Sunday, February 26, 2012

Scribbans-Kemp Group

Incorporating Scribbans-Kemp (Bakeries) Ltd., Oliver & Gurden Ltd., Kunzle (Products) Ltd., Lyons acquired the interests of the Scribbans-Kemp group in November 1968 - which included Scribbans-Kemp (Bakeries) Ltd., Oliver & Gurden Ltd., and Kunzle (Products) Ltd. for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition was part of a drive to increase cake volumes in the £5.5 million market. This purchase did not include the non-bakery interests of Scribbans-Kemp, which consisted of retail tobacco and confectionery shops, groceries, supermarkets and wholesale warehouses.

The deal involved the Scribbans-Kemp factory at Smethwick, Birmingham employing 1,200 people. It had a floor area of 140,000 square feet, and was rebuilt some years previous to the acquisition following a fire. The Fuller's factory in Garrets Green, Birmingham, with a staff approaching 1,000, was built in 1960 with an area of 130,000 square feet. The specialty bakery in Oxford, where Oliver & Gurden employed 160 staff, had a floor area of 54,000 square feet.

Some £30 million per year was to be spent on products made by the Scribbans-Kemp bakeries. The firm of C. Kunzle Ltd (which was taken over by Fullers in 1964 and acquired as Fullers-Kunzle by Scribbans-Kemp in 1968) had been set up in the early 1920s by Christian Kunzle, a Swiss chef who worked for a time at the House of Commons.

On behalf of Lyons Bakery, Kunzle's factory in Birmingham continued to specialise in making small cakes - such as mint meringues, macaroons, Fondant Fancies and Home-Made Crackle Cakes - as well as producing own-label cakes for Marks & Spencer, British Home Stores and Tesco. Kunzle's best-selling line was the Showboat, a chocolate shell containing a sponge filling, topped with butter cream and decorated by hand; 40,000 were made every week.

Another part of Scribbans-Kemp, Oliver & Gurden, specialised in Christmas puddings, which they produced at their factory in Oxford. The puddings were made to a traditional recipe which the company's founders, William and Aubrey Gurden, had developed when they were chefs at Keble College before the First World War. About 10 per cent of their Christmas puddings were exported, mainly to the United States and France. They also produced mince pies, Yule logs and Christmas cakes.

By autumn 1973, however, it was decided to change the name of Oliver & Gurden to Fullers Cakes Ltd, after market research found more consumers were familiar with that name and associated it with being 'good value', 'high quality' and 'suitable for special occasions'. Fullers, of course, had been acquired by Lyons as part of Scribbans-Kemp, having been founded at the turn of the century with bakeries in Dublin and Hammersmith, London. Nevertheless the name Oliver & Gurden was retained on some specialized lines such as shortbread and luxury cake, and for overseas marketing.

Smethwick Bakery, Birmingham, closed at the end of 1977 following the transfer of cake production to the new Carlton (Yorkshire) factory.

by Paul Green

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