The Copha trade mark was applied to a shortening made from coconut oil and was registered by Lever Brothers, the forerunner of Unilever. The oil was extracted from copra, imported from the Pacific islands. Sydney was an important hub for the copra trade, with much of the resulting oil used for soap manufacture. The brand is currently owned by Peerless Foods and is unique to Australia. Along with Kellogg’s Rice Bubbles, it is an essential ingredient of Chocolate Crackles, a popular treat for children’s parties.
Copha was developed as a result of the soap industry. In the 1870s, grocers William and James Lever bought a small soap-making works and invested in a new process that used using glycerin and vegetable oil instead of the traditional tallow. In 1885 they formed the Lever Brothers company and their product became known as Sunlight Soap.
Palm oil and eventually coconut oil were used as components in the soap and Lever Brothers had plantations in the Pacific islands. In 1897 they established a plant in Balmain, Sydney to process the copra and extract the valuable oil.