Menz Confectionery is the company behind one of South Australia’s most cherished sweet treats, the FruChoc – a cube of dried apricot and peach pulp, coated in chocolate. Despite marketing efforts over the years, FruChocs have never really taken off elsewhere in Australia (a bit like other South Australian specialties like Frog Cakes, Yo-Yo Biscuits and Bung Fritz sausage).
The company traces its origins to a small grocery store and bakery opened in Wakefield Street, Adelaide, in 1850 by John (Johann) Menz and his wife Magdalena. Menz hailed from Hamburg, Germany. From the early days of European settlement, South Australia saw significant immigration from Germany and, by the time Menz arrived, there was a German-language newspaper and a German school, to which he eventually sent his sons.
John Menz died in 1860 and his wife continued the business until their sons, William (Wilhelm) and August, were old enough to become involved. After gaining some experience in another grocery store, William took over in 1867, being joined by his brother in 1878. They began to make biscuits, adding a new factory to the shop in 1884. By the 1890s, the business was known as W. Menz & Co. William died in 1895 and August stepped into his shoes to lead the company.
The move into confectionery came in 1892, with the product now known as Crown Mints among the first to be produced. By 1913, when The Advertiser published a laudatory article about their “up-to-date factory”, the Menz confectionery range had expanded:
Many hundreds of sorts of confectionery are made of all colors, shapes, and ingredients. A nut and raisin-grinding machine is an interesting invention, and so is the continuous caramel cutting machine, which accurately divides the paste into regular squares. This will deal with two tons of caramels daily… The conversation lollies, too, are made by an automatic machine, which rolls the dough, prints, and stamps the shape required.
By 1927, the factory was turning out 15 tons of biscuits a week and around the same quantity of chocolate and confectionery – a total of more than 350 different products. August’s sons and one of William’s sons followed their fathers into the business, which had become a limited liability company in 1919.
Perhaps the most famous Menz biscuit, the honey-flavoured Yo-Yo, was introduced in 1932. Still more famous was the hero of the Menz confectionery range, FruChocs, launched in 1948.
W. Menz continued as a private company until 1951 when it was floated as a public company, raising funds to build a new factory. Family members continued to have a significant shareholding. In 1965, W. Menz merged with Arnott’s and other biscuit manufacturers to form Arnott-Motteram-Menz.
When the American Campbell’s Soups acquired full ownership of Arnotts, the Menz Confectionery business was purchased by another South Australian food and confectionery company, Robern. Trading as Robern Menz until 2021, the company has now been renamed Menz Confectionery. Menz has bought the rights to two traditional Australian favourites – the Violet Crumble and the Pollywaffle – originally made by Hoadley’s.
The Menz building in Adelaide is still standing and now houses an educational institution.