Category Archives: Confectionery

Gold rush: the life of James Goldsmith

How did Jimmy Goldsmith build the third largest food company in Europe and become the fifth richest man in Britain?

Early life of Jimmy Goldsmith
James “Jimmy” Goldsmith (1933 – 1997) was born in Paris. His father was Major Frank Goldsmith, a former British Member of Parliament, and one of the leading hoteliers in France during the interwar period.

Goldsmith described his education at Eton as “singularly unsuccessful”. He developed an interest in gambling whilst at the school. An accumulator win at the age of 16 netted him a payout of nearly £8,000, an immense sum at the time.

Goldsmith left Eton at the age of 17 and spent five “wasted” years engaged as a professional gambler. He eventually entered into debt, which his father cleared on the condition that he enlisted in the army. Goldsmith completed his service with the rank of lieutenant in 1953. He later reflected that his military stint was “one of the best things in my life. The Army did more to bring me into line as a reasonable citizen than anything else”.

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Goldsmith enters the pharmaceuticals business
Following his army service Goldsmith returned to France to discover that the family fortune had been depleted. He entered into business with his brother as a pharmaceutical product wholesaler, and found success marketing cortisone tablets.

Goldsmith eloped with Isabel Patino, the daughter of a Bolivian tin magnate, in 1953. His young wife died from complications due to childbirth the following year. Goldsmith was ridden with grief, and threw himself into his work with an almost manic energy.

Goldsmith began to produce generic medicines such as antacids at prices that undercut the large drug manufacturers. The business was successful and profitable, but it grew so fast that it ran into liquidity issues, forcing Goldsmith to sell out to Laboratoires Roussel in 1957.

Goldsmith later commented, “I had little business sense then, just a lot of nervous energy”. The loss of his first venture instilled in Goldsmith a fear of failure which was to subsequently motivate him. Goldsmith won the licence to market Prednisolone, an anti-inflammatory drug, in Britain.

Goldsmith partnered with Selim Zilkha (1927 – 2022) to acquire Lewis & Burrows, a 28-branch pharmaceutical chain, from Charles Clore (1904 – 1979) in 1959. Goldsmith relocated to London in order to manage the business.

Zilkha and Goldsmith next acquired the 50-strong chain of W J Harris, pram and nursery furniture specialists, in 1961. The business was renamed Mothercare. Stretched for capital, Goldsmith sold his retail holdings stake to Zilkha in order to concentrate on pharmaceuticals in 1962.

Goldsmith enters the food industry
Goldsmith introduced a range of slimming foods in France, in direct imitation of Metrecal, a product that had already enjoyed considerable success in the United States. Goldsmith acquired 20 percent of Procea, a British manufacturer of slimming foods, in 1963.

Charles Clore introduced Goldsmith to Sir Isaac Wolfson (1897 – 1991), who provided £1 million in expansion capital. Goldsmith determined that the best way to make money was to develop a business based on “solid brands”. He acquired full control of Procea, as well as controlling stakes in Carson’s, a leading manufacturer of chocolate liqueurs, Carr’s, best known for water biscuits, and Holland, a leading toffee manufacturer, in 1964.

Goldsmith had identified all of the companies as mismanaged, with under-utilised brands. Carson’s was loss-making, Holland was troubled, and Carr was under pressure from larger biscuit manufacturers. Goldsmith was able to acquire the companies at depressed prices. Goldsmith later commented:

I wanted to break into business in a big way and the only way I could do so with my limited resources was to buy up down-at-heel companies.

Goldsmith floated his interests as Cavenham Foods in 1965. The company employed 6,000 people and produced 15 percent of all toffee sold in Britain. Goldsmith intended to develop Cavenham into a food multinational along the lines of Unilever and Nestle.

Goldsmith modernised Cavenham in order to render the business profitable. He installed a professional management team, with staff poached from blue chip consumer goods companies such as Procter & Gamble, Mars and Beechams. Six factories were immediately closed in order to leave five sites, which were modernised. Less popular product lines were discontinued, with marketing and research concentrated on the highest-selling products. Non-core assets, such as the Holland paper and plastics division, were divested.

Singleton & Cole of Birmingham, a tobacco wholesaler, was acquired for £1.4 million in 1966. The business had entered into difficulties after the large supermarket chains had established their own wholesale networks. The merged business was the largest confectionery and tobacco wholesaler in Britain.

A 50 percent stake in the Singleton & Cole snuff manufacturing business was sold to Conwood Corporation of Tennessee for £800,000. Goldsmith had divested a tiny part of the business, and recouped 75 percent of the total acquisition cost.

Goldsmith’s attempt to build a wholesale giant ended in failure. The business failed to become profitable and had proved a drain on capital. Singleton & Cole was sold to Palmer & Harvey for £2.4 million in 1968.

Goldsmith had rendered Cavenham profitable by 1970, following five years of “sweating blood”.

Birrell-McColl, a 420-strong newsagent chain, was acquired for £900,000 in 1971. McColl’s was the leading newsagents chain in Scotland. 105 unprofitable shops were closed.

Goldsmith had a mixed relationship with the British press. In the Evening Standard he was described as having “something of the bumptious undergraduate about him”. A Daily Telegraph profile regarded him as, “a highly amusing man with a distinctively forceful style”. The Economist argued that he was “regarded as altogether too theatrical, always pulling a deal out of a hat here, a continental connection there”.

Goldsmith acquires Bovril
Goldsmith identified Bovril as another business with mismanaged and underutilised assets. He particularly liked the three “strong brand names” of Bovril, which he described as “the daddy of all health foods”, Marmite and Ambrosia. Goldsmith explained:

we think we can do more with the existing business. Bovril’s profits have not really moved since 1961. Last year they made nine percent on net tangible assets; we made 50 percent. The difference speaks for itself.

Bovril was acquired for £14.5 million in 1971 (around £500 million in 2020 prices). The move was transformational for Cavenham, and Goldsmith described it as “the most important deal of my life”.

Goldsmith commented that the Bovril directors “could find the competitive atmosphere within Cavenham somewhat uncomfortable”, and eight out of ten board members resigned following the takeover.

A 50 percent stake in the Cavenham retail operation was sold to Southland Corporation for £3.3 million in order to finance the acquisition.

Bovril had valued its dairy interests on its balance sheet at next to nothing, but Goldsmith sold them to Grand Metropolitan for £6.3 million in cash. The meat processing plants in Argentina were sold for between £1 million and £2 million. Goldsmith increased profitability by decreasing overheads and by redirecting research and development funding to support the three main brands.

Goldsmith expands his retail interests
Control of Wright’s Biscuits and Moores Stores were acquired in a deal which valued the businesses at £2.3 million and £7.5 million respectively in 1971.

Cavenham acquired Allied Suppliers, the fourth largest food retailer in Britain, for £92 million in January 1972. Goldsmith described the reverse takeover as “the cheekiest bid ever”.

Allied’s Lipton tea subsidiary, the second largest tea business in the world, was sold to Unilever for £18.5 million. Goldsmith had the Allied Suppliers property portfolio revalued at £55 million. 1600 freehold properties, mostly acquired with the Allied Suppliers purchase, were sold for £17.5 million in 1973. Two office buildings in the City of London were sold for a further £11.7 million. Goldsmith invested £8.8 million to modernise the Allied Suppliers estate.

The Cavenham biscuit interests, with 2,500 employees, were sold to United Biscuits for £4 million in July 1972. The business had lacked sufficient scale, with just 2.5 percent of the biscuit market.

A 50 percent stake in Grand Union, the ninth largest food retailer in the United States, was acquired for £25.5 million in 1973. According to Goldsmith the business was “large, dull and reasonably profitable”. Goldsmith announced plans to revolutionise the American supermarket industry, defined by shops which he regarded as “linear, plastic, neon-lit [and] unexciting”.

Cavenham had a market capitalization of £79.7 million by 1974, and was the third largest food and retail company in Europe, behind Nestle and Unilever.

Goldsmith constantly reassessed what was central to his business. Procea was sold to Spillers for around £1.5 million in 1975.

Cavenham was acquired by General Occidentale, a French company controlled by Goldsmith, in 1976.

Goldsmith received a knighthood in 1976.

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The Cavenham stake in Grand Union was increased to 80 percent in 1976.

Cavenham employed 66,000 people by 1977.

Goldsmith’s attempt to create a food multinational along the lines of Unilever ultimately ended in failure. He realised that he could never hope to dominate the food industry, but he could become a significant force in retail. Bovril was sold to Beechams for £42 million in 1980. Cavenham Confectionery was sold to its management for around £8 million in 1981.

Allied Suppliers, with 918 stores, was sold to Argyll Foods for £101 million in 1982. Argyll Foods became the fourth largest food retailer in Britain.

Goldsmith invests in timberland and gold
Goldsmith acquired Diamond International, a New York-based forests and paper company, for $661 million in 1982. It was “a company regarded by most industry experts as a heap of junk”, according to Gwen Kinkead of Fortune magazine. Goldsmith retained 1.7 million acres of timberland across New England but divested the rest of the business for $587 million.

Goldsmith commented, “in breaking up an old conglomerate, you’re not killing companies, you’re not buying them to shut them down and sell their assets. You are simply killing off the bureaucracy and letting the companies inside the conglomerate free”.

Goldsmith gained control of Crown Zellerbach of San Francisco, a forests and paper company, for $560 million in 1985. The paper interests were sold to James River Corp of Virginia for $700 million leaving Goldsmith with almost two million acres of forest land. The Diamond International and Crown Zellerbach timberland interests were merged to form Cavenham Forestry Products, the sixth largest private owner of forest land in the United States.

Goldsmith was ranked as the fifth wealthiest man in Britain in 1988, with a net worth estimated at £1 billion.

Grand Union was sold to its management for $1.2 billion in 1989.

Goldsmith sold Cavenham Forestry Products to Hanson, a London-based conglomerate, in exchange for a 49 percent stake in Newmont Mining Corp, the largest gold producer in America, in 1990. Goldsmith divested most of his stake in Newmont in 1993.

Death and assessment
Goldsmith died from pancreatic cancer in 1997. The value of his estate was estimated at £1.5 billion. His obituary in the Financial Times characterised him as a “corporate buccaneer”. The Daily Telegraph described him as “a mercurial stockmarket predator”.

Fillerys Toffees of Birmingham

How did Fillerys become one of the largest toffee manufacturers in Britain?

Fillerys Toffees was established in 1923 by a consortium of four investors led by Robert Harold Mayhew (1874 – 1965). The factory was located on Warwick Road in Greet, south Birmingham.

The site covered four acres by 1927, and due to increasing sales, 24 hour production was introduced from 1930.

Fillerys Toffees was incorporated as a public company in 1934. Herbert E Morgan was chairman. The company had an authorised and issued capital of £100,000 by 1935. Around 300 workers were employed.

Fillerys led the toffee industry as one of the most efficient producers by 1942. Production focused on own-label manufacturing for retailers such as Woolworths.

During the Second World War, most of the factory was given over to munitions manufacturing for the war effort.

Under a Government scheme to encourage industrial efficiency, Fillerys Toffees were produced under contract by Rowntree of York between 1942 and 1946.

The company had established nationwide sales distribution by 1949.

The end of sugar rationing in 1954 saw a boom in confectionery sales. Fillerys Toffees won a prestigious and valuable contract to supply confectionery for Marks & Spencer.

The sugar confectionery boom was over by the end of the 1950s, as increasing prosperity saw consumers increasingly switch to chocolate products. As a result, the industry began to consolidate in order to reduce costs.

Fillerys was acquired by J A & P Holland of Southport in 1960 to create the largest toffee manufacturer in Britain, and possibly the world.

Cavenham Foods acquired J A & P Holland in 1965. The Fillerys factory was closed down in March 1966, and production was transferred to Southport. The reason given was that the Fillerys factory did not have room for expansion. About 230 workers lost their jobs.

Planet Mars: a transatlantic chocolate dynasty

How did Mars become one of the leading chocolate manufacturers in Britain?

American origins
Franklin Clarence Mars (1883 – 1934) was the son of a gristmill operator. He entered into the confectionery business in Tacoma, Washington, from 1910 as a wholesaler of penny candies.

Mars relocated to Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1920, where he formed the Mar-O-Bar company and began to manufacture chocolate bars. The business struggled until his son, Forrest Edward Mars (1904 – 1999), suggested that Mars create a chocolate bar influenced by a malted milkshake. On the back of this idea, the Milky Way bar was introduced from 1923.

The Milky Way bar was an immediate success. Sales exploded without the help of advertising. The product enjoyed a cost discount against rival chocolate bars, due to a filling made of relatively low-cost nougat.

Mars was one of the largest confectionery manufacturers in America by 1930. The Snickers bar was launched in 1930, and 3 Musketeers was launched in 1932.

Forrest E Mars graduated from Yale University with a degree in industrial engineering in 1928. He initially worked as a superintendent at his father’s factory. Meanwhile, he read voraciously on business methods, especially those used by DuPont, a large chemicals company, and business tycoon John D Rockefeller (1839 – 1937).

A brash and ambitious man, it wasn’t long before Forrest Mars clashed with his father. He deemed management as lax, and considered product quality to be inconsistent. Mars resented how his father cut costs by using low-quality chocolate in his products. He also harboured ambitions for Mars to expand its overseas sales.

Forrest Mars demanded a one third stake in the company. His father refused, but in recognition of his contribution he was given $50,000 and the foreign rights to Mars products, and told to establish a business for himself.

To gain an understanding of European confectionery manufacturing methods, Mars worked incognito at the plants of Tobler and Nestle in Switzerland, a case of industrial espionage he would later openly confess to.

Establishment of Mars UK
Mars took what he learned in Switzerland, and leased a single room factory in Slough, a small industrial town outside London, from May 1932. England was chosen for the European base because Mars could speak the language. He initially employed a staff of eight.

Original confectionery manufacturing equipment from the Slough factory

Mars understood that British confectionery tastes differed to those of his native land. His first product was an Anglicised version of the Milky Way, which he called the Mars bar. Introduced from August 1932, the product was initially entirely handmade. Instead of the Hershey chocolate used in the US, the Mars bar used a Cadbury chocolate coating, and the toffee was sweeter.

The business prospered quickly. Within a year, two million Mars bars had been sold, and 100 people were employed. The product was advertised nationwide by 1934. Mars boosted sales by advertising his confectionery as a nutritious food product.

The British Milky Way, a different product to the American Milky Way, was launched in 1935. Not all of the early product introductions were a success; short lived confectionery lines included the So Big bar and a vanilla version of the Mars bar.

Forrest Mars was a great believer in scientific management as a driver of profitability. He also had a fanatical dedication to quality. However he could also be cruel and demanding, and on occasions he demonstrated a volatile temper. However for upholding his high standards his managers were rewarded handsomely.

Franklin Mars died in 1934 and control of Mars Inc passed to his widow, Ethel V Mars (1888 – 1945).

Maltesers were introduced in Britain from 1936.

Following the outbreak of the Second World War, Mars returned to the United States. There he established a business producing M&Ms, a product that he had developed based on Smarties, a British confection manufactured by Rowntree.

Rowntree agreed not to compete with M&Ms in the US in exchange for the production rights to the Mars bar in South Africa, Canada and Australia.

Milky Way and Maltesers production was halted in Britain during the Second World War, but the manufacture of Mars bars was continued.

The Mars bar was the highest-selling chocolate bar in Britain by 1949.

The Bounty bar was launched in the United Kingdom in 1951. It had similarities to Mounds, an American chocolate bar produced by Peter Paul.

By the mid-1950s the leading products were Mars, Bounty, Maltesers and Spangles.

Mars was the third largest chocolate manufacturer in Britain by 1960.

Starburst (originally known as Opal Fruits) and the Galaxy chocolate bar were introduced in the United Kingdom in 1960.

The “Mars a day” slogan was introduced in Britain from 1960.

Forrest Mars gains control of Mars Inc
Forrest Mars gained control of Mars Inc in 1964. An egalitarian, he quickly dismantled the executive dining room and sold off the art collection. Private offices were opened up with glass panels to improve communication. Executives were obliged to clock in and out the same as everyone else. However to compensate for his strict demands, Mars raised salaries by 30 percent. Mars also increased the proportion of chocolate in each bar.

Forrest Mars resigned as president and chief executive officer of Mars Inc in 1967. In his place he appointed Alfred Baxter (1913 – 1986), a Unilever veteran from England.

Mars had opened a second factory in Slough, located on Liverpool Road, by 1966.

The Twix was first produced in the United Kingdom from 1967.

Mars confectionery was the third largest advertiser in Britain in 1969, and the Mars bar was the highest-selling confectionery line in the country. It was likely that the Mars confectionery business in Britain was larger than its American counterpart. Unions were excluded from the business, but employee welfare benefits were some of the best in the country.

Forrest Mars retired in 1969. He handed ownership of the company over to his two sons in 1973.

The Mars factory in Slough, c.2014

Skittles were first introduced in Britain in the 1970s.

Mars won a Queen’s Award for Export in 1979. Chocolate bars were exported to over 100 different countries. The Slough factory employed 4,000 people.

Slough produced two million Mars bars a day by 1982. It was the highest selling chocolate confectionery in the United Kingdom, with annual sales of £100 million.

Forrest Mars died in 1999. His obituary in the Daily Telegraph described him as, “a secretive, penny-pinching, foul-tempered bully [with a] monstrous character”.

Mars announced it would close its Liverpool Road factory, with the loss of 500 jobs, over the course of two years, in 2005. Production of Twix bars was relocated to France and Germany. Starburst manufacturing was transferred to the Czech Republic.

The Dundee Road plant received a £45 million modernisation investment, and continues to produce Mars bars, Snickers, Galaxy and Maltesers.

Mars opened a new £7 million research and development facility at Slough in 2012.

Slough is the European headquarters for Mars confectionery. The Dundee Road plant employed 1,000 people and produced 2.5 million Mars bars a day in 2013.

Mars remains a privately-held company controlled by the Mars family. Research by Statista indicated that Mars had the largest share of the global chocolate market in 2016, at 14.4 percent.

H J Packer of Bristol

H J Packer was the largest low-cost chocolate manufacturer in the world.

Packer and Burrows
Edward Packer (1848 – 1887) was a Quaker who worked for J S Fry & Sons of Bristol, a chocolate manufacturer, in the 1870s.

Edward Packer left Fry & Sons to commence chocolate manufacture for himself from 1881. He worked from his house at 11 Armory Square, and was assisted by his wife. Soon he employed eight people.

Packer entered into partnership with Henry John Burrows (born 1853). Unfortunately, trade immediately declined, and all employees other than members of the Packer family had to be dismissed.

Burrows acquired full control of the business from 1884. Burrows added his own initials to the company name, and began trading as H J Packer & Co.

Caleb Bruce Cole
Caleb Bruce Cole (1862 -1912) was a confectionery salesman in Bristol. He was impressed with his contact with H J Packer & Co, and borrowed £1,000 from his father to acquire the business in 1886. Around nine people were employed.

The business began to grow from around 1889. Cole identified a gap in the market, and began to manufacture high quality chocolate at an affordable price. The chocolates found a keen market among children.

Cole subverted the notion that low-cost food production need sacrifice standards of cleanliness or provision for the workforce.

In 1896 Cole was joined by his brother Horace, and William John Mansfield (1846 -1912) was employed as general manager.

A new factory was opened at Greenbank, Bristol in 1903. It covered four acres and was the largest low-cost chocolate factory in the world. 450 people were employed. Greenbank was situated on a major railway line, which allowed for convenient distribution.

H J Packer & Co became a limited company from 1908.

Carsons of Glasgow, with a share capital of £50,000, was acquired in January 1912. Carsons had been the first business to introduce chocolate assortment trays, and traded at the premium end of the market.

Caleb Bruce Cole died in June 1912. A progressive man, he was described as quiet and likeable. He died a wealthy man, with an estate valued at £259,937.

H J Packer & Co had a capital of £750,000 and employed 1,000 people by 1912.

A dedicated Carsons chocolate factory was established at Shortwood, Bristol, in order to supply the South and West of England markets, from 1914.

Packers was the fourth largest chocolate manufacturer in Britain by 1922, and the largest manufacturer of low-cost chocolate in the world.

The company struggled during the Great Depression.

The Carsons factory was divested in 1960 due to overcapacity.

The company name was changed to Carsons Ltd from 1962. The Carsons brand had become well-known as Britain’s largest producer of chocolate liqueurs, filled with some of the leading spirits, liqueur and fortified wine brands in the world.

Until 1961 liqueur chocolates could only be sold from licensed premises. This opening up of the market provided an opportunity.

Acquisition by Cavenham
Cavenham Foods, managed by James Goldsmith (1933 – 1997), gained control of Carsons in 1964.

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Goldsmith rebuilt and modernised the Carsons plant. He then retired all of the Carsons chocolate lines except for liqueurs, the only sector of the market which was experiencing a growth in sales. The liqueur chocolate market was largely dominated by imported brands such as Lindt, Ringer, Rademaker and Trumpf.

Carsons held over 29 percent of the liqueur chocolate market by 1966. This was achieved with minimal advertising. Instead Carson’s benefited from the advertising campaigns of spirits brands that were inside their chocolates; names such as Harvey’s Bristol Cream and Hennessy cognac.

Carsons liqueurs were being marketed under the Famous Names brand by 1966.

Elizabeth Shaw, an upmarket chocolate manufacturer, was acquired in 1968.

Carsons held over 40 percent of the British chocolate liqueur market by the late 1970s.

Recent history
Cavenham Confectionery was subject to a management buyout in 1981, and the company was renamed Famous Names Ltd. It was acquired by Imperial Tobacco in 1985.

Management bought control of Famous Names Ltd in 1988, and the company was renamed Elizabeth Shaw Ltd. Elizabeth Shaw Ltd was acquired by Leaf of Finland in 1990.

Elizabeth Shaw closed its outdated Greenbank factory in 2006. Production was relocated to factories across Britain and Europe.

Comfort for the table: Epps Cocoa

Epps was the leading brand of cocoa in Victorian Britain.

Dr John Epps invents an instant cocoa
Dr John Epps (1805 – 1869) was the son of a wealthy Calvinist provision merchant in London.

Dr Epps became one of the pioneers of homeopathy in Britain. He established premises at Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury. He was joined by his brother, James Epps (1821 – 1907), from 1837.

Dr John Epps (1805 – 1869) inventor of Epps’ Cocoa Powder

The almost prohibitive duty on cocoa was greatly reduced in 1832, allowing the market to grow exponentially. Easily prepared cocoa had been difficult to procure, and the fat in the raw material was unpalatable for many. Dr John Epps discovered a way to make it more appetising, mixing the cocoa with 20 percent West Indies arrowroot and 13 percent sugar.

Epps’ cocoa was first sold in 1839 for the use of patients for whom tea and coffee were restricted. It was an instant cocoa powder, made by mixing with hot water or milk.

Dr John Epps was not the first person to invent soluble cocoa powder, but James Epps was largely responsible for introducing the product to the mass market. He heavily advertised Epps’ Cocoa, and had introduced a distinctive slogan, “grateful and comforting” by 1855.

Epps’ Cocoa was initially produced under contract by Daniel Dunn of Pentonville Road, who had invented instant cocoa powder in 1819.

James Epps begins to manufacture cocoa independently
James Epps had established his own factory at 398 Euston Road, London by 1863. He installed his nephew, Hahnemann Epps (1843 – 1916), as manager.

Epps & Co had grown to become the largest cocoa powder producer in Britain by 1878, with an output of nearly five million pounds (2.3 million kg) a year. To accommodate increasing production, a new steam-powered works was established at Holland Street, Blackfriars from 1878. At its peak Epps & Co processed half of all cocoa imports into Britain.

Steam Cocoa Mills, Holland Street, London
Steam Cocoa Mills, Holland Street, London

A short and slight man, James Epps kept a low public profile, unlike his gregarious brother John. He was known only for his work in business, and had few outside interests. He allowed his portrait to be taken only once, and he never granted an interview or issued a public statement. He was a hard worker, keen on a bargain, and somewhat controlling. Despite his massive wealth he lived in an unfashionable area of London.

Epps & Co sales peaked in the early 1880s. Nearly 15 million packets were sold in 1882. Sales began to decline as rivals introduced superior products. Cadbury and Rowntree invested in Van Houten presses, which allowed the manufacturer to remove the unpalatable cocoa butter from the product. Epps neglected to respond to this change.

Epps & Co is converted into a private company; sale to Rowntree
The business was converted into a private joint stock limited company known as James Epps & Co in 1893. The directors were James Epps, Hahnemann Epps and James Epps Jr (1856 – 1905), and the company had a capital of £200,000. No shares were offered to the public, and the company remained under family control.

Epps’ Cocoa had been overtaken in sales by Dr Tibbles’ Vi-Cocoa and Rowntree by 1898.

James Epps Jr (also known as Willie James Epps), the only son of James Epps, died of a heart attack in Jamaica in 1905. His gross estate was valued at £162,422.

James Epps (1821 – 1907), date unknown

James Epps died in 1907 and his gross estate was valued at £735,387. This was a larger estate than contemporaries in the food industry such as the mustard magnate Jeremiah James Colman (1830 – 1898), instant custard producer Alfred Bird (1849 – 1922) or James Horlick (1844 – 1921).

The estate was inherited by his nieces and nephews, principally James Washington Epps (1874 -1955), who became managing director of James Epps & Co. Hahnemann Epps became chairman.

Taylor Brothers Ltd, a London cocoa manufacturer, was acquired in 1907. Taylor’s cocoa was an economy offering, made with up to 20 percent cocoa shell, whereas Epps was a premium product, and contained no shell.

Epps’ Cocoa powder had been reformulated to include 44 percent sugar, 40 percent cocoa and 16 percent West Indies arrowroot by 1924.

Rowntree of York acquired James Epps & Co for £70,000 in 1926.

The Epps factory was closed in 1930, and the manufacture of Epps products was transferred to Whitefields Ltd of Plaistow.

Minted: R S Murray & Co

R S Murray & Co introduced American-style caramels to Britain, but remains best-known for Murray Mints.

R S Murray introduces caramels to Britain
Robert Stuart Murray (1854 – 1912) was a confectionery salesman from Chicago, Illinois. He relocated to London where he introduced imported American-style caramels, made from milk or cream and sugar, to the British market.

Encouraged by strong demand, Murray formed a partnership with Charles Hubbard (died 1911) and Walter Michael Price (1826 – 1919), and established a confectionery factory at 67 Turnmill Street in Clerkenwell from 1882. Caramel producing machinery to the value of £8,000 was imported from America.

The factory employed 300 workers, and had a daily production output of five to six tons of confectionery.

R S Murray & Co was registered as a limited company with a capital of £50,000 in 1900. R S Murray & Co was probably the third largest sugar confectionery manufacturer in London by this time, behind Clarnico and Barratt.

R S Murray & Co had diversified into chocolate manufacturing by 1906.

The workers at R S Murray & Co went out on strike, demanding higher pay, in 1911. The largely female workforce were supported by Mary Macarthur (1880 – 1921), the prominent women’s rights campaigner. The campaign ended with a largely positive result for the workforce.

Robert Stuart Murray died in 1912 with a net personalty valued at £20,169 (around £19.3 million in 2020 prices).

H J Norton establishes overseas subsidiaries
Herbert John Norton (1874 – 1958) was nominated managing director in 1912, following the death of Robert Stuart Murray.

The factory site covered over three acres by 1914, and employed 1,500 to 2,000 people.

H J Norton was nominated chairman after the First World War.

A chocolate manufacturing subsidiary in Australia was established at De Carle Street, East Brunswick, a suburb of Melbourne, from 1920.

R S Murray formed a joint venture with Clarnico to establish an Irish manufacturing presence, Clarnico Murray, from 1927.

The Australian factory employed over 300 people by 1931. Rowntree of York and R S Murray merged their Australian interests into a joint venture from 1934.

R S Murray & Co is acquired by C & E Morton
R S Murray & Co was acquired by C & E Morton, a tinned food manufacturer, in 1936.

The Turnmill Street factory was closed in the late 1930s, and R S Murray production was transferred to the C & E Morton site at Lowestoft, Suffolk.

R S Murray sold its stake in the Australian subsidiary to Rowntree in 1942.

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Murray Mints, caramels flavoured with molasses and peppermint, were introduced from 1944. They soon became the best known R S Murray product.

C & E Morton was acquired by Beecham, a consumer goods manufacturer, for £180,000 in 1945.

Murray Mints were advertised on British television from 1955. They were promoted as, “the too good to hurry mint”. Murray Mints became one of the most extensively advertised sugar confectionery lines, and sales soared.

Other Murray products sold throughout the 1950s included Murray Fruits, the Regent assortment, and Murray Caramels.

Beecham acquired James Pascall, in an attempt to build scale in confectionery, in 1959. Following the takeover, Beecham focused its marketing efforts on Pascall products, rather than the Murray range.

Pascal Murray is acquired by Cadbury Fry
Beecham were successful marketers, but they struggled with the highly competitive confectionery industry, and Pascall Murray was sold to Cadbury, a large chocolate manufacturer, in 1964.

Clarnico Murray had around ten percent of the Irish confectionery market by 1969. The Irish factory was closed in 1974, and the market was thereafter served by imports from Britain.

Cadbury was acquired by Kraft of Chicago in 2010. Kraft spun-off its global snacks business, including Cadbury, as Mondelez in 2012.

Murray Mints are still sold in Britain by Mondelez under the Maynard Bassett brand. Murray Butter Mints are also available as part of a mint assortment.

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.


A J Caley of Norwich

A J Caley of Norwich was one of the largest chocolate manufacturers in Britain.

A J Caley establishes the business
Albert Jarman Caley (1829 – 1895) was born in Windsor, the son of a silk merchant. After attending Eton School he established a chemist’s shop on High Street, Windsor from 1853.

Caley relocated to London Street, Norwich, where his brother already lived, from 1857.

A J Caley began to manufacture soft drinks from 1862. Soft drinks manufacturing was Caley’s largest branch of trade by 1881.

Due to the seasonal nature of the soft drinks trade, Caley began to produce drinking chocolate from 1883, followed by eating chocolate from 1886.

Caley was possessed of a retiring disposition. He was considered a kind and considerate employer who took a keen interest in the welfare of his employees. He was a religious man, and in later life was affiliated with the evangelical Plymouth Brethren.

A J Caley retired in 1894 and control of the business passed to his only son, Edward James Caley (1862 – 1938), and two nephews.

A J Caley died in 1895 with an estate valued at £22,000.

A J Caley is converted into a limited liability company
The business was converted into a private limited liability company, A J Caley & Son, in 1898, with a capital of £120,000.

Christmas cracker production commenced from 1898.

The manufacture of milk chocolate commenced from 1901.

700 workers were employed by 1904. This had risen to 1,200 by 1912.

A J Caley & Son supplied the armed forces with ration chocolate during the First World War.

Acquisition by Lever Brothers
A J Caley & Son was acquired by the Lever Brothers-controlled United Africa Company in 1919. The United Africa Company was motivated by the opportunity to have an outlet for its large purchases of raw cocoa.

A J Caley & Son saw its capital increased from £120,000 to £1 million. Four new factories were completed at a cost of around £500,000 in 1920, which trebled productive capacity.

Chocolate, especially Easter eggs, was the most important manufacture by this time. Christmas cracker production was also important, and the division employed hundreds of people year round.

Sale to John Mackintosh & Sons
A J Caley & Son had become loss-making by the early 1930s, and the factory was about to be closed.

John Mackintosh & Sons of Halifax acquired A J Caley & Son for £138,000 in 1932. Mackintosh was motivated by the opportunity to increase its productive capacity, which had outgrown their own Halifax site.

In the first year of acquisition the Caley works was greatly expanded. In order to render A J Caley profitable, hundreds of product lines and several departments were discontinued.

There were nearly 1,500 employees at Norwich by 1935, more than ever before. A J Caley sales grew eightfold between 1933 and 1938.

Caley’s expertise in chocolate manufacture allowed Mackintosh to introduce new product lines such as Rolo and Quality Street.

Caley initially operated under independent management, but control was brought under the Mackintosh umbrella from 1939.

The Caley factory was destroyed by bombing during the Second World War in 1942, and had to be rebuilt.

The Caley’s brand name was phased out in the early 1960s.

John Mackintosh & Sons employed 2,000 people at Norwich by 1962.

John Mackintosh & Sons merged with Rowntree in 1969 to form Rowntree Mackintosh. Rowntree Mackintosh was acquired by Nestle of Switzerland in 1988. The Norwich factory was closed in 1994, and demolished ten years later.

Worth a mint: Barker & Dobson

How did Barker & Dobson become one of the largest confectionery manufacturers in Britain?

Joseph Dobson (1801 – 1864) established a grocery shop on Henry Street in Liverpool from 1834. He was declared bankrupt in 1841.

Using the maiden name of his wife, he commenced trade as Barker & Dobson from 1844 and the business was relocated to Paradise Street.

Dobson was declared bankrupt again in 1861. One of the trustees of the estate was George Bassett (1818 – 1886), confectioner of Sheffield.

Barker & Dobson had relocated to 6 Duke Street by 1870. The main business was in imported French confectionery.

Jacobson era
The business was taken over by Henry Dobson Jacobson (1867 – 1961), grandson of Joseph Dobson, in 1889.

Jacobson was to prove the impetus behind the subsequent growth of Barker & Dobson. He relocated the business to Hope Street and entered into confectionery and chocolate manufacturing. Over 100 people were employed in sweet and chocolate manufacture by 1897. The leading product line was Walnut Toffee, with sales of over 900 kg a week.

Barker & Dobson operated three confectionery shops which specialised in the sale of imported confectionery from France, Germany and America.

Jacobson was a great believer in the power of advertising, and bought space in newspapers, and invested in enticing product labels and packaging.

A 1929 advertisement for the Barker & Dobson Verona chocolate assortment from Britannia & Eve.

Barker & Dobson established a factory and head office at Franklin Place, in the Everton district of Liverpool, in 1906.

Barker & Dobson was incorporated as a public company from 1919 in order to fund expansion.

Premises had been established at London as well as Liverpool by 1924.

A disused tram depot on Whitefield Road, Liverpool was acquired and converted into a factory in 1926. The new factory adjoined the Franklin Place site.

Barker & Dobson had a authorised share capital of £500,000 by 1928. The business employed over 1,200 people.

H D Jacobson became chairman, and appointed his brother, Percy Isidore Jacobson (1873 – 1961), as managing director.

Sale to Scribbans-Kemp
Barker & Dobson was one of the largest manufacturers of chocolate and boiled sweets in Britain by the post-war period. Following the Second World War the company began to struggle to meet demand for its products, and required an increase in capital.

Barker & Dobson was acquired by Scribbans-Kemp of Birmingham, a large cake and biscuit manufacturer, in 1952. Scribbans-Kemp established a new sugar confectionery factory and offices in 1955.

Bensons, a sweet manufacturer based in Bury, Lancashire, was acquired in 1956-7.

P I Jacobson died with a gross estate of £353,003 in 1961. H D Jacobson also died in 1961 with a gross estate of £865,359.

Fryer & Co of Nelson, Lancashire was acquired for £1.2 million in 1965. The company had invented the jelly baby, and produced the Victory V cough sweet.

Scribbans-Kemp changed its name to S K Holdings in the early 1970s.

Waller & Hartley of Blackpool, with the Hacks cough sweet brand, was acquired for £4.7 million in 1972.

18 percent of production was exported to 86 different countries in 1972. The principal foreign markets were North and South America. The Everton Mint remained the highest-selling product line.

S K Holdings changed its name to Barker & Dobson from 1973.

The five confectionery factories in Lancashire employed over 2,000 people by 1974. The Liverpool factory produced 250 tons of sweets per week.

The Blackpool and Southport factories were closed with the loss of 450 jobs in 1974.

Barker & Dobson distributed Ferrero products such as Tic-Tacs for the British market from 1974.

Financial difficulties
Barker & Dobson suffered heavy losses in the mid-1970s. A stake in Hacks Malaysia was divested in 1976.

Barker & Dobson was forced to remove the 0.2 percent chloroform component from its Victory V sweet recipe from 1981, due to a change in the law. Sales of their highest-selling product immediately slumped by 25 percent.

The Barker & Dobson factory in Dublin was closed in 1982.

The Whitefield Road factory was closed with the loss of about 360 jobs in 1983. The sugar confectionery market was in decline, and the ageing factory would have needed extensive repairs in order to remain operational. 200 administrative staff remained at the Whitefield Road offices.

Only Bury and Nelson remained as large factories within the company. There were also smaller factories in Dundee and east London.

Barker & Dobson held the British distribution rights for Marabou products, such as the Daim/Dime chocolate bar, by 1984.

Barker & Dobson sold its newsagents business, with 150 outlets, to Guinness for £10 million in 1985. A high-class chocolate shop on Bond Street, London was retained.

Keiller, the butterscotch and marmalade manufacturer, was acquired for £4.9 million in 1985.

The highest-selling product lines in 1985 were Hacks, Victory V and Everton Mints.

The Whitefield Road offices were closed in 1985, and headquarters were relocated to Bury.

Barker & Dobson acquired Budgens supermarkets, with 148 outlets, from Booker McConnell for £80 million in 1986.

Subsequent owners
Alma Holdings acquired the heavily loss-making confectionery subsidiary of Barker & Dobson for £10 million in 1988. The deal created the fourth largest sugar confectionery manufacturer in Britain.

Alma entered into receivership in 1992, and Hacks and Victory V were sold to Cadbury for £3.1 million, with production relocated to their Trebor Bassett factories. Barker & Dobson and Keiller were acquired by Portfolio Foods for £3 million.

The Barker & Dobson brand was withdrawn in 2008 alongside the Pascall and Sharp’s names, with traditional sweets consolidated under the Taveners brand.

Hacks remains a leading confectionery brand in Malaysia.

A refreshing change: Trebor

Trebor is best known today for its Extra Strong and Softmints. It also introduced Refreshers, Fruit Salad and Black Jack sweets. Trebor was the largest sugar confectionery manufacturer in Britain when it was acquired by Cadbury in 1989.

Robertson & Woodcock was established when William Woodcock (a sugar boiler), Robert Robertson (a grocer), Sydney Herbert Marks (a salesman) and Thomas King (a grocer) invested £100 each in a partnership to manufacture boiled sweets from 1907.

There was a factory at Forest Gate, London, called the Trebor Works. Confectionery was sold under the Trebor brand.

A view of the Trebor factory at Forest Gate

Horse-drawn vans were replaced by motor vehicles for distribution purposes from 1915.

Sydney J Marks (1900 – 1980), the son of S H Marks, was sent to Germany to learn the latest production methods in 1925. Information he acquired on powdered sugar enabled Robertson & Woodcock to introduce its two most famous products. Refreshers were introduced from 1935, and Extra Strong Peppermints were launched in 1937.

A new factory was established on a five-acre site in Chesterfield from 1939. The site was chosen as it lowered distribution costs for the Midlands and the North of England. Initially around 300 people were employed.

S J Marks became managing director in 1941. By this time the company was controlled by the Marks family. S J Marks was a brilliant but autocratic businessman.

Sugar was rationed during the Second World War, so a sugar and lard mixture was used to make the product go further.

Control of Jamesons Chocolates was acquired in 1959.

Trebor Sharps
Edward Sharp & Sons of Maidstone, a toffee manufacturer, was acquired in 1961.

Sharps and Trebor were merged in 1968 to form Trebor Sharps, a mid-sized confectioner based at Woodford Green, Essex.

An overseas trade flourished, and by the late 1960s, the company was the largest exporter of sugar confectionery in Britain, sending 15 percent of production to nearly 70 countries. More mints were sold in Nigeria than in the domestic market, and the United States was the largest export destination.

Clarnico, the confectionery subsidiary of Clarke, Nickolls & Coombs, was acquired for £750,000 in 1969. The acquisition made Trebor the fourth largest confectionery company in Britain.

Sydney J Marks became president of Trebor from 1970, and his son, John Marks (1930 – 2012), became chairman.

Trebor was the leading sugar confectionery manufacturer in Britain by 1978. Led by its Extra Strong brand, the company held 30 percent of the mints market.

Guided by his Christian convictions, John Marks developed a paternalistic relationship with his workforce. The business banned night shifts from 1981, in the belief that it was disruptive to domestic life.

The loss-making confectionery arm of Maynards, best known for wine gums, was acquired for £8.1 million in 1986.

Trebor was the leading sugar confectionery manufacturer in Britain by 1986, with a twelve percent market share, including 50 percent of all hard mint sales. It was the market leader in boiled sugar sweets and branded mints.

Trebor is sold to Cadbury
Unfortunately the business found itself under increasing pressure from the bigger confectionery firms, with larger marketing budgets. Trebor was sold to Cadbury for £120 million in 1989. The Marks family gifted 15 percent of the sale value to their workforce.

Many of the 3,000 strong workforce were to lose their jobs. Redundancy costs were low, as many workers were only employed on three-month contracts.

Cadbury recouped some of its takeover costs by divesting Trebor House, the head office and factory in North London.

Trebor Extra Strong was the second-highest selling sugar confectionery line in Britain by 1997, behind only Polo mints. Trebor Softmints were the third-highest seller. Maynards Wine Gums were the fourth best-seller.

The Chesterfield factory was closed with the loss of 245 jobs in 2005. The closure was blamed on an outdated plant and declining sales of Fruit Salads and Black Jacks.