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Archive for November, 2011|Monthly archive page

Healthy Curiosity

In Betta Peanut Butter, Cereal, Grain Products Ltd, Granose, Health Food, Instant Drinks, Kwic-Bru, Marmite, Sanitarium Health Foods, Spreads, Weet-Bix on November 26, 2011 at 10.46

Sanitarium was founded in 1898 in Melbourne with its background in the Seventh Day Adventist health food movement from the U.S.A’s Battle Creek Sanatorium where the Kellogg brothers (yes, those ones) were creating the first specifically vegetarian “health” products.
The company claims that its “flagship product Weet-Bix is a top seller in the Australian and New Zealand breakfast cereal market”. The sales figures may well speak for themselves, however this is not an accurate statement since Sanitarium did not buy the Weet-Bix brand until 1928 from Leichardt, Sydney company Grain Products Limited. They claim that their early product Granose is a forerunner to it, but the truth is that they developed quite separately – even if they do have their roots in the same religious movement.

Sanitarium’s Betta and Marmite competition, Evening Post, September, 1938 

The Weet-Bix story is in fact so complicated it’s going to have to be its own separate post at some point further down the track. It’s a convoluted history that still doesn’t seem entirely clarified; with a great deal of confusion surrounding the origins and history of their most famous product , and who was actually responsible for supposedly “inventing” it. It also doesn’t help that Sanitarium is another one of those “crossover” trans-Tasman brands I’ve written about in the past like Woolworths and Frosty Boy; same brands, fairly separate histories for the most part – in this case although they have the same parent company Sanitarium is split into two – the Australian Health and Nutrition Association Ltd and New Zealand Health Association Ltd.

The Betta jar full of buttons is ‘from the collection of Owaka Museum, Wahi Kahuika, The Meeting Place “a rest on your journey”‘ Object number CT81.1554f.  The jar lid below was up for auction a while back.

The  actual proponent of Sanitarium products was a man named Edward Halsley who started making Granola, Granose and Caramel Cereal (a coffee substitute). He had learned his trade under the Kelloggs. The company was officially registered as a trademark in 1898 – however by 1900 Sanitarium had transferred him to New Zealand to begin manufacturing its products in a wood shed in Papanui, outside of Christchurch.
From the 1920s Sanitarium opened a chain of Health Food shops in both countries selling their products exclusively – these closed down in the 1980s. Looking at the products over the years it’s really interesting to discover how early Sanitarium started manufacturing Products like vegetarian sausages and burgers and the like – much earlier than you would think, in the mid 1950s in fact – and products like nut meat were being manufactured in the 1920s onwards – I believe Nutolene is still available, amongst others that have been around for nearly 90 years!

This guy’s fourhead scares me. Maybe this is what too many health products do to you. It reminds me of that early 90s movie about the alien family “The Coneheads”. 

Products besides Weet-Bix are too numerous to list here, but in New Zealand Marmite (imported until the 1970s, first from Britain then Australia), as well as peanut butter are notable, in particular the “Betta” brand which was introduced in the 1930s and lasted well into the 1960s before reverting to just “Sanitarium” branding . Bottles intact with labels, although usually pretty shabby, come up for auction on a regular basis.
Coffee substitute Kwic-Bru is likely a descendant of one of the very original Sanitarium products mentioned above – “Caramel Cereal”. It appeared in the early 1920s and seemed to be still on sale up until sometime in the 1960s. Both these colour ads are from “Health” magazine in 1940 and were an Ebay Australia purchase.
I’ll come back to Weet-Bix next year with a detailed post.

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Addendum Late Nov 2012: This Kwic-Bru container turned up on Ebay Australia a few months back. The seller claims it dates from the 1940s, although I think it’s more likely from the 1950s. It’s likely the design was exactly the same in New Zealand. 

Can Do

In Canned Goods, Grocery Archaeology, Supermarket Anthropology, Wattie's on November 20, 2011 at 10.46

Again, this is part of a collection that was amassed by a marketing manager who worked at the Wattie’s company for a long period – more specifically the late 1950s  through to the mid-1970s and collected samples of many of the wares he handled during that period; a wonderful archive of product and design from one of New Zealand’s most iconic and enduring brands. We can conject that, since there were Thompson & Hills’s  “Oak”  brand and S. Kirkpatrick & Co.’s “K” brand being sold at auction simultaneously, that he was employed at least for a time at the Nelson Kirkpatrick factory which was purchased by Wattie’s – and who by that time also had Oak and were manufacturing that brand from the premises as well. The factory was demolished in the 1970s (some time after 1971; one of my Oak labels is dated 1971 on the back also) and one can presume he moved on or retired.

I am putting the story together slowly, as I uncover more dates and facts that fit. I’ve previously covered this story hereherehere  and here

I am conjecting that it dates from the mid 1960s due to the version of the logo used; and photos I have seen of store interiors with cans from the same set. I created it from a low res photo (above) on Trademe.

I am surprised that after chipping away at this project for a year I have four labels left to do  in the current bunch I planned to remake; diced fruit salad, tomatoes, prunes, and tomato sauce (there are heaps I haven’t posted yet). It seems to take forever to create the graphics, I think this one took 7-8 hours to achieve. worth it in the end as I now have quite a collection of long lost labels. What to do with them when I’m done? I was thinking of getting them printed and glueing them on to cans for a fun display.

Get The Ballins Right

In Alcohol, Ballins Breweries, cordial, Frostee Drinks, soft drink on November 20, 2011 at 10.46

Bernhard Ballin supposedly set up this aerated water company in Byron Street of Christchurch in 1878 – manufacturing sparkling soft drinks, wine, quinine and cordials. Even “company lore” sticks to this date; so far as issuing a commemorative jug for their “centenary” in 1978.
However I have found more than one earlier ad for Ballin Brothers, that shows with no doubt  from 1876  were indeed making and selling cider, cordials and sasparilla from a factory in Auckland, two years prior to that date. Again it seems like another big story that might be better off to save for another post until I’ve investigated further.
Anyway regardless of the exact date and place they started up – they were definitely around from the late 1870s and by the 1910s they were manufacturing heavy fruit cordials, lemon squash, raspberry drinks, limejuice cordial, sasparilla, and ginger wine.

Ballin Brothers’ Cordials, NZ Truth , Issue 564, 8 April 1916 

Although far more famous for their sweet drinks like Frostee, alcohol making and distribution was always a major concern and the company soon became known as Ballins Breweries on all their products. In 1936 they expanded further when they acquired Hickmott’s Victoria Brewery Limited, of Bath Street. By the 1950s South Canterbury Wine & Spirits, a conglomerate formed with N.Z. Breweries Ltd, was housed in the old bottling plant of the brewery grounds. This new company snapped up the other old Canterbury companies like Chittocks and Cordials Ltd, to erase any competition in the marketplace. By the 1970s this venture had an arm that had branched into Inns and Hotels – Inns of Canterbury Ltd.

Ballins seems to have been quite a huge company in its day with bottling plants/distribution centres in Auckland; Rotorua; the Canterbury area – Christchurch, Oamaru, Timaru; Masterton- Wairarapa; Nelson in the South Island; Palmerston North area – Manuwatu and Pahiatua, to name some mentioned by former employees.
I vaguely remember Ballins as being a less prevalent brand than others that were around in the 1970s like Leed, L&P, Fanta, Jucy, Frist, Schweppes, and Coke, and probably remember seeing it more away from Auckland, on our many family holidays. It sort of seemed a bit “mock” to use a slang expression, it didn’t have a strong brand presence and it wasn’t down with us kids like “Stud”, “Spaceman” and “Kandy” was. it was just there in the background.

Nevertheless over the years they have had some great graphics, most famously the bizarre pixie dressed in fur like an eskimo, squeezing raspberries into a glass which featured on so many posters and ads, they do pop up for sale every once in a while on Trademe.
A few weeks ago this fantastic Jamaica Dry poster was up for auction. I wanted to have it, however I have been buying so much stuff lately that I need to cut back my budget somewhat – so I decided that I could try recreate it as a challenge, instead of purchasing. I love the results of the work, which was mostly done with vector shapes in Photoshop, which isn’t far removed from using Illustrator really.
Eventually Ballins was snapped up by Coca Cola-Schweppes in 1975 although an employee, Russell Lange, remembers it was Oasis Industries; most likely a subsidy of CC-S at the time in that area of New Zealand. Definitely in the late 1970s they were still manufacturing canned soft drinks such as raspberry, lime, lemonade and orange. What happened after that I don’t know – perhaps the brand was phased out as part of the larger concern as so often happens.

My Just Desserts

In Desserts, Gregg & Co, Gregg's, Instant Desserts, Pudding on November 14, 2011 at 10.46

Operating since 1861, Gregg’s is one of New Zealand’s oldest food companies and certainly one of the largest.
I have logos that go back to 1895 for canned coffee, The Club brand was one of Gregg’s most enduring products. In the early days they were also manufacturers of pepper and spices, starch, cigarettes and wax vestas.
In the 1920s the operations were moved to Forth street in Dunedin where in part they remain today in the form of coffee manufacturing plant.

During the 1930s to the 1950s the range expanded dramatically to include a variety of products including Seameal, a type of pudding that irrespective of it’s unattractive name, was extremely popular for many decades. Amongst other products were culinary essences, soup powder, canned fruit and juices, fruit cordials and instant drinks, salad dressing, food colourings, and malt extracts. Instant coffee products followed from the 1950s onwards.
Who from my generation isn’t familiar with Gregg’s jellies and instant puddings? …“full of detergent!” my greenie grandmother announced as a warning against consuming it – well, too often, anyway. Truth be told they weren’t really that appetising and my mother made a much better one herself – with a Gregg’s raspberry flavour jelly whipped with Nestle evaporated milk she had dubbed “Pink Poodle Puff”. It really explains a lot about me, one being the reason why I can blame my parents for so many things.

These two instant pudding packets are recent Trademe purchases. Well actually I only got the lemon one, and edited it to make it look like the raspberry box (which I missed out on) from a picture. A little more work than it looks like in reality. I am very sure I remember these and I think it probably dates from the early-mid seventies. The inclusion of grams is a solid clue as to a fairly narrow date (metric weight was finalised as law in December1976 but  commenced to be introduced from as early as 1969, and the main change over occurred from 1971 to 1972).

Actually I wasn’t expecting this to turn up at all, since after a month it wasn’t to be seen, my seller had disconnected everything and moved overseas, and I had given in and chalked it up to yet another in a long list of lost Trademe purchases courtesy of New Zealand Post. I was pretty surprised to find it on the doorstep to say the least.

I have heaps of material, and I’ll do a more intensive post or two on the Gregg’s company in the coming months.

Don’t Mess With The Classics

In Bonza Confectionery Ltd, Carousel Confectionery Ltd, confectionery, Kiwi Classics, Riviera Confectionery, Wheelies candy cigarettes on November 5, 2011 at 10.46

Spaceman candy cigarettes are a familiarity with anyone from my generation. I’m not actually sure who originally came out with them, but my database shows that a company named Bonza was manufacturing them in the 1970s and 1980s (They also made Wheelies candy cigarettes and fruit sticks).
Smoking of course was still considered glamorous and sophisticated back in the day, and not only was there Spaceman -but also Riviera’s “Fags” candy cigarettes (which were actually Australian in origin, I posted on them here  in the early days of this blog).
But now both products have been dumbed down for the oh-so-easily-offended PC generation.

First to go were the red tips, so that they no longer look lit and therefore, apparently somehow less like cigarettes – supposedly discouraging children from thinking smoking is a cool. I guess if you really want to discourage them then you don’t market the product at all. Problem solved! This is the usual reverse logic we have come to expect. “It is odd that I can no longer go to the dairy and buy a packet of cigarette lollies, but could easily go and buy a packet of cigarettes. If there really is a problem with cigarette lollies, why not put a health warning on the side of the Spaceman box about the dangers of pretending to smoke?” says Joanne Black, who elucidates on the topic in a funny and cutting article here.

Next they decided to stop calling them cigarettes and instead marketed them as “candy sticks”.

 disgruntled Spaceman punter with Carousel’s revised design

Then a few years back around 2007, people noticed to their dismay that the quirky original design of the package had disappeared, around the same time that Carousel purchased the brand (Carousel have been around since the 1970s that I’m aware of , and are most famous for their product Fairy Mushrooms, one of my all-time favorites).
These were brought over for me by a friend this week to show me that the packaging has now recently reverted back to the original. I wonder why they decided to reverse that decision, possibly because there’s been a small revival by a merchandising like Mr. Vintage T shirts? Or maybe because of comments like this: ” The redesign is just appalling. It looks like those crapcore late-90s CGI kids cartoons. Fact.”
Amazingly somebody wrote to Carousel and actually got an explanation directly from them as follows:

“Thanks for your Email. When we purchased the business late last year, the product was being hand packed and the tuck in cartons presented food safety issues (Ed note: translates to “paper cuts”). We commissioned a custom built machine to automate the packing process and change the cartons so they had glued ends. As this process alone required regeneration of the packaging we took the opportunity to update the graphics. I hope this helps.”
Not really because it doesn’t explain why they decided to dump off a perfectly good classic design. You know some tool in a marketing meeting who fancied themselves an expert, sat there and said “we need to get rid of this Buck Rogers shit and bring it up to date…”  Bad move, because sadly “up-to-date” for the general population is synonymous with “1996”.
Anyway all is well that ends well; the original graphics are back on the pack and if it’s any consolation I can testify that they taste just as horrible as they did back in the 1970s, sort of like sweet cardboard. At least that hasn’t changed!

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Addendum, early Aug 2013: One of my readers, Owain Morris, one of New Zealand’s top toy and card collectors, kindly sent in these images of two versions of the re-design post-Carousel. He says he nabbed these in Christchurch pre Feb 2011 quake.

aCarousel Spaceman Candy sticks a unflavoured 16g (1)

Carousel Spaceman Candy sticks a unflavoured 16g (2)

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Space Man Candy sticks box Carousel (1)

Space Man Candy sticks box Carousel (2)

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