1922 Cadbury factory opens in Hobart

Cadbury factory Claremont, Tasmania. J. C. Breaden, photographer. Courtesy of Tasmanian Archives

Australia had been the first export market for the British chocolate giant, Cadbury. In 1922, a consortium of the British firms Cadbury, Fry and Pascall opened a factory at Claremont on the Derwent River in Hobart to manufacture cocoa, chocolate and other confectionery.

Introduced to Europe in the 16th century from South America, chocolate was a luxury and, for many years, regarded purely as a drink for the privileged. As the colonial powers of Europe expanded their empires around the globe, cacao plantations spread through the tropics in the Americas, Asia and Africa. By the early 19th century, the drink was within the financial reach of ordinary folk.

John Cadbury set up a tea and coffee business in England in 1824. Some years later, he added chocolate to his range, making cocoa and drinking chocolate by grinding cacao beans in a mortar and pestle. His products were sold in cake form, and the drinks were prepared by scraping a little off and adding water or milk.

The cocoa press was invented in 1828 in Holland. It removed much of the oil, or cocoa butter, from the beans, leaving less greasy cocoa in powder form. By combining cocoa with sugar and cocoa butter, a solid form of chocolate could be created. Cadbury adopted the new technology, with a factory in Birmingham producing cocoa and chocolate. In 1879, production moved on to Bournville, where the Cadbury brothers (sons of John) built a model village to house the factory workers. The first international order the firm received was from their representative in Australia, in 1881. Some 40 years later, in 1922, the Cadbury-Fry-Pascall factory opened in Hobart. 

Three years earlier, Cadbury had merged with a major competitor, J.S.Fry & Sons of Bristol.  The first chocolate bar was made by J.S. Fry and Sons in 1847 and, after the merger, their popular products Fry’s Chocolate Cream and Turkish Delight joined the famous Dairy Milk chocolate in the range. Dairy Milk was launched in 1905, with a ‘glass and a half of full cream milk in every half pound produced’.

The consortium representing Cadbury, Fry and Pascall decided on the Hobart site despite the disadvantage of having to ship products to mainland Australia and the increased cost of freighting sugar to their factory. The Hobart Mercury avidly followed the construction of the factory, which would provide jobs for up to 1000 workers. These fortunate souls were to be housed in a ‘model village’ similar to the one in Bourneville. The factory became a tourist attraction in Tasmania, running tours for visitors. The image above is from a postcard, one of many produced over the years.

The Cadbury factory in Tasmania now produces mainly block chocolate, with further factories at Ringwood and Scoresby, outer suburbs of Melbourne, producing chocolate bars, Freddo Frogs and other specialty lines. By 2018, the workforce had been reduced from some 1100 when the factory opened to around 450 people. Since 2010, Cadbury has been owned by the multinational conglomerate Mondelez International.

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