longwhitekid

Archive for the ‘Aulsebrook’s biscuits’ Category

Man’s Best Trend: Commercialising Our Critters

In Aulsebrook's, Aulsebrook's biscuits, Biscats cat food, Bob Kurtz cartoonist, Bonzo dog food, Buffalo Puppy Cakes, Butland Industries, Champ pet food, Chef Jellimeat pet food, Chums pet food, Felix cat food, Fido Crunchies dog food, Fido dog food, Greg "Cat" Springer art director, Holmes pet food, J. Murray & Co pet food, Kitty cat food, Lucky pet food, Meat Packers NZ Ltd, Mellox Marvels, New England Fish Company (NEFCO), Pal pet food, Pet food, Pussy Puffs cat food, Thompson & Hill, Tux dog food, VIPets pet food, Wattie's baby food, Wattie's junior food, Whiskas pet food on March 10, 2013 at 10.46

Kitty Cat Food card pos poster 400 dpi 29 cm W copy

Kitty tinned cat food point-of-sale cardboard poster for a supermarket, late 1960s-early 1970s.

a

I’ve recreated this point-of-sale board from an auction that came up some time ago (but I didn’t win). I liked the simple, clean-cut (not to mention kischy) graphics and thought it would be another project to add to the “remake” list – “It’s an easy one” I said to myself, “not too much detail…”. Well, famous last words. It took a lot longer to recreate than I thought it would.

A couple of people seemed to remember it on supermarket shelves from the late 1960s to early 1970s, but only vaguely; and were unsure of whether it was actually a New Zealand brand or not, when it had first appeared – or even how long it was around.

J MURRAY & CO dog food ads copy

Buffalo Puppy Cakes – Evening Post, July 1926, and  Melox – Evening Post,  February 1927. Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.

a

So while I was redrawing it, I looked around to see what I could find out about it – which was not much, until I stumbled across the online CV of an American company executive who listed having worked on Kitty cat food during his tenure developing the pet food division of an American company.

I think that Kitty was likely the creation of a long-standing US outfit named New England Fish Company (NEFCO), who were frantically building their pet food market and division in the 1960s, and by the early 1970s – had set-ups internationally including Asia. So I don’t think it was a domestic New Zealand manufacture or even a license – it was likely imported.

Kitty salmon tin dustincropsboy Flickr early 1970s

Kitty salmon tin, early 1970s. Image courtesy of  dustincropsboy on Flickr. 

a

Although J. Murray and Co were making both Mellox Marvels and Buffalo Puppy Cakes by the late 1920s in Wellington, Aulsebrook’s were making and selling food for dogs by the late 1930s at least, and Chums was available in stores by the mid 1940s – all appear to have been biscuits or at the most pellets of some form – specific food for pets was likely still seen as a bit silly as well as a superficial expenditure.

Pets generally got the meals scraps from the table and whatever else was handy at the time to supplement it. I’m not really sure when or why people got the idea that their non-human companions needed “special” food, but it seemed to have started to build just before WWI. Certainly it existed in Britain and the US a bit earlier than that but I don’t think the general idea of wet, canned pet food as a convenience was a thing until nearly the 1950s.

The Milwaukee Journal - Jan 27 1975 pg 10 Kitty cat food ad

Kitty Salmon advert, The Milwaukee Journal, USA, Jan 1975.

a

What the reasons are behind the advent of this industry is not something I’m really sure about and I can’t say that I’ve come up with what I think is a solid reason. The obvious one is simply advertising agencies suggesting it was an untapped market that could be built on to extract yet more money from unsuspecting customers. The increase in marketing of branded products could be a significant contributor, although that really started to build steam in the 1950s. I also thought about the juxtaposition between domestic animals as a practical requirement (think of the usefulness of cats and dogs to keep rodents and other pests under control, particularly in rural areas) and then – the trend turning to pampered pedigree luxury. I certainly think the enduring hardships of the Depression and then WWII rationing had an impact on the change of outlook when it came to all products.

I thought that probably the most plausible explanation for the explosion in the 1950s of pet food brands is the fact that the NZ government cut imports of some products by fifty percent in the mid-late 1950s. I have little knowledge the politics of import trade at the time. The obvious answer is it was put in place to foster the growth of domestic industries. Regardless, companies quickly responded to this; Wattie’s first launched their infant food line in 1958 in direct reaction – but already by 1955 they had established two brands of pet food – so this may or may not be the answer either.

Kitty Salmon ad still 1970s

A still of a Bob Kurtz cartoon from an early-mid 1970s Kitty cat food TV ad.

a

First were Felix for cats and Fido for dogs – those two brands are acknowledged to be the first domestically produced canned pet food. Then came Bonzo which was launched the following year. Fido Crunchies was introduced in 1967 and Chef Jellimeat and the ludicrously-named Pussy Puffs in 1969 (the latter quickly flopped, and was put on ice until the mid 1980s when it was re-introduced into the market as Biscats and was a roaring success second time around). The idea of the pet food line apparently had its roots in using up waste fish product; no import politics involved seemingly – however a salesperson who was involved in that industry at the time told me that “in the mid 1970s, we were only allowed to bring in about five hundred dollars worth of Whiskas and Pal pet foods a year – the import licence covered just a hundred cases of each per annum, from memory – which we sold in one lump to Woolworths, who had it in one or two flagship supermarkets.”
At this time both of those brands still came in from overseas. Also by 1959 –  major foodstuffs company of the time, Butland’s, had joined the market with the Champ range for both cats and dogs. By the 1960s there was Lucky by Meat Packers NZ Ltd, and in the 1970s, Holmes, and VIPets by Thompson & Hills Ltd joined them. Tux had been around for a while by then. So I’m not sure why imports were needed at that point – However this piece of information proves there were restrictions – and there may have been for some time. It seems that by around 1979 import restrictions were lifted across several categories.

Kitty canned salmon cats like salmon

A still from an early-mid 1970s Kitty cat food TV ad showing the range.

a

NEFCO was founded way back in 1868 – and by 1901 had changed from a co-op to an incorporated company. Kitty was probably launched sometime in the 1960s – quite late in the piece.The well-known cartoonist Bob Kurtz did a series of fun TV ads for them in the early 1970s that North Americans seem to remember well. You can see some of them here, here, and here.

However the short-lived brand was likely gone by the late 1970s. An art director who was around that time says - ” I heard the creator of these spots (Greg “Cat” Springer, who earned his nickname from this campaign ) speak at a meeting. He told us that, although the ads were wildly successful, and the product became an overnight sensation, Kitty failed quickly because cats wouldn’t eat it. “It made them gag,” he said. A caveat for all advertisers: Good ads don’t make good products.”

Although records show Kitty was still on the North  American market until at least 1977 –  through the decade the company went into decline due to various events including several serious law suits, and then eventually bankruptcy – filing for complete liquidation in 1980. In reality, Kitty probably only ever had a moment in Aotearoa.

CHUMS DOG BISCUITS Auckland Star  9 November 1944 Page 8

One of the earlier dog foods available in New Zealand on a commercial scale -Chums dog biscuits, Auckland Star, November 1944. Courtesy of the National Library of New Zealand.

a

I think this item was likely just a board done by some local sign artist for a supermarket in the Invercargill area in the very early 1970s. Like many of these Kiwi items the dated graphics make it appear to be much older than it really is, which can be misleading when it comes to researching. It clearly had little to do with the brand’s official imagery. They probably simply said – “Right, we have this new shipment of cat food coming in to get rid of. Do a sign – we don’t care much what it looks like – just put a cute kitten on it, anything will do”. While seemingly not a product unique to the Antipodes – the graphics likely are.

CHAMP - CHAMP PET FOOD COMPANY - J R BUTLAND ( cat food) 1950s EDIT copy

Above and below: Champ canned dog and cat foods, from  Butland Industries, aka the Champ Pet Food Co (later sold to Wattie’s). In retrospect I now know the label below was designed by Bernard Roundhill – the Champ mascot “Skippy” was designed by him. I have also come to believe the label above with frolicking kitties is also a Roundhill Studios design. However I don’t think he actually designed the label himself, it’s not his style and he wasn’t really versatile enough to step out of his particular way of doing things, unlike other commercial artists of the time  such as Nobby Clark – who could range across several different looks depending on what suited a client or job – and still remain unique in every one.  If he did do this from scratch, I’d be pretty surprised. These labels circa 1959, private collection.a

CHAMP - CHAMP PET FOOD COMPANY - J R BUTLAND (dog food and cat food) 1950s EDIT copy

 

a

a

All content of Longwhitekid copyright Darian Zam © 2013. All rights reserved.

a

Addendum, mid Jan 2014: Two recent enamel advertising signs spotted that I thought suitable to add here. The Melox sign came up for auction on Ebay Australia. I mention Melox, made by J. Murray & Co of Wellington, above and there’s an advert posted. Seemingly it was an international brand being made under license, as now I have looked around I see references to it in other countries such as England. I was kind of interested to see this turn up in Oz but now I know the brand did not originate in New Zealand, it’s no surprise at all.  

MELOX DOG FOOD SIGN - poss by MELOX DOG FOOD - J MURRAY & CO Wellington edit smaller

Below that, a Tux enamel sign, courtesy of Mike Davidson collection. It probably dates from the 1950s. I have no earlier reference to Tux dog biscuits than the 1970s, however I am pretty sure it was around a lot longer than that. I don’t know if it originated with the Nestlé company (unlikely) but it seems to have been manufactured by them by the Seventies and then moved under a subsidiary of theirs – the “Animal Health Food Company” from 1992. As far as I am aware it’s still on supermarket shelves today. The same can’t be said of Melox (which maybe lives on in the animal pain med Meloxicam), or the cutesy Buffalo Puppy Cakes for that matter. Or Wattie’s freakily-named 1960s failure “Pussy Puffs.” Nope, that name was never going to work.

Tux Dog Biscuits (sign) ADD TO PET FOOD ARTICLE - prob 1950s Mike Davidson - smaller

Bite Size: Hot Chips and Microchips

In Arnotts, Arnotts Biscuits, Aulsebrook's biscuits, Chips, Denne Brothers, French Fries, Frozen Foods, Frozen Vegetables, Iced VoVo, Marmite, Peter Pan Frozen Foods Ltd, Peter Pan ice cream, Sanitarium Health Foods, Snack Foods, Wattie's on March 22, 2012 at 10.46

Far out, even my plans to get ahead have fallen behind. My quickie post on Aulsebrook’s Iced Vovos versus Arnotts  at the end of February caused a storm in a teacup off-site. If you think that deconstruction was irritating, wait until I shatter your illusions on the history of Marmite and the perception of it as a New Zealand brand; you may be surprised to discover that technically – Kiwiana it sure ain’t. This week is really the perfect time to tackle it with the shortage furore going on, and cracked out New Zealanders trying to sell opened jars of it for up to two hundred dollars on Trademe, but I don’t have time to stop and do that too. (I’ll refrain from elaborating on delusion and stupidity of people trying to pass off trash as treasure in the collectables category, I think everyone knows my feelings on the majority of the traders that ply their utter rubbish on there for hiked up prices). Anyway that brief piece was meant to be a mid-week catch up to get me back on track to a post every week, that’s at least 48 posts a year. That’s actually quite a goal as it turns out – especially with my seeming inability to keep things both simple or brief.

As it turns out endless computer problems have kept me offline and out of the loop for the best part of a month. Yes, the house is very clean, and everything is organised, a sale pile has been created. However I am now more behind than ever! You can’t win. I’ve got big stories coming up on the Sunrise Cordials brand and the Gallien Chemist enterprise, and also the next, and most significant instalment of the Peter Pan Frozen Foods story.
Meanwhile, here’s another recreation I have done some time ago of the Wattie’s packaging I featured here in “So Cool, So Fresh” back in December 2011:

http://longwhitekid.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/so-cool-so-fresh/

I actually completely invented the cooking instructions text, because I can’t read it at all in the original photo. I tried to use current products as a guideline for accuracy. I’m trying to avoid posting too much more on Wattie’s, but it is one of the country’s all time biggest and most successful brands, so I guess that’s just how it plays out. I’ll be back in a few days with the Denne Brothers again, so until then.

Iced VoVos: Who Did It First?

In Arnotts Biscuits, Aulsebrook's biscuits, Baking, Hardman Biscuits, Hudsons, Iced VoVo on February 28, 2012 at 10.46

This is why you love me: I’m a truth-teller. And the truth is that Aulsebrook’s, a Kiwi biscuit company established in the 1860s,  were making Iced VoVos before Arnotts registered the name, an interesting discovery I made this week whilst cruising the newspaper archives.
The Iced VoVo is a biscuit covered by pink fondant with a strip of strawberry jam running down the centre and sprinkled with coconut, and at this point has been claimed as an “Aussie icon” much like the Gingernut has been in New Zealand. It’s status as such has never been challenged – until now.
You can find the Wiki entry with a link in references to the official page at the Arnotts site here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iced_VoVo

 The classic Arnotts Iced VoVo today. Photo courtesy of  Verity Grace, The Accomplished Woman blog.

a

So, here’s the proof from The Star newspaper, 21 November 1905. Although Arnotts trademarked the name in 1906 – so say the company themselves -Aulsebrook’s were making them some time before that and continued to sell them through 1908 at least, I suppose until they perhaps had to concede to the legalities of the matter.

 Aulsebrook’s biscuits advert including the Iced VoVo – Star, 21 November 1905, Page 4.

a

Brian Meagher, a descendant of the Hardmans who had one of the two largest biscuit concerns in Australia prior to 1946, is stamping his claim:

“The Vo-Voes (sic) were first produced by Hardman Biscuits in Sydney, not by Arnotts. Originally the Hardman Biscuits company was started by the Hardman brothers who had immigrated from England in the 1850s building themselves into a leading biscuit manufacturing company in Sydney. In 1946 after their large factory in Newtown was burned down, it is told by our family that Arnotts bought them out and so the biscuit became a receipt of theirs. There are many of the Hardman descendants (who) remember this story. I being one of them”.

It’s true the factory was in Newtown and burned down the year Meagher quotes; but before we even talk “who was first?”- I have a question about how Arnotts could have staked their claim forty years earlier if they didn’t purchase the rights to the VoVo until the mid to late 1940s. Given that, I can’t even begin to consider this statement a contested site. How people remember things, or how stories are passed down, and what the facts are – are different things completely.

A variety of Aulsebrook’s, Bycroft, and Hudson biscuits, Hawera & Normanby Star, 18 September, 1906.

a

Yes, so – unless someone can actually provide a date that’s earlier than the Aulsebrook’s creation – the Kiwis win AGAIN. First the Pav, then apparently the first chocolate factory (according to Hudson history, truth be told I’m actually not sure I believe this claim until I look into it some more- but anyway, I will go with it for the time being)… and now this. Being hit multiple times in the pop-cultural/historical stakes has got to result in a K.O eventually.

a

a

Update late July 2013: Another Hardman descendant has weighed in here  on the issue. Ross Hamilton Hill had this to say on the matter: “Iced Vo Vos (sic) were made by Hardman biscuits long before Arnotts took them over. Hardmans biscuits was first taken over from the Hardman brothers by a tri-partnership which included my grandfather, Henry Gough. Hardman’s biscuits was owned by this tri- partnership until the 1950′s when Arnotts took them over. It might interest you to know that the Arnott and Gough families were neighbours in Strathfield, Sydney.”

Trove actually shows that my date for the launch of this product has been usurped by Arnott’s who were selling a “Vovo” (no mention of being iced) by mid-June 1904. By 5th Sept 1905 it was being advertised as an “Iced Vovo”, as we know it today. This, for all official documented intents and purposes – scrapes in a mere three weeks ahead of Aulsebrook’s and scoops the title. It should be noted here that Aulsebrook’s had made a move across the ditch and set up in Sydney around 1890 where they successfully established themselves – one of very few brands to achieve that feat. So this begs the question – did Aulsebrook’s bring the Vovo with them, a lot earlier than 1904?  Still no mention of Hardman’s, anyway. For everyone’s claims in Australia that they were definitely first – I’m yet to see any evidence whatsoever! If you have an advert or some packaging that shows different, then bring it on.

Arnotts  Vovo The Mercury  Tuesday 14 June 1904 page 3 EDIT SML

Arnott’s Vovo biscuit, no mention of icing, The Mercury, Tuesday 14 June, 1904, page 3. Courtesy of the National Library of Australia, via Trove digitised newspaper archive.

a

Arnotts Iced Vovo The Mercury Tuesday 5 September 1905 page 3 edit SML

Arnott’s Iced Vovo biscuit, The Mercury, Tuesday 5 September, 1905, page 3. Courtesy of the National Library of Australia, via Trove digitised newspaper archive.

a

a
a
All content of Longwhitekid copyright Darian Zam © 2013. All rights reserved.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 416 other followers