Bite Size: The Scoop

In Beauty ice cream cones, Ice Cream, Icy-Slice wafers, McNiven Bros (New Zealand) Ltd, McNiven Cones on October 3, 2012 at 10.46


Fellow researcher slash historian Lisa Truttman of Timespanner was kind enough to have me in mind and snap this on her archive travels – and send it over, thinking I may like it. Well, of course she was exactly right. The advert is from back of a 1930s era Henderson Primary School anniversary booklet. I’ve colourised it from the original, which was just black and white.  I’d never heard of their product before, but I was immediately able to find a few things on this, as opposed to often finding nothing.


It’s pretty rare to find an ad for this type of product, which more or less amounts to a component for another. Generally you’d expect to see this sort of thing in an association trade magazine, and that’s about all. The McNiven Bros (New Zealand) Ltd opened for business in 1927. Whether their building was always in Khyber Pass I don’t know, but records show that it was in situ by 1929 on the corner of Huntly Avenue.

Looking north along Khyber Pass Road from  around the corner of Huntly Avenue, 1929. Image by James D Richardson, courtesy of Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-1847


It seems they were around until about 1952, but I don’t know why they closed their doors. It wasn’t that far off the period where cones as a product per se began to popularize on the first supermarket shelves in the late fifties to early sixties – My conjecture is that it had much to do with the rise in popularity of home entertainment – meaning television. Maybe if they had hung around a bit longer and reconfigured, who knows what may have happened.

Counterfeit wafers: Auckland Star,  January 1932


There’s so many reasons why products and brands disappear. Sometimes the instigator retires or even dies, and the descendants aren’t interested in the family business; there’s no succession planning. Maybe it gets driven out of the market by competition or changing markets. Perhaps it’s sold to another bigger company who make a failure of it, or just subsume the market share. Anyway, at a quarter century they did pretty good for a business specialising in just one product.

Looking north along Huntly Avenue from Khyber Pass Road, 1929. Image by James D Richardson, courtesy of Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-1848


They dealt in different types of cones, cups, and wafers only, not ice cream, and no other baked goods that I’m aware of. Apart from their “Beauty” cones, They made one called an Icy-Slice, presumably wafers for ice cream sandwiches. Interestingly, the only other time I’ve ever heard that name was when my Nanna, who had a dairy in Browns Bay in the 1950s, used to make us her ice cream sandwiches – that’s what she called them – Icy Slicies. I’m placing bets that it was a generic name that stemmed from the widely used McNiven product.

Farm food: Auckland Star,  August 1930


Amazingly, in such a busy industrial city district, the building is still standing today. It’s more or less the same as it was in the 1930s – bar a coat of paint and suitable “showroom”-style windows befitting a motorcycle dealership, which is what it serves as now. I wonder if they know that the only kind of “Belly-Shovers” that used to be sold from these four walls held scoops of delectable creamy stuff?





  1. I used to read you blog habitually, I can’t believe I ever stopped! Now I remember what got me captivated in the first place.

  2. Really enjoyed reading your article.
    Apparently the parent company in Australia was bought by Unilever in 1959 (The Age – May 31, 1963) http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=hBxQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=lJYDAAAAIBAJ&dq=mcniven-bros&pg=5016%2C4862124

    • Hi Bruce. Thanks for reading. Are you a McNiven descendant? From what I recall while researching, McNiven in Australia actually made ice cream, not cones, and the name was just a coincidence.

    • Yes. In 1959, Unilever acquired McNivens Ice Cream in Australia followed by Streets and Sennitts soon after.

  3. “Icy Slices” were sold in North Queensland in the 1950’s. The “wafer” was a 5 sided, open ended rectangular shape. A rectangular shaped “cutter” was plunged into the tub of ice cream and then to deliver a solid “slice” of ice cream into the wafer. This ice cream slab was pushed into the cone by a thumb operated spring return plunger.

  4. Amazing! So different now. PS, your third pic caption is wrong, swap Huntly Ave and Khyber Pass.

  5. Thanks for pointing that out, looks like I just cut and paste the caption and meant to edit but forgot…

  6. Hi Darian.
    A most enjoyable post which I came across quite by accident while studying up on some Auckland history. Being a new resident of New Zealand myself, it is quite refreshing to know that there was (and perhaps still is) some McNivens lurking around the city.
    Very happy I chanced upon your blog 🙂

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