Red Tulip didn’t invent the after-dinner mint. Rowntree’s After Eight Mint Chocolate Thins were launched in England in 1962, but the Aussie chocolatiers at Red Tulip wasted no time in copying the idea. For a couple of decades afterwards, no dinner party was complete without an elegant choc-coated peppermint square, in its individual envelope, to accompany coffee.
Before the advent of the confectionery company, the brand Red Tulip appeared on a range of products exclusively sold by Grace Bros. in Sydney from their Cash & Carry Department. One advertisement, for Red Tulip brand fresh herrings notes that they were ‘Specially packed for Grace Bros. Ltd’ which suggests that this was an early house brand.
The range expanded over the years, from desiccated coconut and sweetened condensed milk in 1925, through herrings in sauce, pure Ceylon tea, pure thick cream, walnuts and self-raising flour in 1926 to the rather intriguing Pea Soup Sausage (2d. each, makes 3 pints of delicious Pea Soup) in 1927. Later there were canned fruits, fish paste, jelly crystals and bicarbonate of soda. The brand seems to have petered out – or at least ceased to be advertised – in the early 1930s.
Red Tulip chocolate was a completely separate business that began in 1939, when Jewish immigrants by the name of Nassau began making and delivering chocolates from their Caulfield, Melbourne, home. Joined by two other partners, they set up a factory and began making chocolates in High Street, Prahran, under the name of Olgana. They registered the Red Tulip name in 1942.
Post-war advertising included the assurance that Red Tulip Scorched Almonds (chocolate-coated almonds) were ‘pre-war quality’. The company continued to operate in High Street, Prahran, but moved twice – taking over the old Kia Ora cordial factory in 1965, around the time their After Dinner Mints appeared in the range. In addition to the scorched almonds, block chocolate and boxed chocolates, Red Tulip became particularly popular for their Easter eggs, made in a factory built in 1950 in Port Melbourne. Their Bunties were evidently intended to compete with Smarties.
The company was taken over by Cadbury Schweppes in 1988 and the Prahran factory was closed, with manufacturing operations moving to Scoresby and Ringwood. At some point, however, after-dinner mints became deeply uncool and Cadbury stopped making them, to the disgust of those who have started a Facebook page demanding that the after-dinner confection be reinstated.
The Red Tulip brand has persisted on chocolate Easter eggs, made by Cadbury. However, it appears the recipe for the chocolate was changed around 2013, prompting an outraged response from fans. There was even a petition to have the eggs changed back to their original formulation.