Partners H.R. McCracken (a commission agent) and T.J. Press (a grocer) converted their backyard jam and fruit preserving operation into a larger concern with the financial backing of Frederick John Cato (of grocery chain Moran & Cato). Beginning with a small factory in Flinders Street, Melbourne, Rosella Preserving Company opened its Richmond, Victoria, factory in 1905. Tomato sauce was first produced in 1899.
In 1918 Rosella extended manufacturing operations to Adelaide, with a factory in Kent Town and in 1925 opened a factory in Rosebery, Sydney. In 1927, the company acquired a factory site in Hobart so Tasmanian soft fruits could be processed on the spot. From 1930, the Adelaide factory became the manufacturing centre for Rosella pickles.
The Adelaide Mail reported in 1931 that the Rosella Preserving Company had more than 1000 employees. At this point, the company was producing around 100 different product lines. Reporting on the Sydney Show in 1937, The Farmer and Settler wrote that:
Prominently displayed were the famous Rosella tomato sauce, 14 varieties of soups, jams, canned fruits, beans, sausages and vegetables, spaghetti, pickles, puddings and a range of diabetic sugarless foods. Other products too numerous to mention combined to make a magnificent general exhibit.
As well as sales within Australia, by the early 1930s, the company was exporting to New Zealand, South Africa, Britain, Sweden and other countries.
When Rosella was sold to Lever & Kitchen (which later became Unilever) in 1963 there were six factories. Under Unilever’s ownership the range was rationalised and in 2003 the brand was sold to the privately owned import-export company Stuart Alexander. Unilever continued to own the manufacturing operation.
The brand was sold once more, in 2006, to Gourmet Food Holdings but the new owner was placed into receivership in 2012. When no buyer emerged for the brand the remaining factory (in Sydney) closed down in March 2013. The Rosella brand was later acquired by another private family company, Sabrands Australia, who continue to manufacture sauces, soups, chutneys and relishes in Victoria.