooke Bond relocated to Goulston Street in Aldgate, London from 1910.

Arthur Brooke retired as company chairman in 1910, and was succeeded by his son, Gerald Brooke (1881 – 1969).

A sales office was established in India in 1912.

Arthur Brooke died in 1918, and left a net personalty of £146,003.

A large factory at Trafford Park, Manchester, was established to serve the northern market from 1923.

Brooke Bond established tea plantations across 1,000 acres at Limuru, Kenya from 1924. Together with James Finlay & Co, the two companies pioneered tea production in East Africa.

The mid-market PG Tips brand was introduced from 1930.

Brooke Bond acquired T H Estabrooks of New Brunswick, proprietors of the Red Rose tea brand in Canada, in 1932.

Brooke Bond Dividend Tea was launched in 1935. It was the company’s value product, and each packet offered the chance to win cash prizes.

Brooke Bond was the largest wholesale tea business in the world by 1943.

The Red Rose tea brand was introduced to the United States from 1948.

The Blue Ribbon tea business in Canada was acquired in 1951.

Gerald Brooke retired as chairman in 1952. Under his tenure the company’s tea packet trade had multiplied twenty times. He was succeeded by his son, John Brooke (1912 – 1987), a high-powered, resilient man.

Turnover exceeded £68 million in 1954. The majority of sales came from quarter pound packets of tea, of which one thousand million were sold throughout the year.

Chimpanzees were first used as actors in television advertisements for PG Tips from 1955.

The Secret of The Tea Chimps

The British tea market remained stagnant, but Brooke Bond grew by winning sales from its competitors. Brooke Bond had overtaken Lyons to take the largest share of the British tea market by 1956. Over 100 million cups of Brooke Bond tea were drunk worldwide every day.

Largest tea company in the world
Brooke Bond was the largest tea company in the world by 1957, with a one third share of both the British and Indian tea markets. The company owned thousands of acres of tea plantations, more than any other tea distributor. There were five blending and packing factories in Britain. Company vans made deliveries to over 150,000 shops in Britain.

The head office was relocated to Cannon Street, London from 1958. By this time the company had interests in Britain, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Canada, the United States, East Africa and South Africa.

Despite its growth in size, Brooke Bond remained highly traditional. Agents regularly attended the tea auctions in Mincing Lane, London, with the time-honoured cries of “I want some” and “am I in it?” But Brooke Bond was also a thoroughly modern company; its annual advertising budget totalled $3 million. Annual sales were $318 million in 1962.

Brooke Bond owned 30,000 acres of tea plantations, located across India, Ceylon and Africa, by 1963. The company sold six brands of tea, marketed across 80 countries. 65 million cups of Brooke Bond tea were consumed in India every day. Its Red Rose brand was the market leader in Canada.

Brooke Bond employed approximately 50,000 people by 1965. Brooke Bond claimed to be the largest growers, manufacturers and distributors of tea in the world in 1966. Brooke Bond held 36 percent of the British tea market by 1968.

Major diversification occurred when Brooke Bond acquired Leibig, the owner of the Oxo stock cube and the Fray Bentos canned meat products, for £36 million in 1968. The merger created the sixth largest food company in Britain, and was to prove a great success.

100 million cups of Brooke Bond tea and coffee were drunk every day in India by 1969. By this time the company employed 12,000 people on its Kenyan tea plantations.

Brooke Bond acquired Haywards Pickles, alongside other smaller brands, from the Melbray Group for £1.5 million in cash in 1970.

Brooke Bond’s share of the British tea market had grown to 40 percent by 1972. PG Tips was the brand leader in tea with a 20 percent share, while Dividend held 12 percent. The Times credited the growth of the PG Tips brand to the chimpanzee advertising campaigns.

Brooke Bond sold its Sri Lanka plantations to the local government in 1975.

Brooke Bond was the largest tea producer in the world by 1980, and held 34 percent of the British tea market. It was the market leader in Britain and Europe. Brooke Bond had a modest share of the United States market, and owned the Bushells brand in Australia.

Brooke Bond loses its independence
Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant, acquired Brooke Bond for £389 million in cash in a hostile takeover in 1984. Unilever owned the Lipton tea brand and was one of the largest tea businesses in the world, with strong sales in America and the Far and Middle East.

Unilever immediately divested two non-core Brooke Bond subsidiaries; Mallinson-Denny, a timber business, was sold for £90 million, and the Baxters chain of butchers’ shops was sold for £24 million.

Haywards Pickles was sold to Hillsdown Holdings in 1989. The Fray Bentos brand was sold to Campbells Soup in 1993.

PG Tips continued to use chimpanzees in its advertising until 2002.

The Brooke Bond name is no longer in use in Britain. Brooke Bond’s Choicest Blend was latterly produced by Typhoo, but it was discontinued in the 2000s. Brooke Bond remains a major brand in India and Pakistan.

The Trafford Park factory in Manchester was the third largest tea factory in the world ub 2015.

PG Tips was overtaken by Twinings as the highest-selling tea in Britain in 2019.

Unilever sold its tea interests, excluding its businesses in India, Nepal and Indonesia, to CVC Capital for £3.8 billion in 2022.

Plain sailing: Lipton tea

Lipton is the highest-selling tea in the world, with distribution in 110 countries.

Thomas Lipton introduces a new packaged tea blend
Thomas Lipton (1846 – 1931) was born in Glasgow to a working class family. He established a chain of grocery stores.

Lipton believed that if he could lower the price of tea he could increase sales among the working classes. He acquired thousands of acres of cut-price tea plantations in the south of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1890. By sourcing his own tea Lipton was able to cut out the middleman, and pass on the savings to the customer.

Thomas Lipton (1848 – 1931) in 1909

Lipton claimed to have the largest sale of any tea in the world “beyond doubt” by 1897, and millions of people drank his tea every day. Over one million packets of Lipton tea were sold in Britain every week.

Thomas Lipton paid a record-breaking £35,000 duty on a week’s purchase of tea in 1897. This was over half the average for the total weekly tea market, which Lipton now claimed to dominate. By this time his tea enjoyed a Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria (1819 – 1901). Several thousand workers were employed on his Ceylon plantations.

Lipton tea was blended differently for various regions of Britain in order to best suit the local water.

Lipton tea received Royal Warrants from Edward VII (1841 – 1910) and George V (1865 – 1936).

Lipton claimed to be the largest tea distributors, manufacturers and retailers of food products in the world by 1924.

The company had entered into difficulty by 1926. The business had outgrown the overworked Thomas Lipton, but he refused to take advice from his board of directors. He was forced to resign from the company he had built in 1927, and his stake was acquired for £60,000.

Thomas Lipton died in 1931. He left a British estate valued at over £1.4 million, and an American estate valued at £757,000.

Lipton is acquired by Home & Colonial
Lipton was acquired by Home & Colonial, a large grocery chain, in 1931.

Lipton divested some of its plantations in Ceylon in 1944, but retained 3,400 acres of high quality tea estates.

The large supermarket chains grew in influence from the 1950s, and they were reluctant to stock tea from a rival grocery business. Lipton tea sales in Britain declined and never recovered, and the company instead concentrated on the overseas tea market.

Lipton had total coverage of the Indian market by 1968. The company built a new fully-automated factory of over 175,000 sq ft. It was one of the largest tea packing and blending factories in the world.

Lipton tea was sold in 156 countries by 1969, and packed in 29 factories. Lipton was the second largest tea business in the world.

Unilever acquires Lipton
The Lipton tea interests were acquired by Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant, for £18.5 million in 1972. By this time Lipton was a relatively small player in the British tea market, and was outsold by two Brooke Bond brands (PG Tips and Dividend), as well as Tetley, J Lyons, Typhoo and the Co-operative Wholesale Society.

Boxes of Lipton tea (2015)

Lipton enjoyed great success in the United States, with 50 percent of the market by 1975.

All Lipton tea was packed and blended at a factory in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, by 1979. It was the largest tagged tea bag factory in Europe. Lipton was awarded the Queen’s Award For Export that year.

Lipton Yellow Label was the highest selling tea in the world, a blend of Ceylon, India and other tea leaves. Lipton exported more tea to more countries (over 120) than any other company by 1980.

The Leighton Buzzard factory was closed in 1999, and production was relocated to a site in Dubai. The Dubai site is now the largest tea factory in the world.

Unilever sold its tea interests, excluding its businesses in India, Nepal and Indonesia, and the ready to drink Lipton business, to CVC Capital for £3.8 billion in 2021.

So long, Ceylon: Mazawattee Tea Co

Mazawattee was the highest selling brand of tea in the world.

John Densham & Sons introduce Mazawattee Tea
John Boon Densham (1815 – 1886) was a Plymouth chemist. He relocated to Croydon in the 1860s. With a Mr C Lees he entered the wholesale tea business to form Lees & Densham. The business was based at Philpott Lane, where the bulk of Britain’s tea auctions took place.

Lees divested his stake in 1870. Densham’s three sons entered the business, and the firm began trading as John Densham & Sons. With premises at Eastcheap in London, the firm grew to become a sizeable concern. By the 1880s they had also established a warehouse in Manchester.

Edward Densham (1842 – 1912), the eldest son of the founder, became the head of the business. He was a kindly and popular man.

John Densham & Sons introduced the Mazawattee Tea blend in 1886. It was made entirely from Ceylon leaves, which were marketed as superior to the standard Chinese leaves. The trademark was registered the following year.

Packaged tea had been introduced by John Horniman in the 1840s, but most tea at this time was still sold loose from grocers’ shops. Packaged tea promised a consistent product, and was a vouch for purity from contamination.

Mazawattee Tea becomes a market leader
Over 14 million packets of Mazawattee tea were sold every year through 5,000 outlets by 1892. By this time sales had overtaken those of Horniman, who had led the market since at least the 1860s.

A distinctive promotional campaign saw a Mazawattee Tea cart drawn through London by zebras

Edward Densham retired as head of the business in 1892. His two brothers, John Lane Densham (1853 – 1918) and Benjamin Densham (1847 – 1929), were appointed as joint managing directors.

A seven storey factory had been erected at Tower Hill, London by 1894.

The Mazawattee Tea Company was formed with a valuation of £550,000 (about £66 million in 2015) in 1896. Mazawattee tea was the largest tea brand in the world.

Mazawattee was the largest wholesale tea business in the world by 1898. In one single auction the company had to pay the largest ever tea duty, £63,147, after it acquired 1,687 tons of tea.

In 1900 Mazawattee again broke the record for the highest duty paid on tea (£85,862 in 1900), when they acquired over 5 million lbs of the good in a single transaction.

Benjamin Densham retired in 1901.

A new £400,000 factory was established at New Cross in 1901. It was the largest and best equipped tea processing plant in the world. The new site also allowed the company to move into the manufacture of cocoa and chocolate confectionery. Over 1,000 workers were employed across a four acre site.

In 1901 the company had a share capital of £800,000 (around £88 million in 2015). By 1902 this had risen to £1 million, with assets excluding goodwill valued at over £650,000.

By 1905 millions of people drank Mazawattee tea every day, and the company had over 15,000 outlets in the United Kingdom.

Financial struggles and demise of the brand
By 1900 the J Lyons tea shop chain had expanded to over 50 outlets. In 1904 the Mazawattee board decided to open 500 small shops at a cost of £200 each. Two board members, R A McQuitty and J H McLean, were placed in charge of executing the operation. They acquired only 164 teashops, but at an average cost of £500 to £2,000. Some cost as much as £4,500 and £10,000. Some annual rents were over £1,000 a year. Furthermore, the shops made serious profit losses from the start. An extraordinary meeting was called in 1905. McQuitty and McLean were immediately sacked and all the shops were quickly divested, but by then total losses amounted to nearly £300,000. Mazawattee came very close to collapse, and in attempt to save money it had to severely reduce its advertising expenditure.

The chocolate and cocoa business showed its first profit in 1907.

Unlike Lipton, Mazawattee never owned any tea plantations. They argued that this left them free to choose the best tea at auction, but it also left them vulnerable to fluctuations in commodity prices.

By 1913 much of Ceylon’s agricultural land had given way to the far more profitable rubber plantations. As the output of Ceylon tea was reduced, Mazawattee was forced to make up the difference with tea from India and Java. The only other option would have been to increase wholesale prices to untenable levels.

John Lane Densham retired as managing director and chairman in 1916, and Alexander Jackson (1857 – 1936) took over his roles.

In 1917 Mazawattee was likely the third largest manufacturer of packet tea, after J Lyons and Horniman & Co.

Joseph Densham (1883 – 1961) took over as chairman from 1936. That year the decision was taken to abandon the confectionery business.

Both the company factories were destroyed by air raids during World War II. The offices were transferred to 52 -54 Leadenhall Street. As late as 1948, the company was denied licence by the government to rebuild its factories. As such, Mazawattee  was produced by Brooke Bond until 1952.

Joseph Densham retired as chairman in 1952.

Mazawattee was sold to Burton, Son & Sanders, confectioners of Ipswich, in 1953. The freehold factory at New Cross was sold to Johnson & Phillips, electrical engineers, for £190,000, and production was moved to premises at Thomas Street, Limehouse. From this juncture Mazawattee was sold as an economy brand.

The product ceased to be sold in 1965 and Densham & Sons was liquidated in 1967. Mazawattee tea survived in South Africa until at least the mid-1980s as a catering brand for mine workers.

Horniman: inventor of packaged tea

Horniman & Co was likely the largest tea firm in the world throughout much of the latter half of the nineteenth century. It was the first tea producer to package the product individually, at a time when tea was bought loose from a grocer.

John Horniman introduces packaged tea
John Horniman (1804 – 1893) was a Quaker from Reading, England. The Horniman family had emigrated from Germany to Devon in the 15th century. Quakers often promoted products such as tea and confectionery as an alternative to alcohol and tobacco.

Horniman had established himself as a tea dealer in Northampton by 1825. At this time, tea was a luxury good, mainly consumed by the rich.

During this period tea was sold loose by grocers. As such, it was frequently subject to adulteration by unscrupulous vendors. Horniman was the first to package his tea in individual packets from 1826. He branded it as Horniman’s Pure Tea.

Tea consumption in England rose rapidly from the 1840s onwards. The business was based on the Isle of Wight by 1846.

To cope with increasing demand, Horniman invented a crude tea- packing machine.

Horniman & Co was relocated to Philpot Lane in London in the late 1840s. The site was chosen due to its proximity to Mincing Lane, where tea auctions were held. The business had moved to Dalston Place by 1851. A warehouse was opened at Wormwood Street, nearby to Mincing Lane, in 1854.


The influential Dr Arthur Hill Hassall (1817 – 1894) of The Lancet vouched for the purity of Horniman’s product in 1859. Theirs was the only Chinese green tea examined by The Lancet that was found to be free of added colouring, which was commonly used to disguise poor quality.

The British government reduced the duty on tea in 1864. Horniman’s passed on the savings to the customer by lowering the price of their product. There were 2,280 outlets for their product by 1864.

The Horniman & Co warehouse contained the largest stock of duty-paid tea in London in 1867. Over 12,000 sq ft of warehouse floorspace was constantly in use.

Horniman & Co grows to become the largest tea business in the world
John Horniman retired in 1869. His son, Frederick John Horniman (1835 – 1906), took over management of the firm. A dynamic man, Frederick was intelligent and likeable.

Horniman’s Pure Tea had  a strong export market by 1876, with high sales in Europe. The success of the firm was built on a dedication to quality, keen prices and strong marketing.

The tea warehouse on Wormwood Street burned down in 1879. The tea, on which duty had already been paid, was completely destroyed. The fire caused between £100,000 and £150,000 worth of damage (between around £11 million and £17 million in 2015 prices). Temporary premises were quickly arranged, and the firm was able to draw upon its tea reserves, so that only a few days of production were lost.

A new six-storey warehouse was built on the same site in 1880.  By this time the firm had an annual sale of over five million packets of tea, and 4,000 outlets.

Previously the sole proprietor, Frederick Horniman took on his son, Emslie Horniman, as well as S R Brewerton and others as partners in 1889.

Horniman & Co was the largest tea firm in the world by 1890. Tea packet labels were printed in nine different languages. Over 5,000 chests of tea, weighing 100lbs each, were exported each week.

The founder, John Horniman, died in 1893. He had given generously to charitable causes throughout his life, but still left a personal estate of £320,000 (£37 million in 2015). His will donated much of his wealth to good causes.

Rival manufacturer of packaged tea, Mazawattee, had decisively overtaken Horniman in sales by 1892.

Horniman & Co sold ten million packets of tea annually by 1893. Tea was sourced from India, China and Ceylon, and only the young spring growths were used.

To house the artefacts he had amassed during his travels around the world, Frederick Horniman opened the Horniman Museum in Forest Hill, London, in 1890. He donated the museum to the public in 1901, and it remains a leading London attraction.

Horniman tea was sold through over 10,000 outlets by 1903.

Frederick Horniman died in 1906 with an estate valued at £421,628.

The business was taken over by his son, Emslie John Horniman (1863 – 1932).

Acquisition by J Lyons
Horniman & Co was acquired by J Lyons & Co, the leader in the packet tea market, in 1918 . Lyons wished to build their tea sales in the North of England, where Horniman was strong. Lyons opened the largest tea packing factory in the world at Greenford on the outskirts of London in 1920.

Emslie John Horniman died in 1932 with an estate valued at £317,605.

Horniman was marketed as the Lyons premium tea brand by the 1970s. It was their highest seller in South Wales. However the brand was eventually withdrawn from sale in Britain.

The brand is now owned worldwide by Douwe Egberts. In Spain, Hornimans leads the hot tea market with a 25 percent share. It is also available in Spanish-speaking South American markets. In Italy, Royal Tea traces its origins to Horniman & Co.

Lyons led by donkeys: the fall of a British empire (1945 – present)

Part I, about the early history of J Lyons, can be found here.

During the post-war period, J Lyons developed the first business computer in the world. It introduced household-name brands such as Ready Brek, Maryland Cookies and Wimpy Hamburger.

Growth and continued success of J Lyons
J Lyons was the largest catering company in the world, with a capital of £10 million and exports to fifty countries. There were 33,000 employees and 230 tea shops in 1954.

The Corner House restaurants and hotels alone employed over 4,000 workers in 1951. On normal Bank Holidays the Corner Houses could expect to serve 250,000 meals.

Lyons was a global leader in sales of packaged tea. Lyons had a weekly production of seven million buns, 1.25 million lbs of bread and 12.5 million pieces of confectionery.

Clerical work became so extensive that J Lyons determined to build the first business computer in the world. Based on a computer at Harvard University, Lyons engineers introduced LEO (Lyons Electronic Office), after six years of development in 1954. Large computers had previously only been used for military or scientific purposes. The 5,000 sq ft computer could perform the work of 300 clerks working at top speed, with fewer mistakes.

Lyons introduced the American-style hamburger chain to Britain when it opened a Wimpy franchise in the basement of a Lyons tea shop on 277 Oxford Street in May 1954. There were 1,100 Wimpy outlets in 34 countries by 1973.

Lyons Pure Ground Coffee was the highest selling coffee in Britain in 1953. Lyons launched its standard market teabag brand, Quick Brew, in 1955.

A “Big Four” held 70 percent of the British tea market by 1956. Lyons held second place behind Brooke Bond.

Maryland Cookies were introduced from 1956. The company launched Ready Brek instant porridge in 1957, to outstanding success.

J Lyons was the third-largest soft drink producer in Britain by 1960. Rose Kia-Ora, a joint venture with Schweppes, held nearly half of the squash market.

Lyons sold its confectionery subsidiary to Callard & Bowser in 1961. With the growth of television advertising, middle-size sweet manufacturers were forced to consolidate in order to reach a scale capable of launching their own campaigns.

Lyons retired most of its tea distribution vans from 1962. The vans had delivered to independent grocers throughout the country. The company had reasoned that business was transferring towards the supermarkets. The decision was premature however, and allowed rival Brooke Bond to increase its market share at the expense of Lyons.

Lyons acquired Eldorado of Liverpool, the fourth largest ice cream manufacturer in Britain, in 1963, and rebranded its ice cream business as Lyons Maid. The takeover took its share of the ice cream market to 34 percent, and Lyons was the second largest ice cream manufacturer in Britain (after Wall’s) throughout much of the twentieth century. The FAB ice lolly was introduced in 1967. The Greenford ice cream factory was the second largest in the world by 1973.

The computer division required extensive capitalisation, so it was sold to English Electric in 1964.

Lyons had become the biggest supplier of pre-packaged cakes in Britain by 1966, and was the clear market leader with a 28 percent market share.

Lyons held more than two thirds of the packaged ground coffee market in 1966.

Throughout the 1960s J Lyons was joint third in the British tea market alongside Typhoo, with around 15 percent market share, behind Brooke Bond and the Co-operative Wholesale Society.

Lyons was probably the largest business in catering sales and supplies in Britain by 1969.

Lyons enters into decline
Lyons had seen its market share in tea decline to 13 percent by 1970, and it was far from the brand leader it once was. Quick Brew had an eight percent share of the popular tea market. It was strongest in the South of England, especially London, where it held 17 percent of the market. By this time Horniman and Black & Green had been positioned as the company’s premium tea brands. Horniman was the company’s biggest tea seller in South Wales, and Black & Green was strong in Manchester and the North West.

Lyons hotels held over 6,000 beds in 1970.

It was argued in The Spectator in 1968 that “You can grade the Lyons properties into four classes — redundant, non-profitable, underdeveloped — and Cadby Hall [the production centre].” The number of tea rooms had declined to 120 by 1969, and many were loss-making. The Coventry Street Corner House was closed in 1970. Between 1970 and 1972 the remaining tea rooms were converted into Jolyon Restaurants.

Cadby Hall was closed in 1972, with production relocated to Yorkshire and Northamptonshire. Nearly 3,000 staff were affected.

Lyons acquired Tetley Tea for £23 million in 1972. This gave Lyons the second highest market share for tea in both the British and American markets. In Britain Lyons now had 17 percent of the tea market, behind Brooke Bond on 40 percent.

A 25 percent stake in Fox’s Biscuits of Batley was acquired in 1972.

Baskin Robbins, the ice cream manufacturer with 1,600 stores in America, was acquired for £16 million in 1973.

Lyons encountered financial difficulties following the global oil crisis of 1973. They had borrowed £250 million to finance acquisitions in the early 1970s, mostly from non-British sources. Foreign loan repayments became expensive as the value of sterling fell. As a result, the company began to rapidly divest its core assets just to meet its liabilities.

J Lyons dropped from the top 100 companies in Britain by market capitalization in 1974. The company had a capitalization of £39.5 million and a turnover of £249 million in 1975.

The tearooms and corner houses fell prey to the more trendy coffee bars of Charles Forte, as well as the increasing appeal of fast food and ethnic cuisine. The last tea shop closed in 1976.

The 35 British hotels (with the exception of Tower Hotel) were sold to Forte’s Trust House Forte for £27.6 million, or just £4,000 per room, in 1976. Forte was transformed from the largest hotel operator in Britain, to probably the largest in the world. Forte promptly recouped £11 million in a year by cutting costs. The Economist described the deal as “phenomenally successful” for Forte, who acquired the hotels at a “knock-down price”.

Wimpy, with 676 UK outlets, was sold off to United Biscuits for £7 million in 1976.

The Salmon and Gluckstein families were forced to relinquish voting control over Lyons in 1976. By allowing ordinary shareholders to have votes, they hoped to acquire more capital, which was desperately needed. Previously the families had held six to seven percent of company equity but 61 percent of voting shares. By this time Lyons had a market capitalization of  over £40 million and sales of £650 million.

Lyons is acquired by Allied Breweries, and the businesses are divested
Lyons was subject to a friendly takeover by Allied Breweries which valued the company at £64 million in 1978. The merged entity was known as Allied Lyons. The Cadby Hall sites were demolished in 1983.

The remnant Lyons food businesses were sold off throughout the early to mid 1990s.

Ready Brek was sold to Weetabix in 1990.

Lyons Maid had been loss-making for several years, mainly due to increased competition following the entrance of Mars into the ice cream market. It was sold to Clarke Foods for £12 million in 1991. There were 800 employees in Greenford, Middlesex and Liverpool. Clarke Foods was acquired by Nestle in 1992.

In 1994 the Lyons coffee businesses were divested: ground coffee to Paulig of Finland and instant coffee to Philip Morris.

After acquiring Pedro Domecq in 1994, Allied Lyons renamed itself to Allied Domecq.

Lyons biscuits of Blackpool, with a staff of 780, was sold to Hillsdown Holdings in 1994.

Lyons Cakes was sold to Tomkins of America for £35 million in 1995. The business employed 1,700 people in Britain and Ireland. Meanwhile, the Tetley Tea business was subject to a management buyout, valued at £190 million.

Lyons Quick Brew and Red Label teas were still available in Britain until relatively recently. Lyons remains the highest-selling tea brand in Ireland, with over a third of the market. Lyons Maid ice cream has been rebranded as Nestle. Lyons brand cakes, biscuits and freshly ground coffee are still sold, although without the presence they once had.

Lyons’ major weakness was nepotism. As late as the 1950s, the board was populated exclusively by family members. The Financial Times ran a headline, “Too much Salmon is bad for Lyons”. A non-family member chairman was not elected until 1977. Although a public company, the majority of voting shares were controlled by the founding families until 1976. But by then, it was too late to save the company extant.