When I was growing up in the 1950s, there were certain Easter traditions my family observed. Good Friday meant hot cross buns for breakfast. And I mean hot – straight from the oven with lots of butter (never marge). Dinner that day was always smoked cod, the kind with a bright orange surface. Not a favourite. And, of course, there were Easter eggs – the standard milk chocolate ones for the kids and, for Mum, a dark chocolate egg from Newman’s Chocolates. As my sister and I were approaching adulthood, we too were presented with these exotically decorated treats, procured by my father from a shop in Collins Street.
I’ve found it difficult to unearth any details about the origins of Newman’s Chocolates, other than a note in eMelbourne saying that the company was founded in 1924 and “still remains [sic] in the Troedel family”. All efforts to research the family have pointed only to the well-known printing and lithography business.
The original factory seems to have been at 46 Church Street, Richmond. By 1928, Newman’s Chocolates in “fancy oval” or “special Calendar” boxes were being advertised by Adelaide’s Harris Scarfe as ideal Christmas gifts. By 1936, Newman’s had stores at 192 Collins Street, 53 Elizabeth Street and 18 The Centreway, Collins Street. The following year, another store in Glenhuntly Road, Elsternwick, was added.
The company maintained a strong advertising presence throughout the 1930s, including regular advertisements in the Jewish News. Newman’s Chocolates were, presumably, kosher, and remained so until 2001. But the company catered to all religious persuasions, promoting its wares to delegates to the 1934 Apostolic Congress and, of course, producing those Easter Eggs from as early as 1937.
I am not alone in having fond memories of those Easter treats. Writing in Taste.com.au, Grant Jones tells a similar story:
My great aunt Azeline – Azzie for short – worked for a decade at Newman’s chocolates in Melbourne, behind the town hall in Collins St. At Easter, Newman’s big eggs came in a beautiful white-and gold box. Inside the box, the rich dark chocolate egg was decorated on top with fine pastel sugar roses and white icing, while, beneath that were layers of milk, dark and white chocolate fondants, caramels and toffees. Thirty years later, I still remember Auntie Azzie and her sweet symbolic gift.
In ensuing decades, Newman’s Chocolates, like all specialty brands, faced stiff competition from the major companies with foreign ownership. The company was bought by competitor, Hilliers, in 2000. Hilliers itself had been acquired by grocery retailer Piedimontes in 1995. The manufacture of Newman’s Chocolates was moved to Hilliers Coburg factory (and the chocolates promptly lost their kosher status). Both the Hilliers and Newman’s brands continued to feature on the shelves of the major supermarket chains.
In 2014, the chocolate company was sold again, this time to the overseas investment group Re:Capital, but was soon in voluntary administration. In 2015, it was bought by Chocolate & Confectionery Company Pty Ltd.
It seems that, in recent years, the Newman’s brand hasn’t been used for luxurious assortments of boxed chocolates or even plain chocolate. The chief products have been a range of “Thins” with Peppermint, Orange and Turkish Delight varieties, along with Chocolate Chilli Bites. They also ventured into bar lines, with the Treats range – choc-coated bars with a truffle-like filling in ginger, peppermint, nutty caramel, cherry Coconut and plain coconut varieties (mostly reviewed on chocablog.com ).
In 2023, Hilliers (and therefore Newman’s) was in trouble again, once more entering voluntary administration. In September 2023, the company was purchased by the Yowie Group, a manufacturer of novelty confectionery based in Perth, Western Australia. At the time of writing, all the publicity seems to be about Hilliers – Australia’s oldest chocolate maker. It remains to be seen whether the Newman’s brand will survive.