1926 Business which became MasterFoods founded

Master Foods capers featured in a Foy's department store advertisement 1948

Although no longer Australian-owned, MasterFoods (variously Master Foods and Masterfoods) is an Australian brand that traces its history back to 1926. That’s when Henry Lewis bought up the stock of another Sydney wholesaler and, under the company name of Henry Lewis & Sons, began selling imported specialty foods including spices and canned vegetables. This continued until World War II interrupted the supply. The company then began to act as an agent for other Australian food manufacturers.

In the post-war period, the import business resumed. The company’s sales were boosted by demand from new immigrants for hard-to-find foodstuffs including specialty mustards, anchovies, caviar, olives, smoked salmon and herrings. In 1945, Henry registered the name Master Foods, which was applied to repackaged spices imported in bulk.

In 1950, the company began manufacturing its own products under the Master Foods brand. Their first product was Bread & Butter Cucumbers. Many more products were added to the range in the 1950s including the Vegemite competitor, Promite.  Master Foods also began making Roll Mops (pickled herring), Mint Jelly, Sauerkraut and Hot English Mustard. If you were flying Qantas in the 1960s, you might have been served MasterFoods brand Kangaroo Tail Soup.

While manufacturing their own products, Master Foods continued to represent overseas food companies in the Australian market. Among their overseas connections was Mars, a family-owned private company in the USA. In the late 1960s, Mars was establishing itself in Australia, its first enterprise being a pet food factory at Wodonga in northern Victoria. In 1967, Mars acquired all the issued capital of Master Foods.

At the time, Master Foods had more than 150 canned, bottled and processed food products, including jams, sauces, pickles, chutneys, vegetables, meats, spreads, soups, syrups, spices and mustards.  Imported goods accounted for about 25 per cent of the turnover, while around 10 per cent of the company’s output was exported to 40  countries. Henry Lewis had died, but his three sons, John, Victor and David, remained on the board after the takeover.

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