Quick Fact Rowntree A-Z

Claude Gaget

A French confectioner who introduced gums and pastilles (up to that point an exclusively French product) at the Rowntree company, and was a key contributor to the Rowntree fortunes in its early years. Joseph and Henry Isaac Rowntree’s conservative attitude to product development meant they were losing out to Cadbury’s in the 1870s.

In 1879, Gaget, who had worked for a French sweet-maker in its London office, was employed to develop a new line of products. Initially, Joseph Rowntree’s insistence upon unrivalled quality meant that he at first refused Gaget’s earliest samples, once telling him that his latest batch were fit only to be thrown in the Ouse.

In 1881, the Frenchman devised a satisfactory recipe and the company began manufacturing fruit pastilles, that were sold loose and advertised in 4lb wooden boxes for a penny an ounce. Rowntree’s Crystallised Gum Pastilles were an instant success, and the impact on the business was enormous, leading to the purchase of an old flour mill on North Street, adjoining Tanner’s Moat.

Expansion

The number of workers about doubled between 1880 and 1883. Sales leaped from £44,000 at the beginning of the decade to £99,000 at the end. Average yearly profits were nearly four and half times higher than in the previous ten years. The gum pastilles had brought the company through a rocky time, which included the death in 1883 of Henry Isaac from peritonitis.

Later life

Gaget had to retire on medical grounds in 1895, and died in 1906 at his daughter’s home in Dewsbury Terrace, York. Three Rowntree managers represented the company at his funeral, and Joseph Rowntree sent a wreath. Oddly, it appears that Gaget was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave at York Cemetery alongside 11 others.

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