1854 D and J Fowler founded in Adelaide

Advertisement for D & J Fowler products, 1936

Like many early Australian businesses that became big names in the food industry,  D and J Fowler Ltd began as a grocery store. David and James Fowler were sons of a Scottish grocer and Baptist Pastor. James was the first to arrive in Adelaide, migrating with his sister Margaret in 1850. Four years later, his brother David joined him, opening a retail grocery. By 1857, the business had expanded sufficiently to allow them to enter the wholesale trade. When James died in 1859, their brother George set sail for Australia to join David in the business.

Soon after,  the brothers abandoned the retail trade to focus on their wholesale business and, over following decades, D and J Fowler became one of Australia’s leading commercial houses with branches in London, Fremantle, Broken Hill and Kalgoorlie. David Fowler returned to Britain in 1873 to run the London Office while George and, ultimately, his descendants James Robert Fowler and W. Murray Fowler led the firm in Australia.

As well as acting as agents for many imported products, D and J Fowler bought established food businesses including the Adelaide Milling Company and H. B. Hanton, makers of canned fruits, jams and pickles. They renamed Hanton’s as the Lion Preserving Company, registered the trademark in 1886 and, over the years, expanded the range of products under the Lion label. A new Lion Factory on Adelaide’s North Terrace was constructed in 1907. It is now an arts complex.

The Lion brand came to encompass self-raising, flour, coffee, “Health Saline’, custard powder, baking powder, flavouring essences, honey, jelly crystals…even plum puddings. A range of cleaning and toiletry products also bore the brand.  Now owned by Anchor Foods, the Lion brand continues today, with a range of flours, pancake mixes and baking mixes.

In addition to their many manufacturing enterprises, D and J Fowler were among the first to sell packaged tea to Australia. Their Paou Chung brand was introduced in 1883, followed by Amgoorie in 1895. The firm’s interest in tea persisted well into the 20th century and, in 1931 they bought the Melbourne-based Robur Tea Company and its subsidiary the Oriental Tea Company.

D and J Fowler became a limited liability company in 1899 but continued under family leadership for many decades. Everything changed in the 1980s – the era of corporate raiders and acquisition frenzy. In 1982 the company was taken over by Southern Farmers Ltd, a subsidiary of Industrial Equity Limited. While a number of the company’s brands persisted, the name of D and J Fowler  – once among the most prominent in the Australian business world – was consigned to history.

This website uses cookies but doesn't share them.