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James Stedman-Henderson Sweets Ltd: Sweetacres

A 5000sq m park in the Sydney suburb of Rosebery is named Sweetacres Park in honour of the factory that once stood on the site - the adjoining road is appropriately called Sweet Street. The park is part of a residential development on the site of Sweetacres, the name given by employees to the industrial estate of James Stedman-Henderson Sweets Ltd, which opened on Rothschild Ave in Rosebery in 1918.

The company's founder James Stedman had been in the sweet-making business since 1850. Together with his six sons, he went on to develop the largest import wholesale and manufacturing confectionery business in Australia. Stedman’s 1908 prize-winning Lion Brand Confectionery, including Butter-Scotch and Tofflets, were justly celebrated. In 1922, their Roseberry factory started making Sweetacres lollies including Minties, Jaffas and Fantales.

The company spent over £200,000 on its 16-acre Rosebery complex. The 12-acre factory on the site, designed by architect John Burcham Clamp , ensured all local sweet manufacture happened under the one roof with the various manufacturing branches in the city and Pyrmont being consolidated. The complex also provided for 1000-plus mainly female workers, with a large canteen and social hall, sports and cricket grounds, a library, band and sports clubs. In 1968, Stedman-Henderson was taken over by Hoadleys, which was acquired in 1971 by Rowntree’s which was taken over globally by Nestlé in 1981. Minties are now sold as Allens Minties. About 500 million are consumed each year.

Cobbers (above), as well as their wrapped counterpart Fantales, were made by Sweetacres, which passed through several hands before being acquired by Swiss conglomerate Nestle in the '80s. Having amassed a portfolio of Australian confectionery brands and products, Nestle chose to slap the Allen's brand on Cobbers and Fantales, as well as on other Sweetacres products such as Minties and Jaffas. The products with Allen's branding aren't the ones from the old Melbourne confectioner Allen's.

Life Savers (1912)

The “candy with the hole” was invented in America in 1912 by Clarence Crane in Garrettsville, Ohio. Life Savers were a hard peppermint candy shaped like circular life-buoys thrown to rescue the drowning. Clarence Crane was the father of poet Hart Crane, who, ironically, would perish after flinging himself from an ocean liner in 1932. Four years after inventing them Crane sold the Life Savers brand and concept to E.J. Noble, who produced the sweets in a variety of flavours (Stik-O-Pep, Cinn-O-Mon, Vi-O-Let, Cl-O-Ve) and packaged them in foil rolls to keep them fresh.

In 1925, James Stedman-Henderson Sweets Ltd, who produced the Sweetacre brand of confectionery, introduced the American sweet Life-Savers to Australia, which they originally produced in Petersham. Melbourne-based confectioners MacRobertson’s began to manufacture distribute Life Savers in the 1930s. Owing to the 44-hour working week being in vogue in the confectionery trade in New South Wales, it was decided to transfer the Life Savers' factory to Melbourne, to adjoin the establishment at Fitzroy, where the 48-hour week is in operation. .

An advertisement in the Geraldton Guardian and Express in 1932 encouraged children to come to the Saturday matinee at the local picture theatre with the offer of a ‘free sample of Lifesavers’ new products. This week’s new sample is “Musk”’. Rolls of Musk Life Savers were even included in military ration packs during World War II.

Life Savers are today manufatured in Australia by Darrell Lea bin Sydney. The confectionery company acquired the brand from Nestlé in 2018, and moved production from New Zealand to Ingleburn in Sydney.

Minties (1922)

Minties were invented in 1922 by James Noble Stedman (1860–1944), son of Stedman-Henderson Sweets company founder (and Australia’s first confectioner) James Stedman (1840–1913). Minties were patented in 1926,and were manufactured at the Sweetacres factory at Rosebery and distributed by Nestlé from around 1930.

In 1930 or 1931, a factory was set up in Auckland, New Zealand. Cadbury now manufactures the lollies as "Pascall Minties". In November 2009, Cadbury New Zealand announced they were moving production from Auckland to Thailand and changing to a softer formulation that would be less stressful to teeth and may be consumed more quickly). Curiously, the 200g packets sold in Australia as (Nestlé) Allens Minties in 2010 are clearly labelled "Made in New Zealand".

Minties' first cartoons, and the catchphrase "It's moments like these ..." appeared late in 1926; from then they provided an episodic documentation of an era. The famous line is among the longest-running in advertising history. At one stage in the 1940s Minties were using three different cartoons a week, appearing on every form of printed advertising. The cartoons, sometimes drawn by leading cartoonists Syd Nicholls and James Bancks, creators of iconic comic strips Fatty Finn and Ginger Meggs, depicting some hapless bloke in a precarious predicament, on the packets, wrappers and advertising hoardings, helped the lollies come into their own in the Depression when laughs were few.

The lolly wrappers (white waxed paper) were decorated only with the text "Minties" and "The Universal Sweet" in red and green. Many cartoonists have drawn "Minties moments". While many of the cartoons were unsigned, some of the better known names are:

Dick Alderton; George Aria; James Bancks (creator of "Ginger Meggs"); Ian Gall; Alex Gurney (created "Bluey and Curley"); Peter Harrigan "Middy"; Norman Hetherington "Heth" (created Mr Squiggle); Eric Jolliffe; Hardtmuth Lahm "Hotpoint" "Hotti" or "Hottie"; Percy Lindsay; F G Longstaff; Jack Lusby; Stewart McCrae "Pep"; Arthur Mailey; Emile Mercier; Syd Miller (Chesty Bond artist); Minainnick; Norm Mitchell; Rufus Morris; Morrissey; Syd Nicholls (creator of "Fatty Finn"); Adrienne Parkes; Petrov; William Edwin Pidgeon "Wep"; Hal Quinlan; Virgil Reilly "Virgil"; Jim Russell (drew "The Potts"); Ted Scorfield (largest number of contributions); David Souter; Les Such; Dorothy Wall; Harry John Weston (1874–1938); Unk White; Jeremy Andrew.

In the late 1990s, Minties released 'Spearmint Minties', but these were taken off the market before the end of 1999 as a result of changing tastes and falling sales. In 2013 Nestlé (Australia) introduced Allen's Minties "Smooth Mints Choc & Vanilla" which had choc-mint

Jaffas (1931)

Jaffas, the chocolate-coated orange balls that were as integral to a Saturday movie matinee as the cartoon and the cross bloke who patrolled the aisles with a torch, were first made in 1931 by James Stedman-Henderson's Sweets Ltd in Sydney. They were named by artist Len Gapp after a town in Palestine where oranges were grown for export, and the orange flavour was the work of Sweetacres food chemist Tom Colston Coggan, who formulated several different syrups before landing on the Jaffa coating whose taste has long defied replication by rivals.

The confectionery is currently made in Australia by Allen's lollies, a division of Nestlé and in New Zealand by RJ's Licorice in Levin.

Fantales (1928)

Fantales were created by Sweetacres shortly after the ‘talkies’ arrived, and were produced specifically as a sweet to be sold to moviegoers. The chocolate-covered caramels were introduced by Sweetacres in 1930. On their wrappers were, literally, fan tales – brief biographies of movie stars. The tradition continues, with the stories updated every two years.

Commercial movies with sound arrived in Australia in 1928 and along with them came more movie palaces. Admissions to the cinema increased by over 70 per cent, while admissions for every other kind of amusement declined. In the 1930s, movie stars like Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant captured the popular imagination. Sweetacres were on a winner.

Nestle was the sole distributing agent for Sweetacres throughout Australia. Today they own the Fantales brand, along with other famous Sweetacres products like Minties and Jaffas. Strangely, they are marketed under the Allen’s brand – originally a competitor to Sweetacres.

The popularity of Fantales has endured. In a straw poll of The Canberra Times newsroom in 1988, they emerged as the most popular childhood lolly, beating out aniseed balls, humbugs, rainbow galls and cobbers. However, a BuzzFeed poll in 2014 put Fantales at No.11, with Caramello Koala coming out on top. Chocolate plus caramel. Seems to be a winning combination.

Iconic Brands

Allen's Allen's

Hoadleys Hoadleys

Sweetacres Sweetacres

MacRobertsons MacRobertsons

Plaistowe Plaistowe

Mastercraft Mastercraft

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