Posted in Kafevend Blog
Unlike many of the companies looked at in this blog, Rowntree's did not start out as one man's bid to turn his grocery store into a chocolate/tea/coffee emporium. It was one man's bid to turn someone else's grocery store into the aforementioned emporium. In 1862, Henry Isaac Rowntree bought the cocoa, chocolate and chicory workshop of the Tuke family, after having worked in their store in Coppergate, York for a few years.
The Tuke's shop had been a family ran business for over 100 years, first opened in Walmgate in 1725 by the Quaker Mary Tuke, and later moved to premises in Coppergate. Henry's decision to purchase the chocolate manufacturing part of their business was partly based on the fact that he too was a Quaker. A follower of the temperance movement, like other Quaker chocolate makers such as John Cadbury, he saw in drinking chocolate a respectable alternative to alcohol.
After running his newly found business for a couple of years with a handful of employees, Henry bought and converted a disused foundry into a factory in Tanner's Moat. In 1869, Henry's brother Joseph joined him. It was tough going for the pair until the French confectioner Claude Gaget introduced gums and pastilles to the brothers as a potential product. After meeting Henry's stringent standards of quality, Gaget's sweets turned the struggling company's fortunes around, and are still sold today under the Rowntree's brand.
Over the years, Rowntree's has produced such favourites as the Aero, Kit Kat and Smarties, alongside other chocolate products like Rolos and Quality Street produced by Mackintosh, the companies merging in 1969.
Rowntree's was bought out by Nestlé in 1988, much to the dismay of the residents of York. Rowntree's has been an integral part of York during its history, providing jobs for thousands, alongside homes in the form of a model village.