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Buy polar: a history of Fox’s Glacier Mints

Fox’s Glacier Mints are the leading mint-flavoured boiled sweets in Britain.

Walter Fox establishes the business
Walter Richard Fox (1862 – 1951) was born into a Baptist Leicestershire farming family. He built up a wholesale grocery business on York Road in Leicester.

Fox was an inventor, and began to manufacture confectionery from 1895. Within two years he had expanded his range to include over 100 different product lines.

Eric Fox invents Glacier Mints
Walter Fox was joined in business by his son, Eric Smart Fox (1890 – 1963), from 1914. Eric Fox had spent four years in the United States in order to learn American business methods and advertising techniques.

Eric Fox was to become the driving force of the company. He persuaded his father to redirect the company focus from low-cost sweets towards premium-priced confectionery.

Eric Fox invented the first transparent peppermint by mistake during the First World War. Wartime obstacles prevented Fox from installing the necessary machinery to mass produce the product. Clear Mint Fingers were finally introduced from 1918, and were sold in large glass jars. Acting on his wife’s advice, Fox renamed the sweets Glacier Mints from 1919, and introduced the polar bear trademark. Glacier Mints became the leading product.

Eric Fox believed in the potential for Glacier Mints, and advertised extensively in newspapers. Glacier Mints soon became the leading product for the company.

Fox’s made the transition from a local business to a national concern. Expanding sales saw the business relocate to Oxford Street, Leicester from 1923, where production was increased eightfold. The export market began to be pursued from 1924.

Eric Fox would later relate that he had not set out to make a lot of money, but to serve the public with a quality product.

Walter Fox retired from the business in 1935.

A factory was established in Castlereagh, Belfast, from 1954. Around 200 people were employed.

Fox’s Glacier Fruits were introduced from 1956.

Eric Smart Fox died with an estate valued at £150,000 in 1963. He was succeeded as chairman by his son, Bruce Vaughan Fox (1918 – 2009).

The Castlereagh plant was closed with the loss of around 100 jobs in 1964.

The Fox family sell the business; subsequent owners
Fox’s relocated to purpose-built premises at Braunstone, Leicester, from 1967. It was the most modern automated confectionery plant in Europe. The business employed around 400 people.

Fox’s had taken on debt in order to build the new factory, and consequently lacked sufficient capital for expansion. The company was acquired by Mackintosh & Son of Halifax for £984,000 in cash (around £14 million in 2014) in 1969. It was reasoned that Mackintosh would be able to improve distribution of Fox’s products and increase exports. Mackintosh was acquired by Rowntree of York later that year.

The Leicester factory began to produce the fruit-flavoured variants of Rowntree’s Polo mint brand from the 1980s.

Rowntree was acquired by Nestle of Switzerland in 1988.

Declining sales meant that the future of the Leicester factory was in doubt by 2000. The business was saved when it was acquired by Northern Foods for £8.4 million in 2001. Nestle relocated production of the fruit-flavoured Polo mints to a factory in the Czech Republic. Northern Foods closed its Croydon confectionery factory, and relocated production of Paynes Poppets and Just Brazils brands to the Leicester site.

Fox’s was subject to a £9.4 million management buyout in 2003. Renamed as the Big Bear Group, the business acquired other brands such as Sugar Puffs cereal.

Big Bear was acquired by Raiso Group of Finland for £80 million in 2011. Raiso was best known for the Benecol health drink.

Fox’s employed around 150 people in 2014. Its leading brands were Glacier Mints, XXX strong mints, Payne’s Poppets and Just Brazils.

Big Bear Confectionery was sold to Valeo Foods in 2017.

The Leicester factory was closed in 2019 and production was transferred to York.