Joseph marries Sarah Stephenson, and many of their five children are born in the family home above the Pavement shop. The children swung off the banisters and created chemical explosions in the attic, but philosophy, parliamentary debates, Quaker thought, and sugar, coffee and tea prices were discussed over dinner.
The young Joseph Rowntree visits Ireland with his father, brother and John Ford, Headmaster of Bootham School. There he sees the starvation and destitution caused by the terrible Potato Famine. This trip made a lasting impression on him.
Henry Isaac Rowntree acquires a cocoa business from the Quaker Tuke family and moves to Tanner’s Moat in 1864. His first products were bars of ground cocoa mixed with cocoa nibs, flour or sago. When mixed with water they produced an oily cocoa drink, due to the high amount of butter in the cocoa bean. Another product was ‘Homeopathic Cocoa’, which contained arrowroot, known for its medicinal properties.
A Frenchman, Claude Gaget, introduces the Henry Isaac and his brother Joseph, who had now joined the business, to the technique of manufacturing Crystalized Gum Pastilles (later to become Fruit Pastilles and Fruit Gums). Gum manufacture leads to a big increase in the company’s prosperity.
Needing to keep up with his Birmingham rival, George Cadbury, Joseph acquires the technology for pressing the fat out of the cocoa bean. This leads to the creation of Rowntree’s Elect Cocoa. The number of employees between 1883 and 1894 rises from 200 to 894.
Other family members join the growing business, including Arnold Rowntree, nicknamed ‘Chocolate Jumbo’. His bold imaginative flair leads to startling experiments, such as the boat race day when a huge mechanical swan draws a barge up the Thames with an outsize tin promoting Rowntree's Elect Cocoa. He becomes Liberal MP for York during the WW1, and is known for his anti-war stance.
Seebohm Rowntree, Joseph’s son, follows his father’s footsteps with his interest in poverty, public health and social questions. This is at a time well before the modern welfare state had been created. His book ‘Poverty: a Study of Town Life’, is a milestone in early sociology and statistical analysis. He calculates a standard minimum income for people to be able to live a decent comfortable life, and shows that many people who live in poverty can’t easily help their situation.
Joseph Rowntree puts much of his entire wealth into three trusts, intended to influence different aspects of his thinking on social problems, such as the alleviation of poverty, changes in housing conditions, education and political reform. These trusts still exist today, and they still apply the ideas of their founder to problems of society today.
A state-of-the-art factory is completed at Haxby Road to accommodate 4000 employees. It has Fruit and Gum blocks, a Cake Moulding block, and Store and Packing rooms, and it was served by a special railway line. There was also a gymnasium and dining and welfare facilities.
A range of famous brands is introduced, under the direction of George Harris, including Black Magic, KitKat, Aero, Dairy Box, Smarties, and Polo Mints. They show how well brand marketing can contribute towards the growth of an enterprise.
During the war years, the company had to accept rationing of supplies imposed by the Ministry of Food. But the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, wanted to avoid the rationing of sweets to children, so they were limited to a weekly ration and they didn’t need to register at a particular sweet shop.
Six million KitKats a day are produced at the York Nestlé factory. More than 1 billion KitKats are consumed in the UK each year. A year’s production would stretch around the London Underground 350 times.