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  Themes Homepage > Between the Wars
 
Biscuits
Between the Wars

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Household incomes remained high in the aftermath of World War I and, after the shortages of the war, the demand for biscuits was buoyant. The suffragette movement brought increased rights for women that were reflected in new social events like cocktail parties. This led to an increasing demand for cocktail and savoury cheese biscuits. Foil-wrapped chocolate biscuits, like the ‘Empress of Britain’, were introduced during the Jazz Age. The designs and names of these biscuits suggested the excitement of ocean liner travel, film stars and the fast set lifestyle.
 
Foil biscuit wrappers, 1933 Cocktail Biscuit catalogue, 1930s Foil Biscuit Wrappers, 1936
Foil biscuit wrappers, 1933 Cocktail Biscuit catalogue, 1930s Foil Biscuit Wrappers, 1936
Biscuit Designs & Film Stars
Until World War II, Huntley & Palmers were devising biscuits in hundreds of different shapes and sizes. These shapes included people and Jackie Coogan, the child star of Charlie Chaplin's 1921 hit movie 'The Kid', lent his name to a biscuit shaped like his head. This unusual shape was not repeated fifteen years later for the Shirley biscuit which commemorated another infant phenomenon, Shirley Temple: hers was a straightforward rectangular shortcake.
Jackie Coogan Biscuits, around 1921
Jackie Coogan Biscuits, around 1921
 
Biscuit Week, 1933
Biscuit Week, 1933
Biscuit Week
In 1933 a Biscuit Week was held in Reading to promote Huntley & Palmers sales locally so as to bring more trade in the town and to illustrate how towns can deal with their own unemployment problems. The Mayor of Reading was presented with a tin during the opening and the female staff carried armfuls of balloons which they released into the sky. A label was attached to each and those returning the labels received a free tin of biscuits.
 
Tribrek Breakfast Cereal
One of the major changes in diet between the wars was the widespread adoption of cereals. In 1934 the company introduced a breakfast food, Tribrek, with an advertising outlay of £20,000. Its initial success seems to have been almost wholly responsible for the improvement in home turnover during 1935. Just under a million and a half packets were sold in 1939 however the company discontinued its manufacture in 1943 when materials became scarce and it never resumed production.
Christmas Catalogue, 1934
Christmas Catalogue, 1934
 
John Ginger & the Ginger Nut Biscuit
In 1933 the company created the John Ginger character as part of a campaign to increase output. This marketing strategy successfully maintained Ginger Nuts as Huntley & Palmers' best-selling biscuits.
 
Ginger Nuts cardboard carton, probably 1933 Ginger Nuts advert, 1930s Johnny Ginger Mug, late twentieth century
Ginger Nuts cardboard carton, probably 1933 Ginger Nuts advert, 1930s Johnny Ginger Mug, late twentieth century
Poor Sales and Falling Quality
The new varieties of biscuits and cakes issued between the war led to a significant rise in the percentage of total food expenditure on biscuits from 1.2% in 1920 to 2.1% in 1938. Unfortunately, despite their marketing campaigns, Huntley & Palmers sales did not increase accordingly. Between 1914 and 1929 their share of UK biscuit production fell from 46.6% to 28.0% and one unwelcome development was the large number of complaints received about the quality of the company's biscuits - a sad comparison with the days when Huntley & Palmers were renowned for the high quality of their products.
 
 
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  Themes Homepage > Between the Wars
 
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