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The fizzy history of Barratt & Co

Barratt’s is well-known in Britain for children’s confectionery products such as Sherbet Fountains and Dip Dabs. Less well-known is that the business was the first to introduce branded confectionery, and made sweets affordable to the working classes for the first time.

Barratt introduces low cost confectionery
Two brothers, George Osborne Barratt (1827 – 1906) and James John Barratt (1825 – 1872) formed a partnership as pastry chefs at 9 Albert Place on the City Road in Shoreditch in 1848 .

George Barratt became respected as a skilled developer of new types of confectionery. His first success was a half-baked brandy snap biscuit.

George Osborne Barratt (1827 – 1906) in his later years

The two brothers elected to go their separate ways in 1852, and George Barratt relocated to Shepherdess Walk in Hoxton to establish himself independently as a confectioner. Barratt initially produced a few pounds of sweets a day, and was assisted by his wife and one employee, a sugar boiler.

Barratt soon introduced a new product which was to prove popular: “coconut chips” consisted of grated coconut with a crystallised sugar coating. Barratt then had further success with various types of rock confectionery, including “Almond Rock”.

The breakthrough for the business occurred by accident, when Barratt discovered that his sugar boiler had failed to grain (or crystallize) a batch of coconut candy. Barratt poured the confectionery into tins and hoped it would set before it reached his customers. It didn’t set, but customers liked the new toffee “that sticks the jaw” and demanded more. Barratt branded the new product “Stickjaw”.

Barratt targeted the working class market with low prices, and was credited with making confectionery affordable to the poorest in society for the first time. He was also credited as the first person to package confectionery in labelled boxes, thus creating brand awareness and consumer loyalty.

The business grew, and Barratt had factories on both sides of Shepherdess Walk by 1864.

Barratt & Co becomes the largest confectionery manufacturer in the world
Barratt & Co was one of the largest manufacturers of jam and confectionery in London by 1884, with a workforce of around 500 people.

A sickness fund was introduced for the employees from 1890.

George Barratt began to wind down his involvement with the business from the 1890s due to his advancing years. His four sons, George William, Frank, Albert and Edward Barratt, took an increasing role in the management of the business he had built.

Barratt & Co claimed to possess the largest sugar confectionery factory in England by the 1890s.

Barratt & Co employed 2,000 people by 1899.

George Barratt entered into retirement from 1902, and divided his business between his four sons.

Barratt & Co was the largest confectionery manufacturer in the world by 1906. The company produced 350 tons of sweets every week from a five-acre site.

George Barratt died in 1906, with an estate valued at £153,830.

E W Barratt gifted every employee of the company a 14-carat gold watch, in memory of his father, in 1907.

Incorporation of the business
Barratt & Co was incorporated with a capital of £330,000 in 1909. All of the directors were members of the Barratt family, with George William Barratt as chairman.

Barratt & Co produced 2,000 different confectionery lines by 1910. The factory produced up to 400 tons of sweets a week.

Two popular chew sweets, the Fruit Salad and the Black Jack, were introduced in the 1920s.

The Sherbet Fountain was introduced from 1925.

George William Barratt died in 1928 and left an estate valued at £369,282.

The Dip Dab was introduced from 1940.

Barratt & Co is sold to George Bassett and subsequent ownership
Barratt & Co was subject to a friendly takeover by George Bassett of Sheffield for almost £4 million in 1966.

Barratt & Co was best known for sherbet fountains, foam shrimp, nougat and liquorice by 1974.

The Wood Green factory became outdated, and also struggled to source sufficient labour. It was closed with the loss of 750 jobs in 1975. Production was transferred to sites in Sheffield, Pontefract and Glasgow.

Bassett was acquired by Cadbury in 1989.

Cadbury sold Barratt, Butterkist popcorn and other smaller confectionery lines to Tangerine Confectionery for £58 million in 2008.

The Barratt name was rebranded as “Candyland” from 2013, but reintroduced from 2018.