Archive for the ‘Hardman Biscuits’ Category

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 with pink fondant and has a strip of strawberry jam running down the centre; the whole lot sprinkled with coconut. At this point it has been well and truly 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.

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


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.


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 (sic) 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.


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.



Addendum 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.


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.



Addendum late Oct 2015: A couple of vintage Arnott’s adverts showing the Iced VoVo have appeared online recently over the ditch; both issued in the Australian Woman’s Weekly in 1960. It doesn’t have any revelatory bearing on the thrust of my story, obviously, but I just thought I ought to save them before they disappeared for good. 



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