Kraft has operated in Britain for almost 100 years. Kraft brands include Dairylea and Philadelphia cream cheese.
Kraft enters the British market
James Lewis Kraft (1874 – 1953) was a Canadian of German descent. He began to sell cheese in Chicago from 1903. Kraft patented a pasteurisation process that extended the lifespan of cheese in 1916. He was the largest cheese manufacturer in the world by 1923.
The Kraft Cheese Company established an office in Liverpool from 1924 in order to manage the sales of Kraft products imported from North America. There was an initial staff of two salesmen.
Sales were to prove promising, and Kraft acquired a factory on Silverdale Road, Hayes, Middlesex in 1926. The site had an initial staff of around 100 people. One of the earliest products was Dairylea cheese.
The Hayes factory was immediately profitable. James Kraft announced:
We have now so standardized the cheese industry that we can go any place in the world where a milk supply is available, manufacture cheese, and sell it at a profit. With this standardization as a basis, we are now laying a foundation for a business of international proportions, which we do not expect to be stopped by barriers of trade, race or language.
Kraft had enlisted the prestigious J Walter Thompson advertising agency to promote its wares by 1934. Promotional material focused on the consistent taste of Kraft cheese.
Kraft employed 8,000 people worldwide by 1940.
Kraft processed large quantities of cheese for the British Government during the Second World War. By 1943 all production was dedicated to the British armed forces.
Kraft produced only four products in post-war Britain: cheese, Dairylea, tomato ketchup and salad cream.
Two creameries in Shropshire were sold to Express Dairies in 1954.
Production relocates to Merseyside
Production was relocated to a new factory at Kirkby, Liverpool, from 1957. It employed over 1,500 people across a 53-acre site. Kraft claimed it was “the most modern food factory in Britain”. The Hayes factory, across a six-acre site, was sold to T Wall & Sons.
The relocation allowed Kraft to expand its British product range to include the Kraft Dinner, tomato chutney and margarine. Velveeta cheese, which had been discontinued during the war, was reintroduced. Philadelphia cream cheese was introduced from 1960.
Kraft established a dairy plant at Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, from 1962.
Kraft acquired Brains, a fresh meat company, in 1966.
Dairylea was the leading packaged cheese in Britain by 1968, and Kraft held 70 percent of the British processed cheese market. Kraft had managed to win around ten percent of the British margarine market, in a sector dominated by Unilever.
Kraft Foods UK had a turnover of £54 million in 1973. The company employed 4,350 people, including around 2,000 people at the Kirkby plant.
The head office had been relocated to Cheltenham by 1977 and the company employed around 3,000 people across the country.
Kraft closed its edible oil plant in Trafford, Manchester with the loss of 380 jobs in 1982.
Cheese production was relocated from Kirkby to more modern plants in Germany and Belgium in 1983. Margarine production and distribution work continued, but 930 out of 1,150 jobs were lost. Kraft also announced that it was looking for a buyer for the Haverfordwest plant. In total, the Kraft UK workforce was reduced from 3,200 to 1,850.
A further 60 jobs were lost at Kirkby in 1985.
Kraft is acquired by Phillip Morris
Kraft was acquired by the American tobacco company Philip Morris in 1988. Philip Morris had acquired General Foods in 1985, and they combined the Bird’s custard and Angel Delight brands, as well as a factory in Banbury, Oxfordshire, with the Kraft UK business.
Kraft acquired Terry’s of York from United Biscuits for £220 million in 1993.
Kraft sold its European margarine assets, including the 53-acre Kirkby factory and the Vitalite margarine brand, to Unigate for £77.25 million in 1996.
Kraft sold the Bird’s custard and Angel Delight brands to Premier Foods for £70 million in 2005.
Kraft closed the Terry’s site in York in 2005 and moved production to Poland, with the loss of 316 full time jobs, and 150 seasonal jobs.
Kraft acquired Cadbury of Bournville for £11.9 billion in 2009. The Cheltenham offices were closed in 2010 and relocated to Bournville. The company was renamed Mondelez from 2012.