subfonds RAC/Wil - Wilson and Company (Pty) Ltd / Wilson Rowntree (Pty) Ltd

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Wilson and Company (Pty) Ltd / Wilson Rowntree (Pty) Ltd


  • February 1905-January 1990 (Creation)

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(fl 1883-1990)

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Wilson and Company (Pty) Ltd was a South African confectionery business.

The name Wilson first came to be associated with confectionary when, in 1883, James Wilson, a Scottish man, formed a partnership with baker and confectioner Alexander Robertson, whom was located in East London, South Africa. In 1895, Robertson left this firm, and its name became Wilsons Sweet Factory. Robert Wilson’s brother James Wilson then joined the company in 1901, and its name was changed to J & R Wilson & Co Confectioners. James Wilson later relinquished his partnership in 1908 and the company was renamed Wilson and Co Ltd.

Wilsons had originally specialised in sugar confectionary, with the Wilson-Robertson partnership selling sugar ‘conserves’, Jujubes, lozenges and a cheap line called colonial mixture. By 1921, Wilson had branched out and had started to manufacture its own chocolates. These chocolates were sold alongside successful lines from British companies. By 1925 Wilson was manufacturing both its traditional lines such as boiled sugar goods, Turkish Delight, ‘Fruit Bon Bins’ ‘Sugared Almonds, and ‘XXX Extra Strong Mints’; and its new chocolate products.

The firm first came into communication with Rowntree through importing its lines, amongst other British brands, which it was doing successfully by 1905. By 1925 the firm was selling Rowntree favourites in South Africa, such as Motoring, York Milk Bee Assorted Chocolates, Whipped Cream Walnuts, Mixed Pastilles and Mixed Clear Gums.
In 1925, Rowntree and Co acquired a 51% stake in the controlling ordinary shares of Wilson and Co. Ltd, and the Wilson family kept the remaining 49. Despite this minority holding, the Wilson family won the right to appoint 50 percent of the company’s directors, meaning that they still had the power to initiate decisions. Due to concerns of the validity of Rowntree trademarks under this new firm, a subsidiary of the firm, Rowntree & Co (South Africa) Ltd, was founded.

In addition, York appointed a Rowntree agent in South Africa, George Stabler. By 1933 he had been replaced by James Parkin. Despite this, the subsidiary was still managed by the Wilson family and differed to the main firm in York in terms of marketing strategy. York felt that its South African subsidiary was relying too heavily on cheap indistinguishable lines, however York needed a greater say in the management of Wilson in order to change its marketing and dividend policy.

On 31 December 1957, the two sides of the business were formally merged into Wilson-Rowntree (Pty) Ltd. This new unified management was ultimately responsible to Rowntree, and therefore York had finally gained control of the business in South Africa. This gave management greater scope to focus on single line, brand marketing.

Rowntree Mackintosh bought out the minority share-holders of Wilson-Rowntree (Pty) Ltd in 1980.

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See also: report relating to Rowntree's investment in Wilson and Co. Ltd and Rowntree and Co. (South Africa) Ltd, 1936, R/AC/O/2; papers relating to South Africa generally and Wilson and Co. specifically, concerning capital, policy and sales, 1926 - 27, R/AC/O/1; copy agreement with Cadbury-Fry (Africa) Ltd, 1930, R/DD/M/10; papers for the A.C.E.S. Conference, 1959 - 62, R/AC/O/4.

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