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Archive for the ‘“K” Brand’ Category

Catching Up With The Kid

In "K", "K" Brand, Canned Goods, Centennial Kirkpatrick House, Kirkpatrick, S Kirkpatrick and Co Ltd, S. Kirkpatrick & Company on June 28, 2014 at 10.46

Kirkpatricks Nelson Melon & Lemon-Plum  jam Tin  copy

As I have passed the milestone of publishing one hundred articles quite a while back – I now find I backtrack on a regular basis to add interesting titbits as they come up. These may be things that I think will enhance a story I’ve previously considered I’m done with. This may be as new information comes in, or I run across relevant images – or perhaps a descendant or collector contacts me to offer something I may be interested in; data they have that fills in a gap in a story.

This week I’ve made small updates to quite a few previous articles with pictures and revisions, and these are noted at the foot of the article with an addendum.

Here’s several images of an incredible stash of ancient “K” products from S. Kirkpatrick & Co which came up for sale a while back. I am guessing these date from the late 1910s-through the early 1920s. It’s rare enough to find any labelled and unopened cans, particularly this old. I’ve maybe seen one or two from this brand over time. But a few at once? I was intrigued.

I contacted the seller to satisfy my curiosity and they explained that they were found stashed in an old, forgotten cupboard of a long-abandoned house they had recently acquired. I also contacted the buyer, wondering why someone I didn’t previously know of as a collector had bought them all in one go. As it turns out they are the current owners of the renovated Kirkpatrick House that I feature in my previous article – and have decided to collect anything associated with the former owners.

Most of the envelopes further down, as well as the ginger tin, came up for auction around the same time, albeit from a different seller. You can see the previous story on Kirkpatrick and the “K” brand  here.

Kirkpatricks Nelson Marmalade Tin  copy
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Kirkpatricks Nelson Baking Powder Tin copy
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Kirkpatricks Nelson Tomato SoupTin  copy
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Kirkpatricks Nelson Cayenne Pepper Tin copy
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Kirkpatricks Nelson K Damson Tin  copy
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KirkpatricksTin tops copy
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K Brand Kirkpatricks Ground Ginger Tin  copy
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Kirkpatrick and co K brand Envelope Solpak apples 1940s edit
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K Brand Tomato Soup, 1940 colour advertising cvrKIRKPATRICK  North Shore Stamps crop

“K” Brand Tomato Soup, 1940 colour advertising cover, image courtesy of North Shore Stamps.

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Kirkpatrick and co K brand Envelope spagetti in tomato sauce  1940s edit
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K Kirkpatrick Spaghetti with tomato and cheese 1945 NZ Bill envelope with advertising edit

“K” Brand  bill envelope with advertising, 1945.  Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Library collection, ref Eph-A-FOOD-1945-01.

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Kirkpatrick and co K brand Envelope baked beans flavoured with pork and tomato sauce  1940s edit
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Other updates as follows:

 

The Creamy Dragon Strikes Again

Continental Love

Bite Size: Reconstituted Retro

When It Finally Dawns: Sunrise Cordial and The Galliens

Edible And Credible

Fruits Of Commerce: The Bountiful Depictions of Joseph Bruno Moran

Don’t Mess With The Classics

A Trail Goes Creamy and Cold

Man’s Best Trend: Commercialising Our Critters

Perfitly Preserved

In My Cups

Somewhat Wireless, But Not Brainless

Coupon Conquest

Projecting The Past

When Lactose Goes

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All content of Longwhitekid copyright Darian Zam © 2014. All rights reserved.

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A Frosty Phenomenon

In "K" Brand, Abel's Ltd., Batchelor's Surprise Peas, Birds Eye Frozen Foods, Birds Eye NZ Ltd, Butland Industries, Clarence Frank Birdseye, Continental Foods, Continental soups, Crest Fine Foods, Frying Saucers, Goldman Sachs/Postum Cereals, Handy Andy cleaner, Impulse deodorant, J. Wattie Foods Limited, J.R. Butland, Kirkpatrick, Knights Castille soap, Lever Bros (N.Z.) Ltd, Lever Products, Lifebuoy, Lucky Whip cream, Lux, Margarine Unie, Monkey Brand soap, Oak, Rosella Foods, S. Kirkpatrick & Company, Simplot, Solvol soap, Stockpot vegetables, Surprise, Thompson & Hill, Unilever, Van den Bergh Foods, Vim cleaner, Wall's ice cream, Wall's Ice Cream Ltd, Wattie Cannery Ltd, Wattie's, William Hesketh Lever on June 11, 2014 at 10.46

Crest Surprise dried  beans box recreation  copy

A recreation of  panels from a Surprise dried beans box, dated some time between 1970-76. I used a picture of a box sold on Trade Me in order to remake the graphics.

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Who remembers the Surprise brand? Everyone should. Especially the peas. I recall well how they were heavily advertised on television in the late 1970s and early 1980s – it was on relentless rotation!
However it may have been forgotten that Surprise were around long before that; as far back as the 1950s in New Zealand with pea and bean products – both dried and frozen.

Initially I wrote this article on the premise that the Surprise brand likely started out as a subsidiary of J.R. Butland’s Crest Fine Foods, later Butland Industries, given the logo is prominently displayed on the packaging. Crest was for some time the most successful (mainly canned) food business in New Zealand until usurped by the Wattie’s line (Butland had his initial success with the invention of Chesdale Cheese and was also behind the Goldpack fruit brand amongst others).

History is confusing around how the Crest brand passed from one owner to the next. My research shows that the brand changed hands in 1959 – but that Wattie’s kept producing the frozen stuff on behalf of Unilever until 1961 or so. Another record shows the Crest brand passing via S. Kirkpatrick & Company Ltd (the “K” Brand) to J. Wattie Foods Limited in 1960 (Wattie’s had also bought both “K” and Thompson & Hill’s OAK brands in this year).

shopper holding packets of surprise peas at Merrylands Shopping Centre, NSW  1966 editjpg

A shopper holding packets of surprise dried peas at Merrylands Shopping Centre, NSW, Australia. Taken in 1966 by Ern McQuillan, image courtesy of the National Library of Australia colelction, ref nlapic-vn4984301.

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I’d have to see more examples of packaging with notations on company details to develop a better tracking – but I would say that this was referring to the canned business, not the frozen and dried goods portion (Crest also included spices and sauce lines) – as by the early 1970s the Surprise brand, along with hugely popular Wall’s ice cream (covered here in September 2013) – is being marketed under the auspices of Birds Eye Frozen Foods NZ Ltd, a Unilever subsidiary. As the Crest brand died off for good around the mid-late 1970s that part was dropped by Unilever and the Surprise brand was slotted under Continental.

I assumed Surprise was by Crest – and that when Butland had supposedly sold the brand to Unilever (who then added some more product lines like packets of dried “Stockpot Vegetables” for various soups, amongst others) they acquired the Surprise line/ brand from Butland in the deal as well.

Just when I thought I had this all sorted – a Surprise sliced apples box appeared online for sale indicating it was manufactured by “Crest Foods Limited” alone. It’s similar to the box pictured here dated first half of the 1970s – except it seemed to have an imperial price written on it in pencil. Did Crest hold a license from Unilever for Surprise then conceded later? A quick check of records shows that the address for Crest on the box, at Jackson Street, Petone, Wellington – was the same address for Unilever’s Birds Eye.

Crest Surprise dried apples  box recreation  copy

 A recreation of  panels from a Surprise dried apples box, dated some time between 1970-76. I used a picture taken of items in a mock grocery store in an unknown museum collection to remake the artwork. It slightly differs from the earlier box at bottom.

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A potted Unilever history: William Hesketh Lever launched Sunlight Soap in England in 1885 and it was imported to Aotearoa until operations opened in Sydney in 1899 – at which point importation of the product into New Zealand switched to Australia. However it was not until quite late in the piece, 1919 in fact, that Lever products were produced domestically. In 1920 Lever merged with Dutch fats and oils business Margarine Unie modifying the company to an amalgamation of the two monikers – Unilever.

It’s the usual story with many Trans-Tasman companies – the development was quite separate as is the case with Unilever (until recently). Down under, Unilever spent a number of decades, well into the 1980s, still referring to themselves as Lever Products/Lever Bros (N.Z.) Ltd until they acquired the brands Oxo, Bushells, Faggs (coffee), and John West – and along with their Quality Packers business (including Choysa, Perfit, Red Rose and Q-P) all merged to form Unifoods NZ in 1988.

Over the years Unilever also produced Monkey Brand (household cleaning soap), and Lux was an enduring brand over the decades with soap powder, dish liquid and toilet soap lines. Other toilet soap brands were Lifebuoy, Castilever, Solvol and Knights Castille. Household cleaners Vim and Handy arrived in the 50s and 60s; Marge’s toothpaste and Impulse deodorant debuted in the 1980s. Soups included Continental , Country Style and Slim-a-Soup. There was instant Savoury Rice in beefy onion, Chinese style, and mild curry flavours. The Abel’s brand had vegetable oil, margarine, and copha – and Lucky Whip was a canned aerosol whipped cream. Frying Saucers, which I remember, were a frozen snack for deep-frying that resembled fishcakes but had mince meat inside. They were all the rage for a while when I was a child. Wall’s ice cream was at various times slotted in under the Birds Eye frozen foods subsidiary. The Surprise line was put under the Crest brand for some time. I am sure there were a number more brands that Unilever produced in New Zealand.

Crest Surprise quick-dried Sliced Beans box 12      copy

A Surprise dried beans box dated early-mid 1970s used to recreate my artwork for the box panels at top. Note the decimal price stamp shows it definitely dates after 1967.

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Clarence Frank Birdseye was a taxidermist turned inventor from Brooklyn who experimented with and developed a flash-freezing system for frozen foods in the 1920s after being inspired by Inuit Eskimo methods he observed on assignment in Newfoundland. Within a few short years, after having invested a few dollars in brine, ice and a fan – he had perfected the technique through trial and error (and one bankruptcy) and sold his General Seafood Corporation business for a fortune to Goldman Sachs/Postum Cereals (which later merged to become General Foods in America).

Again, the company histories separated out between the U.S. and the U.K. – having different owners in different global territories . The latter is how the brand came to Aotearoa via British Unilever – who bought rights from America to the ‘quick freezing’ patent and Birds Eye brand in the 1930s.

Home refrigeration started to popularise in the 1930s – and gave rise to the ice cream industry catering to this phenomenon – by packing their products for the first time in card quart and pint boxes to take home for post supper treats. Frozen vegetables were a new-fangled thing in New Zealand in the late 1940s but the above groundwork had already been laid for their immediate popularity.

Woman's Weekly  1964_Part1 CREST SURPRISE PEAS copy

Advert for Surprise peas by Crest, New Zealand Woman’s Weekly, 1964. I think this is the dried version.

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In 1947, Unilever of Britain contracted with Wattie’s to produce frozen peas, then a variety of vegetables and fruit under its Birds Eye brand – which I previously mentioned here in December 2011. Wattie’s then established a new plant at Gisborne in 1952 in order to continue accommodate this contract. Subsequently, as soon as their new processing facility opened Wattie’s followed with their own packaged peas and corn; this eventually became a huge range of frozen product that did their competition no harm in the marketplace for quite some time – for Birds Eye were around well into the 1980s before it fizzled out (the business was finally dismantled in 1984). However the brand had a longer and more popular life in Australia, where it continues to this day.

A 1956 still seems to show Birds Eye peas, raspberries and frozen fish (probably fingers, which launched in England that same year) amongst other items. According to Simplot, the current owners of the brand in Australasia – Birds Eye was not launched over the ditch until two years later in 1949 – although I think it’s clear by now that believing what a company writes on their own website about their own history is tantamount to listening to a claim from most politicians.

By the 1980s the Surprise brand had expanded to apples, peas, beans, butter beans, peas and carrots, minted peas, mixed vegetables, and chopped onions. I am sure there was more, this is just what I know of. The brand is still under Unilever and going Strong today, with four products – minted peas, garden peas and peas & corn (all in frozen and dried versions) and dried mixed vegetables ( a combo of pea, potatoes, beans and carrots). To my knowledge Wattie’s (now Heinz Wattie’s Ltd) continue their association with Unilever for production.

SURPRISE SLICED APPLES CREST FOODS LIMITED Jackson Street Petone looks to have imperial price 3 S 6 D edit copy

A Surprise dried apple box, likely dating between 1961-1966. I conject that by this time the ownership of the brand had transferred to Unilever, and product was being manufactured in their Wellington plant, hence the Jackson street, Petone address on the side.

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However right at the end of writing I ran across a U.K. radio advert archive which lists an ad for Surprise garden peas circa 1960 – suddenly making me wonder whether they were either exported to the U.K for sale by Unilever – or simply originally a Unilever brand all along . Something wasn’t right with my story.

Further to that, In an online discussion about the Surprise brand one person remembers “…Batchelor’s “Surprise” peas . My father devised the name and designed the packaging…” I’d love to follow up on this line of inquiry but the conversation was unfortunately archived. Some further digging into Unilever history in the U.K. revealed that in the early 1940s Van den Bergh Foods/Unilever had acquired a fifty year old British company named Batchelor’s which specialised in processing peas.

Then I ran across a 1966 promotional photo in the National Library of Australia archive of a woman holding a few packets of Surprise peas – almost the same package design I’ve featured in the 1964 advert here. However the brand name was different and after a lot of squinting I realised the product was under Rosella, not Birds Eye. Unilever were successful in a takeover of Rosella in 1963 and remained owners until 2002.

With Unilever’s Surprise line in New Zealand appearing under Crest just after the acquisition of that brand, then their Surprise line in Australia appearing under Rosella just after the acquisition of that brand, I started to see a pattern. I conject that Surprise was never a Crest brand and Unilever acquired the product and technique with their purchase of Batchelor’s in the U.K. They just threw it under whatever was the most popular brand in the marketplace at the time in a corresponding country – hence it’s move to Continental when Crest was given last rites in Aotearoa.

Surprise peas - IGA Shopping Game 1969 14th anniversary - 197 Four Square  copy

 L:  Surprise dried peas box from a 1977 Four Square stores brochure.  R: Surprise frozen and dried peas packets from an IGA stores shopping-themed board game issued as a promo for the 14th anniversary of the brand in New Zealand,  in 1969. 

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The conclusion is fairly clear that Surprise was never originally a Kiwi brand at all. The research still took me on an interesting journey, though. Although, – it seems that, despite my best efforts – this story is not quite wrapped up yet.

I’d date these particular boxes I’ve recreated at some time between 1970 and 1976 (closer to the former date) based on regular changes to the packaging, as well as being evidenced by the decimal price of 25 cents.

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Update June 2015: Katherine Milburn, one of the  Ephemera Librarians at the Hocken Library Collections archive, saw this article and was kind enough to contact me with some data on the frozen foods industry, as well as these scans of Surprise brand  bean boxes. They definitely date after 1972 as the printer’s mark is ‘Whitcoulls.’ This company wasn’t producing items of packaging until that year,  after a merger of huge printing and publishing businesses Whitcombe & Tombs  and  Coull Somerville Wilkie. However since I’ve established dates for the boxes in the main article as being in production as late as 1976 when they were still marking packaging of items with dual imperial and metrics for those slow on the uptake, that gives us a pretty good start date.

Surprise beans-Hocken Library Collection  (1) edit sml

Surprise beans-Hocken Library Collection  (2) edit sml

As for a cut-off date, well our only clue is the  complete absence of a barcode, so probably prior to around 1982. I also remember this Whitcoulls logo in use in the late 1970s to early 1980s.  So, two versions of a box for the same product. Obviously the yellow one is earlier at 32 cents. Plus the mustard theme just screams of the decade they call ‘the one that style forgot’ (I beg to differ on this point). So I’d say late 1970s for this one; the green version shows the price has now risen to 41 cents so a guess of the very early 1980s.

Surprise beans-Hocken Library Collection  (3) edit sml

Surprise beans-Hocken Library Collection  (4) edit sml

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All content of Longwhitekid copyright Darian Zam © 2014. All rights reserved.

Perfitly Preserved

In "K" Brand, Agee, Alex Harvey Industries (AHI), Australian Glass Manufacturers Co. Ltd (AGM), Bond & Bond, Choysa Tea, Don and Marjorie Symonds, Finch and Company, Gregg & Co, Gregg's, Gunn Gollin Ltd, Home Preserving, Irvine & Stevenson, L D Nathan & Co Ltd, LD Nathan Wholesale Ltd, Lion Nathan Limited, National Can Industries (NCI), Oak, Perfit, Preserves, Professor Helen Leach, Pyrex, Q-P baking powder, Quality Packers Ltd, Roma tea, S Kirkpatrick and Co Ltd, St. George, Susan Baker, Thompson & Hill, Unilever, Wiltshire NZ Ltd on April 20, 2013 at 10.46

1 Susan Baker Warhol  copy

The eternally cheerful and supremely confident preserving wiz Susan Baker, Warhol-style.

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For a long period of history, bottling was the main method of preservation of foods – and there doesn’t seem to be much “specific” history of it in New Zealand since it is obviously not endemic; and therefore didn’t have much of a separate development geographically. It is what it is; stuff in jars, found the world over – even the earlier traditions of potting, drying and smoking of Maori culture weren’t that different from any other parts of the world.

2 Perfit Seal Large D1 Dome Perfit Seals - edit QUALITY PACKERS owned by LEVER   liquidation by 1993 these are probably 1980s

Perfit dome lid box, by Quality Packers (Q-P), probably produced in the late 1970s-late  1980s. The booklet price is listed as fifty cents at this time.

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Although, Professor Helen Leach, a food anthropologist and historian from the University of Otago, reckons the history of it is, inexplicably, far more enduring in Aotearoa than that of the U.K. or U.S. She does have her suspicions as to why, though. I listened to an interesting broadcast on the topic where she skirted around the obvious economic issue; we’ll get to that in a moment.
MASON AND GOLDEN STATE JAM PRESERVING JARS RITCHIE'S Otago Daily Times 17 February 1920 Page 8

Ritchie’s preserving supplies, Otago Daily Times, February 1920.

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It was a given that the accomplished housewife would have a skilled knowledge of cooking and preserving. Sometimes hundreds of pounds of produce were ‘put down’ while it was in season. Anything that could be saved for later, was – even pickled eggs, which sound kind of revolting now – were quite popular for a number of decades, as anyone who watches Boardwalk Empire would have observed.

Preserved Plums about 1899 or 1900 - Puke Ariki collection New Plymouth, Taranaki

Preserved Plums c 1899-1900, courtesy of Puke Ariki  Museum collection New Plymouth. Accession No A92.979

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Anyway, there is likely a lot more to it than sheer financial reasons, but I know my mum did an awful lot of bottling for that very reason – we could “pick-our-own” produce locally in the semi-rural area where we lived for very little – the kids would be put to work coring, peeling and chopping in preparation – and we’d have a greater variety of food for later in the year at a low cost. I can say as far as our family, it certainly was not done for any sense of accomplishment or sheer joy as the alternatives suggested.

PRESERVING SEASON 1902  - Ashburton Guardian - 13 February 1902 - Page 3 EDIT  copy

Fletcher’s preserving supplies, Ashburton Guardian, 13 February 1902.

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NZ History online states New Zealanders had an “obsession with bottling (and) good housewives were expected to know…”  This is a bit like saying fruit grows on trees under a blue sky, since in those days it was more a given necessity than a pastime of any sort. Also – thrift, or even the exhibition of it – through perceived activities such as home arts in the culinary manner, was seen as virtuous. Ergo, there was hardly an exception when it came to cookbooks including extensive sections on this prudent approach; as well as a plethora of them completely devoted to the topic.

4A1 100_4099 edit  smaller probably late 60s-early 70s as booklet now 30 cents up from 1968

Back of small orange G dome box with the booklet price  listed as 30 cents. This indicates it probably dates from the  late 1960s – early 70s. 

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Domestically-based commercial canning and bottling of foodstuffs was beginning to become prevalent in the late C19th (Kirkpatrick’s “K”, Thompson and Hills‘ “OAK” , Irvine & Stevenson‘s “St George” to name some ) – however this did little to dull the ardour for home preserving – which flourished, although the technique probably may have had a significant downtime in recent decades with a notable nosedive in the 1960s (yet, Perfit claimed that in the mid 1960s Kiwi women were still squirreling away twenty million bottles per annum collectively).

4AB 100_4104 edit smaller probably late 60s-early 70s as booklet now 30 cents up from 1968

Front  of small orange G dome box above. Manufacturer is Finch & Co.

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The drop-off was due to a number of factors. The advent of easy accessibility to home refrigeration and new-fangled methods of freezing food meant perishables, where possible, were chucked in the ice chest to use as needed. Mass advertising of goods that became more prevalent in the 1950s began to capture an audience to branded product; and the corporatisation of just about everything possible seemed to be on the rise from the early 1960s (what big business wants people doing it themselves? There’s no money in that). By the time these factors were combined with a marked rise in time poverty – especially because of women entering the workforce full time in droves – there was no real chance of recovering the decline and ever going back to those halcyon days.

4A perfit1large booklet edit

The Perfit home preserving book was published in at least four editions through the 1960s and 1970s, and was available for a nominal price by writing to the company.

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However that has not at all stopped enjoyment of the same products over time – whether home or factory made. And it has certainly had a hobby revival in the last few years with the re-trending of vintage Kiwiana and home cooking – as people have a yearning to get back to old-fashioned ways, signifying simpler times and other unfounded romantic ideas that enter their heads. “It did have a bit of a lull for a while, but it’s never really gone away”, says Marjorie Symonds, one of the current owners of Perfit.

100_4109 edit sml probably late 60s-early 70s as booklet now 30 cents up from 1968

Back of large blue dome box. This probably early 70s as booklet price is now five cents up from around 1968.

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Preserving memorabilia is in a little category of its own, not quite lumped in with food and drink products, but associated kitchen ephemera – “cooking stuff”. Brands of bottling gear were imported (Atlas, Mason, Fowler, Ball, Mason to name some) and a lot of companies got in on the lucrative preserve seal/ cover act like Reidrubber, KB (by IGA ), Deeko, and Jet Set (by Lane Latimer who were well known for their King brand of foodstuffs). There was Four Square and Pam’s (by Foodstuffs NZ Ltd) as well, but the two most popular were domestically produced brands Agee, and of course Perfit – which is in the oeuvre of an iconic NZ brand remembered by a number of generations.

100_4112 edit sml probably late 60s-early 70s as booklet now 30 cents up from 1968

Front of large blue dome box. Manufacturer is Finch & Co.

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Perfit is an old French /British surname which originally stems from “Parfait” although the name of the brand seemingly has nothing to do with that and is simply an amalgamation of two words – “perfect” and “fit” referring to their function as a superior method of sealing preserved goods.

Perfit Screw Bands 12  Green copy copy

Perfit screw bands during the period they were sold in plastic rather than the classic box.

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For decades Ms. Susan Baker, Perfit‘s ”home preserving consultant” has beamed beatifically from the cartons, with a confident glow that says “of COURSE you can do it, and all your efforts will turn out perfectly, so I’m not expecting a letter from you.” However if you ran into problems, she was at your service ; you could write to her, and she would do her best to answer. Oh – and also, for the nominal fee of a few cents, send you a home preserving handbook ( which was being produced in the 1960s and 1970s that I know of, and also L D Nathan & Co Ltd. had produced an earlier one, thought to be from the 1940s that is in the MLNZ ephemera collection). I always imagined her sitting on a spindly, high stool at her little wooden desk in the high-ceilinged Perfit warehouse somewhere in a 1950s-looking industrial division in South Auckland, with a few reference recipe tomes book-ended, and a soft lamp at her elbow, earnestly answering letters from housewives as storemen bustled around in the background preparing orders. So who was this Susan Baker, that, if you were like me – was gazing back at me every time I opened the cupboard that held the Edmonds jelly crystals, Gregg’s spices, Maggi stocks, cake decorations, and bits of preserving gear? She became an unwitting icon of our childhoods. Yet, we knew nothing about her.

Perfit Seal 12 Green Screw Bands (B2) EDIT  copy

Perfit screw band box showing contents. This looks like a recent revived version of the box.

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As it turns out – Susan Baker was not a real person – she was invented by the marketing department of the time. “She was a fictitious character, made up when Unilever had it. They just picked out a name and put the picture of some lady on the box. There was no such person as Susan Baker”, says Marjorie Symonds, who with her husband Don acquired both the Agee (in the late 1990s) and the Perfit brand in 2000. In reality, it would have been employees like Diane Horne , who, working at L.D. Nathan‘s Fort Street building in the 1960s – who answered the inquiries during her tenure working for Ray Lowe in the Perfit Seal Division.

42 Home Preserving by Susan Baker of Perfit - Nelson Photo News - No 75 February 4, 1967

Home Preserving article by Susan Baker (apparently) for the Nelson Photo News, No 75, February 4, 1967.

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I can’t say for sure but the brand was likely created by Nathan ( today the international behemoth based in Australia –Lion Nathan Limited ); when it was known more formally as “The Perfit Seal” – the earliest ads I can find mentioning the Perfit product are 1944-1945. Museum collections show preserving jar seals by that company from the 1950s but do not mention an actual brand name.

perfit seal auto preserver and box Kauri House Auctions 2012 cropped

An early version of the Perfit auto preserver with original box, waiting to be auctioned in Havelock North last year. This one is probably from the late 1950s-early 1960s. Image courtesy of Kauri Auction House.

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Don Symonds has had a long history with brands prior to that – spanning thirty years or so with agents Gunn Gollin Ltd who handled the Agee product. Belinda Cimino, a former employee, recalls that GGL dealt also in “half of New Zealand’s tea”, as well as pineapple, herbs and spices, seeds, frozen seafoods, steel and cast iron kitchenware, wine and spirits. ”

“I started with Gunn Gollin (GGL) in 1981 as national sales manager, and in this role I looked after the Agee brand along with several other brands – for many years. GGL was the distributor for Agee. This came about because GGL imported and supplied the compounds to make the rubber seal, to what was then named Alex Harvey Industries (AHI), manufacturers of the metal components. AHI did not have the expertise to market the product – hence we at GGL assumed that role. “

Perfit Seal Electric Home Preserver (M EDIT  copy

A late 1960s version of the Perfit auto preserver.

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Marjorie seems to think that both Perfit and Agee stemmed from the same original business, which could be true, however the sealing components for the jars (domes, rings, seals) were both made in the same factory in Mount Wellington. I have two boxes that state “manufactured by Finch & Company Ltd.” Don Symonds says: ” I think that Finch were taken over by AHI later on. Agee and Perfit were manufactured side by side – the only difference was the colour of the compound and the outer packaging. These were both made in AHI‘s Mount Wellington factory which later became National Can Industries (NCI). Packing of the product was originally done by the Blind Institute, and later contracted out.”

100_4071 edit to blue B1 box  copy

The recent revived version of the classic blue Perfit screw band box. Most of these items are from my own personal collection.

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Eventually like everything domestic that was hanging on, the factory could no longer compete with foreign manufacture and the new owners of the brands had to look overseas for another component fabricator . “Eventually they closed manufacture of the line down, hence why we now import them”, says Don. These days the product comes from Canada.

41  Ellesmere Guardian Volume 66 Issue 12 16 February 1945 Page 6 Advertisements Column 2 ORMANDYS

An early mention of Perfit in the  Ellesmere Guardian, February 1945. I’m not sure when Perfit was on the market but I am assuming that it was at the end of WWII.

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The actual Agee bottles themselves were first made by Australian Glass Manufacturers Co. Ltd (AGM, established in 1915 ), their logo commonly found on many New Zealand bottles and handy for dating. The company were later famous of course for Agee Pyrex cookware – as well as insulators and baby feeders also under the Agee brand. “I believe that originally the jars were made in Australia but it could have been in the 1970s – I’m not sure of the exact date – that New Zealand changed the lid size to the US measurements – and Australia did not. hence our lids do not fit Australian jars. From then on all our jars were made domestically by a manufacturer named NZ Glass in Penrose. The jars were never sold by either Perfit or Gunn Gollin, NZ Glass sold them direct to retailers themselves. We never handled them.”

Perfit Seal - Gregg's coffee jar promo box EDIT copy

This  smaller screw bands box was a tie in product with W. Gregg & Co is probably around 1967-68 as the stamped price  shows both decimal and imperial currency – indicating it was produced when the conversion was recent enough for people to still be confused.

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Perfit Seals New Zealand Weekly News  Jan 1966 - Perfit and Gregg's promotion box - prob circa 1968 as it shows price decimal and imperial

An advert of January 1966 explaining that special edition screw bands are now available to recycle 4 ounce Gregg’s instant coffee jars to use for preserves. The box indicates the Perfit preserving book is now in its fourth edition. This is the earliest reference I can find for it, though – at 25 cents.

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The Perfit brand name its self wasn’t registered until 1960 by L D Nathan & Co according to IPONZ records, and interestingly, it doesn’t seem that “Susan Baker” was ever registered.

An early box of Perfit G Dome Seals made for L D Nathan sold recently on Trade Me and showed that the instruction book price had risen to fifty cents. This indicates it was produced post 1967 decimal currency introduction, and so that information tells us it was after that time Nathan on-sold the business to Unilever. A trademark registration, with no party named, shows up for the product in 1972; this seems to match up with the year of some acquisitions and changes at L D Nathan who may have decided to divest their interest in – what they likely considered at the time – a  waning brand with limited future.

5 perfit stuff 1 EDIT copy probably late 60s-early 70s as booklet now 30 cents up from 1968

A look at the design for the metal domes – early-mid 1970s.

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It now seemingly stayed with Unilever through to 2000, although one box I have is marked “Quality Packers Ltd”  Nielsen Street, Onehunga ( a company founded in the 1930s who were well-known for their “Q-P” baking powder, and later also produced a serious Kiwi foodstuffs icon – Choysa tea, as well as Roma).Choysa (established in 1905) came from Bond & Bond, whose company became “LD Nathan Wholesale Ltd” after it was purchased by them around 1972, as Christine Cox, a former employee, remembers happening while she worked in the L D Nathan offices in Auckland central.

perfit jar holder copy edit

Box for the Perfit jar holder – it was a rubber-sheathed loop used for lifting bottles in and out of the auto preserver.

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Eventually, the Choysa brand was moved over from LD Nathan Wholesale Ltd to Quality Packers, (which Nathan had also snapped up around the same time) to handle. Clearly Perfit was eventually slotted in under the QP division in the 1970s-1980s for reasons we don’t really know. Perhaps it seemed to be in marketplace competition with another of the numerous brands Unilever owned – or perhaps QP were just better equipped in some way to handle such a product. It could have been a myriad of reasons. So that’s how Perfit ended up being “produced” by QP. Quality Packers were liquidated in 1993 and then struck off the following year (it turns out 100% of the shares were owned by Unilever at the time) and yet they decided to retain the Perfit brand for a few more years until they finally decided they’d had enough of it.

Agee Preserving Jars and pint preserving jar box perfit seal box EDIT  copy

A variety of Agee and Perfit preserving products.

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Don and Marjorie Symonds took over Agee first (Unilever had acquired it from Wiltshire NZ Ltd at some point – who had registered it around 1957), and “then Unilever…came to us and said would you like to have Perfit too? and we did. In 2003 we ceased production of Agee because it turns out there wasn’t really room for two brands in the market at that time, and Perfit was more popular”, says Marjorie. Don recallsPerfit was sold to us in 2000, as Unilever had decided to shed lines that were no longer classed as core business.”

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An original version of the red screw bands box, probably early 1970s.

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I’ve got quite a collection of the various boxes that have been issued over the years – including one that is specifically marketed for its ability to fit on a certain size of Gregg’s coffee jar that people were taking it upon themselves to recycle and use for preserving. I’d noticed that recently a lot of the older style boxes were cropping up – but in fact seemed to be a recent product. “We’ve gone back to the two older boxes, the ones that originally came out the forties or fifties. So the ones that are on the shelves now are the original box designs they used many years ago”.

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An original version of the red screw bands box, probably early 1970s.

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I ask if it was a deliberate decision to go back to that to give it a more traditional feel and honour that long history of preserving.“Well, yes – the product was only in plastic bags with a card label and they’re no good sitting on supermarket shelves” says Marjorie.” It doesn’t look good. So I said – let’s put them back into the original boxes. So we had them redone.” 

It’s good to see that every once in a while a company is upholding its own history and celebrating it, even if it’s in small ways.

Ellesmere Guardian Volume 66 Issue 13 20 February 1945 Page 3 Adverts column 1 FARMERS

An early mention of Perfit amongst the preserving range on offer at Farmers”. Ellesmere Guardian, February 1945.

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Addendum, early Aug 2013: I had been trying to save up some good images for years for this article, and then of course just the week after I posted this article, someone immediately came up with a couple of much better ones, including some of the Perfit auto preserver and the jar holder with a good shot of the box it came in.

Perfit Seal Jar Holder - For Bottling copy sml

I’m not sure what to make of this seal box. I’ve never seen this version before. Presumably it’s a little older than the others I’ve featured – probably early 1960s, maybe even late 1950s. But who knows for sure. Also, who knows why exactly they needed so many different boxes for what was essentially the same basic product!

older Perfit seal box front and back 200 dpi copy sml
Addendum  mid Jan 2014: A Dunedin collector and reader of this blog kindly sent these images to me as a contribution the article. These arrived some months ago and I haven’t had time for quite a while to do all the updates I need to get around to. I’d say these pages come from two different editions of the Perfit Seal Home Preserving booklet: early 1960s and another from the mid 1960s. Unfortunately all are undated so it’s pretty difficult to tell bar the use of imperial versus decimal currency, which gives a general clue. I’ve never seen either of these versions before – just what I think of as the “regular” version that I posted in the article above, which seems to crop up on a regular basis. Anyway, for the most part they are interesting pages with some colour. All following images are courtesy of Owain Morris collection.

Perfit Seal a  - Owain Morris Collection

Perfit Seal  Preserving Items  - Owain Morris Collection

Perfit Seal b  - Owain Morris Collection

Perfit Seal large booklet  - Owain Morris Collection

Perfit Seal Susan Baker - Owain Morris Collection

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

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Branded with a K: Kirkpatrick’s Canny Colossus

In "K", "K" Brand, Anderson & Son coffee and spices, Butland Industries, Canned Goods, Centennial Kirkpatrick House, Crest Fine Foods, David Owers coffee and spices, Denniston and Co, Duryea's Maizena, Faulding's, Frimley Foods, Frimley Fruit Canning Works, Heinz Watties, Henderson Sweets, Henry Jones Co-op Ltd, Imperial jam, IXL brand, jam, James Stedman, John Heaton Barker, Jumbo Baking Powder, Kirkpatrick, Nelson Jam and Fruit Processing Company, Playtime jam, Samuel Kirkpatrick, Sweetacres, The Nelson Fish Company, Thompson & Hill, Unilever, Wattie Cannery Ltd, Wattie's, Wheatena on August 17, 2012 at 10.46

It has taken me months on and off to find the material and finish off this recreation of a “K” jam label from a photo. Creating the fruit illustration was complicated and difficult. I believe it dates from the late 1920s- early 1930s.
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“K” brand was one of the longest lasting, and most popular product lines to come out of New Zealand. You probably haven’t heard of it, and it is true that it has been long forgotten since it shut up shop at the beginning of the 1970s – but it lasted ninety years in the cupboards and on the tables of Kiwi households.

A later version of the label above, probably late 1940s-early 1950s era. Photo courtesy of  Trade Me member Shakaya. 
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S. Kirkpatrick & Company was established in Nelson, “the fruit, hops and flower garden of New Zealand”, in 1881 where it came to be the most important business in the district – as its major employer. The firm’s biggest enterprise was jam, and following that canned fruit, vegetables and meat, and such was its impact – that it had a marked effect on the geographical nature of agriculture in the region, as well as other industries such as fishing. The business was quickly producing 1,000 units a day using up all those tons of pesky wasted fruit that local producers just couldn’t offload. It wasn’t long before the ‘K’ Brand of jam in its colourful label was recognised throughout Australasia.

Custard Powder and Egg Powder, Nelson Evening Mail, June 1905.
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Samuel Kirkpatrick was born in County Down, Ireland, between 1853 and 1854, where he went to school in Newry. After graduating from Walton College, Liverpool he spent five years with a wholesale food merchant learning the ropes. Kirkpatrick then emigrated to the U.S. for some years – working for tea wholesalers in both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In 1876 his entree to future success came with his removal to California where he worked in two large fruit canneries in San Francisco (in what capacity this work was exactly, I am unsure).

Teenage workers stir jam pans inside the “K” Factory. Image courtesy of Nelson Provincial Museum, F. N. Jones Collection, Reference 6×8 29
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Sources seem to differ on the date – but it seems Kirkpatrick probably arrived in New Zealand in 1878 and worked as a travelling salesperson for merchants and commission agents Renshaw, Denniston and Co, in Dunedin, through 1879. They sold farming equipment such as reapers and binders , as well as more workaday items from cornsacks to paint and wire. They were also agents for various loans, marine and fire insurance (the partnership dissolved by March 1880).

S. Kirkpatrick and Co. Ltd business letterhead, Courtesy of the Hocken Archives and Manuscripts collection, ref UN-023/144
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However Kirkpatrick, with his experience in agency, sales, foodstuffs and the canning industry together had his sights set higher. He could see the raw potential of the Nelson area with it’s ideal fruit-growing temperament – and it wasn’t long before he contacted a group he had heard had a similar idea and were investigating the establishment of a fruit processing plant in the area.

“K” multi-purpose canned meat label, circa 1900. Image courtesy of the Printed Ephemera Collection, Alexander Turnbull Library, Ref Eph-F-MEAT-Gear-130
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Kirkpatrick became not only a significant shareholder, but struck a deal to manage what was to be known as the Nelson Jam and Fruit Processing Company. He leased a former textile mill in Bridge Street as premises, from the Webley Brothers who had a company named ” Webley’s Nelson Cloth“. They had gone out of business due to competition amongst manufacturers and Kirkpatrick emptied the buildings offloading all the equipment to Kaiapoi Woollen Mills. Supposedly this occurred in 1876, but I’m guessing the date quoted is wrong, since firstly Kirkpatrick was documented working in the U.S. at the time, and also RD & Co were advertising sub-agent positions in 1878 – so that data seems to back up that he started working for them then – and not earlier.

He returned to Britain the following year to arrange the shipment of an entire canning plant to set up in the new factory . He brought back with him his aunt , and his mother who was now widowed.
From the 1880s a large variety of jams, conserves, jellies and marmalades were produced in 1 pound and 2 pound stone jars. They also produced the preserves in glass jars, perhaps a bit later on. In the 1890s preserves were also available in 1lb, 2lb, and 7lb tins and they added that Kiwi classic lemon cheese to the roster. They were also marketing coffee under their own company moniker – although generally they were using the “K” label for almost everything at this point.

“K” marmalade advert, New Zealand Illustrated Magazine, August 1903

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Production had doubled by 1896, and the current factory buildings now being insufficient to cope with demand, Kirkpatrick purchased land at the corner of Gloucester and Vanguard streets for a new factory – in which he installed the most modern and efficient machinery and fittings of the time. His marriage of this same year lasted a very short time when his wife died from Tuberculosis by 1899. However at this point he was buried in work – with significant expansion of the buildings constructed to accommodate rapid growth, the company now had “the largest wooden building in the colony” and its own can making and printing plants – each can that came out of the factory was made and labelled by hand. Eventually the premises covered about 30,000 square feet.

“K ” Brand jam jar, date unknown – I am guessing 1920s. Photo courtesy of the Mataura & Districts Historical Society Incorporated collection.
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The company now branched out into coffee under the ” K” brand as well as spices – having bought the business of Anderson & Son, Wellington. “Jumbo” was a Kirkpatrick baking powder label of the 1900s that was acquired as part of the package with the Anderson transaction – who had previously sold the patent, trademark, and all the machinery to a coffee and spice merchant David Owers of Timaru in 1893. Somehow it made its way back to the original owners who sweetened the deal by including it, however even though heavily advertised by the end of the decade it seems to have been dropped from the list of products.

 Competition campaign by the Charles Haines agency, Hawera & Normanby Star, March 1923

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The business continued to grow rapidly and by 1901 the factory was employing 60 individuals full-time just in the off-season – and double during the busy period. Kirkpatrick had a concern not only with hygiene, but with good working conditions for his employees – which earned him great respect. “It is an interesting sight to see thirty or forty girls, neatly dressed, and in harmony with the general cleanliness of the whole establishment, picking and sorting the fruit with a quickness, which to the uninitiated must seem incredible. A happy feeling evidently exists between the girls and their employer, to judge by the contented faces the visitor sees around him”.
Kirkpatrick was described as a neat and “dapper man with a retiring disposition”. However for all his concern of his workers and their comfort – as well as his receding temperament it seems he was near in matters of quite insignificant things, and had no hesitation to voice his concerns; There is a letter in existence from Kirkpatrick written in 1917 when he was no doubt already rich. He writes to a handkerchief company complaining that there were only eleven handkerchiefs in the pack of twelve that he purchased and could they please reimburse him or replace the missing one.

Advertising for various “K ” products, date unknown but likely late 1890s-early 1900s. Note missing text which probably said “your grocer sells them.”
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Now with a large range of preserves, canned fruits, vegetables and meats (including pig’s feet in jelly, lobster, brawn, Irish Stew, ox and sheep tongue, Scotch haggis, boiled fowl, and curried rabbit to name a few) – In the decade of the 1900s the product range expanded in a massive way as follows: fruit mincemeat, honey, raspberry and table vinegar, pie fruits, poultry tonic, salad cream, tomato sauce, “K” Sauce, mushroom ketchup, pickles, condiments, curry powder, custard powder (six flavours), baking powder and egg powder, bird seed, Wheatena (presumably a product similar to Maizena and Creamota, to be used for both cooking and breakfast cereal) plum puddings, potted meats, ground rice, pea flour , pea meal and wheatmeal, linseed, arrowroot, spiced sausage flour, icing and castor sugar, desiccated coconut, cream of tartar, bicarbonate soda, citric and tartaric acid, carbonated ammonia, starch glaze, pickling spice, beef tea, dried herbs, hops, pickles, and boracic acid. “New lines are constantly being added”, noted an article of 1906, – such as gravy browning and tomato chutney in the 1910s.

Jumbo was a short-lived Kirkpatrick foray that had been around for a decade with two previous owners, before it came into their possession. From the Nelson Evening Mail, August 1900
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Kirkpatrick & Co. also acted as agents for a variety of international products such as Nestlé, Peters, and Kohler’s chocolates, Henderson’s sweets by  James Stedman of Sydney (later better known as Sweetacres) as well as Faulding’s products like eucalyptus extract., cloudy ammonia, and olive oil.

Another children’s competition campaign of 1922, again by Kirkpatrick’s preferred advertising agency – Haines.
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In 1904 Kirkpatrick acquired The Nelson Fish Company – a producer of smoked, chilled and frozen fish which was packed in pumice and sent far and wide. In prime position on the edge of the Nelson harbour, the large, hygienic white premises also did a roaring trade in ice.

The “K” Factory,  October 1900 from the Auckland Weekly News. Courtesy of Auckland Council Heritage Images, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19001012-4-6
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Now in its heydays, the Kirkpatrick enterprise was during this period apparently the biggest canning and jam factory in Australia and New Zealand combined.

“K” spag with cheese had been around since at least the 1930s, but these  probably date from the early 1950s era. Photo courtesy of Trade Me member Shakaya.
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Kirkpatrick in his spare time was quite the sports enthusiast with a particular fondness for the game of hockey, and eventually became president of the Nelson Association. In 1924 he founded and first presented the silver ‘K’ Cup as the trophy for women’s hockey. He was a Freemason and held the rank of deputy grand master of the District Grand Lodge of Westland and Nelson. Like many foodstuffs industry bigwigs such as Barker (Four Square) and Dustin (Buttermaid), who found that wider power came with industrial clout – he also stepped into the public eye via favoured community organisations, and inevitably into the more political arena serving a term as a city councillor from 1898.

“K” advertising blotters issued in 1925. Original photo used for composite is courtesy of Graham Bulman.
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He died in 1925 and the Henry Jones Co-op Ltd purchased the company (an Australian company founded by Henry Michael Jones, famous for the IXL brand which also had with an extensive range of food processing plants in New Zealand cities as well as Tasmania and Melbourne). In 1913, Kirkpatrick had made a grab for the financially-troubled Frimley brand so this was also part of the takeover. At some point in the late 1930s it was passed from Henry Jones to Wattie’s – one of their earliest acquisitions – if not the first in a long list of brands they snapped up to eventually become number one. I covered the Frimley brand in brief here :

https://longwhitekid.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/saucing-material/

The “K” Factory in October 1964, just after news of the Wattie’s takeover. From the Nelson Photo News. Photo courtesy of the Friends of the Nelson Library Inc.
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In the 1920s ads for tomato soup, Xmas puddings and a product named “Musto” (a spice base mix for making piccalilli and chow chow, later made by Trent’s, The NZ Coffee and Spice Co Ltd,  under their Good Cook line) appear in newspapers as well as on other advertising like blotters. The 1930s saw canned spaghetti in tomato sauce, or with added cheese; baked beans, vegetable soup, and that good old depression staple pork & beans. Things took a more exotic turn with loganberries, dessert raspberries, and diced fruit salad on offer. By this time fruit and vegetable products on sale under the “K” label were in the dozens.

Famous Wellington grocery store and delicatessen Fuller-Fulton advertising Kirkpatrick Soups. Evening Post, June 1935
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“Imperial” was a subsidiary brand trademarked in 1909 and lasted well into the 1930s. Although it was registered to cover just about every category of product under “K”, it seems it may only have ever been produced as canned jam. Still – it was around for a good quarter century so can be deemed successful.

IGA stores advertising, circa late 1950s-early 1960s.
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According to IPONZ, It seems as if the Crest brand (almost unknown now, but during the 1950s it was in fact far bigger than Wattie’s) also came under the auspices of Kirkpatrick & Co while it was under ownership of  the Henry Jones company. After being passed from behemoth Butland Industries to Unilever, it was a very short time before it was sold on again – seemingly a year or so. For just a few months in 1960 the company had some sort of joint arrangement with Wattie’s over the brand – which was over by November of that year when all the categories were re-registered solely to Heinz Watties.

An event at the Kirkpatrick family home, Nelson. Provenance and year of photo unknown, but looks to be late 1920s-early 1930s judging by the costume styles.
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In 1964, Wattie’s took over S. Kirkpatrick & Co., Ltd., as well as Thompson & Hills Ltd – now both subsidiaries of The Henry Jones Co-op Ltd in the same factory. So at this point the round-up included OAK, Playtime, and “K” brands. By 1971 they had dismantled the brand and shut down the Nelson factory which was producing all of these labels as well as, of course, a number of Wattie’s products and Watties-owned brands by this point in time.

Known as Kirkpatrick House for well over 70 years, the home served as a charitable girl’s boarding house and then a backpackers.  Photographed in 2009, it still stands in Mount Street as part of a new estate.
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By the end of the 1960s “K” jam and soup had lasted the whole distance, with the last record of product I have seen, being of marmalade in the final year of business. But sadly that was the end for the Kirkpatrick name as far as foodstuffs (as well as Thompson & Hills’ Playtime Jam – which had been around since at least the 1920s).

“K” jam label from my personal collection, circa mid-late 1960s
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The factory site was eventually demolished to construct a New World supermarket – in a somewhat ironic turn a Foodstuffs NZ Ltd – initiated chain built on the very spot where founding father of Four Square,  J. Heaton Barker had worked for Samuel Kirkpatrick up until 1901 (I covered this in my previous article).

“K” soup label from my personal collection, circa mid-late 1960s
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The family residence in Mount Street was called Kirkpatrick House ( later Centennial Kirkpatrick House ), and still presides high on the steep hill looking down to the factory site; it can be easily seen from the supermarket parking lot. It had been left by Kirkpatrick in his will along with a substantial monetary bequest to provide a roof for daughters of deceased Freemasons who needed somewhere to stay when they came from rural areas and surrounds, to finish their education at Nelson College for Girls (eventually anyone sponsored by a Masonic organisation was eligible). Perhaps they also worked in the factory, especially during peak season – it’s highly likely as the “K’ factory was always short-staffed. Hundreds boarded there over a seventy year period until the late 1990s when it became a hostel – the Club Nelson Backpackers. The house was sold off as one of several lots of land in late 2011, part of what is now an “eco” housing estate project .

Marmalade advert, Evening Post, July 1911.
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Nearly ninety years later, his estate still sponsors girls to board at the college’s in-house accommodation. Samuel Kirkpatrick played a major role in the Nelson district’s development, through his fostering of agriculture, horticulture , significant employment of labour – but also charitable acts which have become a lasting legacy.

A Miss Bush in a rather unfortunate outfit advertising Kirkpatrick & Co’s strawberry and raspberry jams, as well as orange marmalade, around 1898. Image courtesy of the Nelson Provincial Museum, Tyree Studio Collection, Reference: 62826.

Postscript June 2014: When I wrote and posted this article, I am not sure how aware I was that William and Frederick Tyree, the photographers, were my great-aunt’s uncles. Never expecting to have even a tentative connection to anything I research, I was nevertheless quite pleased to discover this family connection.

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Addendum Sept 2012: This label just in from a British dealer. I have never seen this before and I am guessing it dates somewhere around 1900s-1910s. Why would a previously unseen-for-sale-in-the-Anipodes label end up in the U.K., one might ask? 

This may be the answer, in an ad from a Grocer’s Review magazine of 1948 which shows the can in one of the photos at the top of the post. By accounts, “K” had quite a market not only in Australia, but made it as far as Britain as well.  Image courtesy of Mike Davidson, who scrounged it up from his magazine collection especially for me. 

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Addendum early Jan 2013: I found this ad for the Musto product by S. Kirkpatrick & Co, April 1921. This was part of a series from a campaign by the Charles Haines agency for the “K” brand.

MUSTO KEWPIE - K KIRKPATRICK - HAINES - Auckland Star 4 April 1921 Page 8 copy

 

Power Outlet: The Force of Four Square and Foodstuffs NZ Ltd

In "K" Brand, 4 Triangle, AG Stores, Arrow Butter, Auckland Master Grocers' Association, Baker's Review, Budget brand, Central Provision Stores, Checkout Four Square board game, Cheeky Charlie, Ches and Dale, CPS Stores, Dick Frizzell, Dormer-Beck, Farmer's, Farmer's Co-op, Farmer's Trading Co., Fletcher's Stores, Food Fair, Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd, Four Square, Four Square Stores (Australia) Pty Ltd, Four Square Supermarkets, Four Triangle, Green and Colebrook stores, Grocers' Review, Icon Products, John Heaton Barker, Kirkpatrick, Laidlaw Leeds mail order company, Ltd, McKenzies stores, Mr. Four Square, National Cash Register Co, New World Supermarkets, New Zealand Grocer's and Baker's Review, New Zealand Grocergram, New Zealand Master Baker's associatio, NZ Master Grocer's Association, NZ Master Grocer's Federation, Pak 'N' Save supermarkets, Pam's Products, Rawakelle tea, S Kirkpatrick and Co Ltd, Self Help Stores, Sir Harry Heaton Barker, Te Aroha Dairy Company, The Farmers Union Trading Company, Triangle brand, Uncategorized, United Buyers, Wattie's, Weston-Frizzell, Woolworth's Food Fair, Woolworth's stores, Woolworth's supermarkets on August 7, 2012 at 10.46

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A recreation I’ve made of a rare Australian contest poster of the 1950s.

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The Four Square brand originally emerged from a grocers’ co-op, which was established based on the concern that competition from grocery chain stores in the New Zealand market place was making business very difficult for small, independent store operators. How much truth there is to this claim is dubious since at that period of time in the early 1920s, the only specific food chain that comes to mind that would have provided any serious competition was Self Help, also a co-operative, which I covered previously in a fairly brief and superficial article of May this year here.

J. T. Hammond’s Mangatoki Four Square with sign writing done by Jack Wood, probably 1930s. Courtesy of the Puke Ariki collection.

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Between just 1922 and 1923, during the initial formation by the Auckland Master Grocers’ Association of what was soon to become Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd, Self Help had gone from just one store to a string of seven which must have been a frightening concept for anyone in the field looking to the near future and their prospects within.

Logos through the decades, clockwise from left: mid-late 1920s, 1932, late 1950s-early 1960s, mid 1930s-early 1940s, unknown – probably late 1940s , and 1980. From the mid 1950s the logo has remained almost the same in colour and design. a

Although a small company named Fletcher’s can probably lay claim to being the very first “self-service” style enterprise in the history of New Zealand, it had probably fizzled out by the early twenties. However in 1919 Laidlaw Leeds, a very successful mail order company had acquired the Green and Colebrook chain to become Farmer’s Co-op and they opened their twenty-ninth store in 1921. Although a general department store, Farmer’s were marketing at least flour, tea and spices that I am aware of, but hardly specific competition, however – that may have been all it took.

Colouring book produced as a competition promotion in 1954. a

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Since at the time the Self Help concept was a huge revelation in grocery shopping and pricing I can only conject that Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd was formed in direct response to Self Help’s extremely sudden success within that narrow timeframe – having pushed the situation to the edge. This allegedly pertinent issue was raised by a man named John Heaton Barker – to Auckland’s main grocers’ association, in early July of 1922. The co-op became official when it formed a company – which was registered on 1st of April, 1925. It’s first contract was with Te Aroha Dairy Company to carry their “Arrow” brand butter. Co-operatives were also formed in Wellington (named United Buyers, the same year, 1922, which became the “4 Triangle” chain) and in Christchurch (1928, which was named the “AG Stores”) . By 1935 all these co-ops had already come under the Four Square brand but were now officially renamed branches of Foodstuffs Ltd.

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Advertisement showing the white pepper and cornflour from their self line, Evening Post, March 1934 a

Seemingly well documented, the Foodstuffs legend goes that on the 4th of July 1924, two years into the co-op being formed, Barker, in position of company secretary at this time – was doodling on a pad during a telephone conversation with his colleagues and drew a square around the date. He presented this concept with the buoying manifesto that the group would stand ‘four square to all the winds that blew”.

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Above: Four Square white pepper tin from my own collection. This design was in use during 1934-1935. Below, I’ve recreated the label.

It wasn’t long before the first logos for the brand were bumped into all the stores in the form of hand-painted glass signs, with products appearing under the moniker by the end of that year. A primitive version of the formal logos we know today were going up on stores by 1929, with 4 Triangle, and AG Stores becoming part of Four Square not long after in December 1933 – as well as another co-op which had been formed in Southland (but much later down the track, in 1948) . The distinctive colours, however, were not adopted until 1931 when on a field trip to view a particular store belonging to a Mr. McInnes, the initial tangerine and yellow scheme (with green added to it in the form of the logo) was requisitioned.

Promotional puzzle showing many of Four Square’s line of products circa late 1940s. Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Manuscripts and Pictorial collection. a

By the time the early thirties co-op merger had taken place (of which the date both Fairfax’s Business Hall of Fame profile as well as Foodstuff’s own history quote incorrectly), Four Square now boasted a total of 266 stores nationwide – what can only be described as an explosive success and had far outstripped even the phenomenal growth success of Self Help – and not even bothering to mention any other competition like McKenzies, Woolworths and Farmer’s which were semi- players at best in the burgeoning grocery market at the time. In 1935 the stores bearing Four Square signage were at 285. By the post war years food groceries bearing the Four Square name had shot up to nearly 400 and climbing quickly – 700 by 1950. By 1956 there were an amazing 1000 stores nationwide.

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Promotional game produced in Australia, probably the mid 1960s. a

By some time in the 1950s Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd had decided to hop the ditch to invade our Australian cousins, as my poster recreation at the head of this post, as well as the  board game on road safety I have found above, attest. By 1980 a Happy Family promotion shows the logo for Australian chain CPS (Central Provision Stores), alongside Four Square and New World’s logos – having been added to the empire via Four Square Stores (Australia) Pty Ltd.

J. Heaton Barker’s new offices bringing everything together under one roof – Auckland Star, 8 October, 1925. a

Barker was one of two children of a family from Derby, Britain. Perhaps his father – mention is made of a John William Barker – stayed behind when he immigrated with his mother and sister in 1886; arriving in Wellington on 6th August aboard the S.S. Ionic. Perhaps he died, and they decided to leave. Whatever the story was, his mother was free to marry a Reverend John Crump seven years later. A devout Christian, J. H. Barker was seriously involved in the Baptist church throughout his life, particularly in Mount Eden, Auckland where he was an elder, and at various times a chair, treasurer, as well as president of the City Baptist Auxiliary.

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Promotional Snap set featuring many popular products sold through Four Square stores; circa late 1950s-early 1960s. a

That was much later on in his life though; originally he settled in Nelson (where he was the facilitator of the PSA or “Pleasant Sunday Afternoon’ movement which had begun in Britain, was active in the Mutual Improvement Society, and on occasion stood in for his local pastor at the pulpit, was a member of council for the NZ Accountant’s and Auditor’s Association, secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, and secretary of the Foreign and British Bible Society).

Promotional Snap set featuring many popular products sold through Four Square stores; circa late 1950s-early 1960s. a

More specifically he had spent time in Richmond to the south-west of the town where he was at one time or another secretary of the Richmond Lawn Tennis Club and also the Workingmen’s Club (I think at this point we can already establish that he was quite the busybody do-gooder). In 1896 he sold up and moved to a more central location in Bronte Street, Nelson.

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In-store Disney promotion – Hutt News, December 1934. a

In an article entitled “Farewell to Mr. and Mrs. Barker” in the Nelson Evening Mail of 14th March, 1901, an interesting mention is made – of Barker’s “severing his connection with S. Kirkpatrick and Co., Ltd” in order to move. This was a popular foodstuffs company primarily famous for their jam, in particular the “K” brand, but ranged across a wide array of products from jelly crystals, canned meat and spices to coffee, poultry tonic, vinegar, honey and baking powder.

Triangle brand products – Evening Post, December 1933 . a

This is a very interesting detail to discover because Kirkpatrick play an intrinsic part in the corporate history of the canned food industry in New Zealand – passing through a number of owners and lasting into 1971 when it was finally dismantled by Wattie’s upon their acquisition of the brand and Nelson factory. In what capacity he worked for the firm is unknown (presumably accounting); but whatever it was he had achieved in just a few short years it was important enough for Mr. Kirkpatrick , the CEO himself, to attend in person and present Barker with a gold Albert fob chain for his services.

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An unusual Four Square promotional chair which was auctioned recently. Photos © and courtesy of Trademe menber cache10 (Phil). a

He moved with his wife Mattie and eight offspring to Wellington in 1902 (where he was president of the city’s Sunday School Union, president of the Sunday School Teacher’s Association, vice-president of the YMCA Cricket Club, vice-president of the Gregg Shorthand Association, and prone to giving rousing public speeches on the gospel everywhere he could, it seems).

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Four Square’s self line of preserving jar skins probably date from the 1950s or early 1960s. From my personal collection. a

In 1907 we find him managing director of Messrs. Yerox, Barker and Finlay, Ltd., a company primarily moving cash registers and typewriters. In 1908 he moved to directing the interests of the National Cash Register Co in New Zealand at 17-19 Cuba Street – and in 1911 he gained inches of press when he invented an automated telegram sorting and stamping machine, which was subsequently installed in Wellington’s General Post Office. Following that the family relocated to Auckland in 1912 (where he had a spell as a director on the board of the Auckland YMCA, and led Baptist services at various church venues).

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Rare canisters issued for the Southland Four Square Co-op’s general area centennial of 1956 crop up at auction very occasionally to be bid on competitively. a

Presumably he eventually became somehow involved in the grocery industry to bring him into the relative picture; A newspaper article of 1924, in which he is called to give testimony in a case to do with milling industry price fixing, defines him as the Auckland secretary of the New Zealand Master Baker’s association, as well as the editor of their magazine “Baker’s Review” since 1920 (he remained secretary until 1930 when he stood down voluntarily).

George Allen and staff in the Dominion Road Four Square store, Auckland, late 1940s. Photo © and courtesy of the estate of George Allen. a

Clearly from the court report he was a significant player in the supply and demand of flour and other goods for some years. Quite frankly I was surprised to find a dearth of biographical information on a major player in New Zealand industry; One of his children grew up to become well-known newspaper editor and politician Sir Harry Heaton Barker – and much more is written of his long term mayor son. Certainly at this point with his various experiences in foodstuffs, accounting, sales, administration and a clear talent for creative invention – he had everything he needed to take things to a spectacular new level.

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Advertisement showing the custard powder and tea from their self line, Auckland Star, 11 April, 1935. a

Barker, as well as also being secretary, accountant and auditor of the NZ Master Grocer’s Association – ran the Auckland branch of the food co-op from its inception until 1934 when he became director of Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd – a position he remained in until 1947 when he passed away. In 1932 he was made a life member of the New Zealand Master Grocer’s Federation, of which he had been secretary since 1923.

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Four Square brochure of 1977 showing product specials to celebrate the 21st anniversary of Four Square in Otago/Southland. Image courtesy of the Foodstuffs (NZ) Archive. a

He also launched an industry magazine, “Grocers’ Review” in the early 1920s – which later seems to have joined forces with the milling industry and amalgamated his previous work there to become “New Zealand Grocer’s and Baker’s Review“. Sources seem to indicate that this version wrapped up in 1939; what I have seen from the Foodstuffs Ltd archive (I was lucky enough to get an insider peek at their collection courtesy of a food technician friend who is part of the team, and loves retro stuff herself) show two images of a “New Zealand Grocergram” magazine so presumably that became it’s moniker. Last reference to it in public collections is in 1974 -1975 however AdMedia ran an article in 2003 that it was being revamped. Current status is unknown, with the website down – but presumably it is still running – if so making it one of the longest running periodicals in the history of the country.

Waxed cardboard pot for Four Square’s self line of honey from the Christchurch Co-op, circa mid 1970s. a

By the mid 1930s Four Square had under its own line tea, honey, culinary essences, Worcester and tomato sauces, cornflour, macaroni and vermicelli, custard powder, malt extract, butter, coffee essence, spices, salt and pepper, canned fruit, and raisins. There was also jellies, candles, soap and toilet paper under the “Triangle” brand. Later boxed chocolates, vinegar, and cordials were added (1940s) as well as mixed dried fruit, preserving equipment,  and “Rawakelle“; their brand of tea that was in the 1950s and 1960s quite popular with the public.

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Front of cardboard box for Four Square’s self line of dried cake fruit from the Foodstuffs archive collection, probably early 1960s. a

Starting with baking powder – and then a few years following custard powder – “Pam’s” was launched by Four Square Stores in 1937 to offer lower price, quality goods that competed even more vigorously with opposing chain’s lower price bracket products. Although there were several “self” lines from other stores at the time, “Pam’s”  has stood alone, lasted into the present day as a “private” brand, probably the only surviving one. I previously documented my recreation of the first Pam’s marketing campaign/product label when I wrote about agency Dormer-Beck, who were behind it, here.

Advertisement announcing merger of 4 Triangle and AG Stores under the Four Square brand, making a total of 266 stores. Evening Post, December 1933. the co-ops changed their names to Foodstuffs two years later in 1935. a

Mr. Four Square” , who has also come to be known as “Cheeky Charlie“, was a welcoming storeman figure with a big thumbs up – yet to many he always had a slightly imposing, sinister air about him (he looks like the type of guy that if you were left alone in the store room with him he might try to cop a feel). The mascot was developed sometime in the 1950s for print advertising initially – although the exact date and who the specific the creator of the character was, is unclear – one source quotes the Foodstuffs advertising department as responsible. Another states it was a son of J.H. Barker’s who came up with the concept around 1951.

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A corruption of monopoly with products instead of property, Milton Bradley-produced “Checkout” in 1959. They also did a version for the Acme chain of stores in the USA. a

He is often mistakenly attributed to renowned Kiwi pop artist Dick Frizzell who was a commercial artist in the 1960s and 1970s, but this is incorrect. Frizzell was, however, involved with the iconic Ches and Dale characters, and the fact that he has used Charlie in some of his most famous art works only adds to the confusion.

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Promotional Happy Families set featuring many popular products sold through Four Square stores, New World and CPS stores (Central Provision Stores, Australia); circa 1980. a

Another well-known contemporary artist Mike Weston, who coincidentally partners with Frizzell’s son Otis to produce humorous Kiwiana-inspired works under the moniker Weston-Frizzell, seems to recall hearing that Charlie was “allegedly a knock off of a Santa Monica supermarket character from the fifties called “Freddy Fireside” – of the Fireside Market. Although I’m still looking for evidence” . I myself was also unable to find any information to even hint at this.Today when people think of the brand they definitely think of Charlie beaming at them from shop windows and hoardings so, although a rather overused word -he has definitely become a New Zealand icon (with a few modernised features). Extremely collectable now, original Mr. Four Square cut-out signage old or newish – sells for competitive prices well into the hundreds and sometimes even the thousands.

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Interior of the Dominion Road Four Square store, Auckland, late 1940s. Photo © and courtesy of the estate of George Allen. a

Quite a few different items have been issued to promote the business over the years. Snap and Happy Family card sets were produced featuring their most popular product lines in the late 1950s-early 1960s, and another Happy Families set of 52 cards in around 1980 from which many of my age group will remember all the products – I featured some of them here, here, and here.

Four Square’s warehouse opens  in Southland, 1956.  Image courtesy of the Foodstuffs (NZ) Archive.

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Other fun items to rope in the punters and strengthen allegiance to the business were a puzzle (late 1940s), a board game with Milton Bradley – “Checkout”, around 1959. a highly desirable colouring book “Fine Things of the Future” (1954), calendars (1950s-1960s), a stamp collecting book. Recipe/household hint books such as “Homeways” was published in the late 1960s, and “Take A Tip” of the early 1970s. A cast metal can opener was issued as a complimentary gift to customers.  Very rarely the hard-to-get canisters issued for the Southland Co-op’s general area centennial of 1956 crop up at auction to be bid on feverishly; and not so long ago even a very unusual Four Square chair.

Foodstuff’s former cut-price – now “private” – brand Pam’s started in 1937 with one product; baking powder. Photo courtesy of and © Eriq Quaadgrass, eRIQ on Flickr. a

Icon Products, who partner with Four Square as well as several other brands , currently hold a license for the Cheeky Charlie character, producing aprons, shirts, tea towels and carry bags – which have been marketed through another Foodstuffs enterprise – New World supermarkets – established at the end of 1963 (the same year that Woolworths rolled out their first dedicated food store Food Fair, a New Zealand first at New Lynn).

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This classic version cut-out Cheeky Charlie signage just sold recently for around the $1000 mark or a little over. a

Although significantly less than in their heyday – today Four Square stores in New Zealand remain as 300 plus independent operators as well as a few still dotted about Australia. It is one of very few companies that has ever reversed the usual trans-Tasman power play of brands being foisted on the comparatively tiny country and marketplace of Aotearoa. Even Ozzie brands like the re-tooled IGA still can’t usurp the sheer power in numbers, well – yet, anyway.

A modern store in Waitarere using the classic Four Square colour scheme to the maximum effect; with the newest version of Cheeky Charlie, said to have been “made over” by Dick Frizzell at Foodstuff’s request recently. Photo courtesy of and © Kiwi Frenzy on Flickr. a

Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd is still comprised of three co-ops and has grown to include a slew of chain brands in its portfolio including aforementioned New World, Pak ‘N’ Save (established 1985), Write Price, On The Spot, Shop Rite, Raeward Fresh, Liquorland and Henry’s, Budget, Pam’s, and of course Four Square (and that’s just the food and drink enterprises) making it the largest retail organisation in New Zealand to date.

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Contemporary Four Square store and staff. Photo courtesy of and © the Foodstuffs (NZ) Archive. a

You have to wonder if Barker, whilst scribbling on his calendar absent-mindedly that day, ever in his wildest dreams could have comprehended he was launching an empire worth more than four billion dollars per annum.

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Neither the classic or contemporary version of Mr. Four Square -this was the in-between version with a few new touches in the 1990s-2000s. Photo of Cheeky Charlie on left courtesy of and © emilyandadam on Flickr. Image of modern Four Square logo graphics on right courtesy of and © the Foodstuffs (NZ) Archive. a

The Four Square Contest Poster is available from my online store here , as well as greeting cards for a nominal price.

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All content of Longwhitekid copyright Darian Zam © 2014. All rights reserved.

Bite Size: Canny Conservation

In "K" Brand, Canned Goods, Desserts, Kirkpatrick, Oak, Thompson & Hill, Wattie Cannery Ltd, Wattie's on April 24, 2012 at 10.46

In my ongoing project to recreate basically every pre 1975 Wattie’s can label that I can find – which I may add is quite the tedious task to undertake – I have finally come to the end of reviving all of the 25 or so labels that were offered up for auction by a Trademe seller in early 2011, apparently a portion of the collection that belonged to a former merchandising manager who had kept an archive during his tenure at one of the plants. The seller also claimed that they had been in some kind of museum collection in the meantime but I’m a little bit dubious about that idea. It was more likely to be a private collector’s deceased estate, and perhaps they had a personal display or even just a scrapbook from their time with the company. The likelihood that an institution or corporate archive would deaccession these sort of items is highly unlikely. The more I learn about them through research the tighter the dates become, and most of them seem to date in between a period from the late 1950s through to the early 1970s – so a stretch of 15 years more or less.

I actually suspect that they may have come out of the former S. Kirkpatrick & Co factory in Nelson before it closed down in 1971 – by then Wattie’s had acquired not only Kirkpatrick’s business and their long-running “K” brand, but also Thompson & Hill and the subsequent Oak business which were being produced (at least in part) from this set-up. Since some late 1960s to early 1970s “K” and Oak labels also went on sale at the same time through another seller who was also a parting with another portion of the same collection – it made me formulate that this was likely the source.

Anyway, it’s  kind of a relief to finally be finished with this block of my program – however in the meantime I have had around fifty more designs come to light through various sources from fellow collectors, to archives and libraries – and they have not at all been easy to find I should add. So there’s not much of a break before I start again on remaking the old packaging from the mid 1930s onwards. I previously posted quite a few fruit and vegetable labels I’ve made over the last year or so which you can find by just going to the tag at the very top of the post and clicking on the Wattie’s category to see the rest in the archive.

Woolworths Supermarket in 1964  showing fruit salad cans and boxes,  by John Le Cren Archives New Zealand’s Railway Collection.

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I don’t have to speculate too much on the age of this particular label since I was able to locate this photo of a Woolworths store in 1964 which clearly shows not only the cans in huge stacks, but also the boxes next to the shelves. As well as a rather nice POS die-cut card hanging advert for corn – either kernels or creamed – up above the display, which I would like to recreate at some stage. This label recreation was probably somewhere up there with the Chesdale poster I did a few months ago as far as difficulty level – having to recreate every piece of the fruit salad in the bowl from scratch, as well as the alternative illustration of whole fruits on the other side of the can. Mercifully, these labels usually have the one same illustration repeated so once you are basically done with that, half the work is over. But not in this case!