Rowntree A-Z

Confectionery industry in York, history of

The confectionery and cocoa processing industry were a key part of York’s economy in the 19th century. Joseph Terry was established in 1838; first in confectionery, then in candied peel, and Thomas Craven produced sugar confectionery in York.  One of the 31 tea dealers in the city, Samuel Tuke, had begun to trade in coffee, and then he expanded into tea with the collapse of the East India Company’s monopoly.

Henry Isaac Rowntree acquired Tuke’s business in 1862; and his elder brother Joseph joined him in 1869. An added dimension to cocoa came in 1881 with the manufacture of gums and pastilles, a hitherto French speciality. At first the staple Rowntree’s product was ‘Rock Cocoa’, later developed into the more palatable Elect Cocoa, first marketed in 1887.It was a quality product that was marketed as ‘more than a drink a food’, and it challenged the idea that beer was essential to manual workers because it gave him sustenance as well as refreshment: Quaker cocoa was a temperance drink.

These cocoa manufacturers were the second biggest employer in York, second only to the railways, and they were able to employ many women, thus making an impact on patterns of employment in York that were different from elsewhere.

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