It’s not certain when the first Violet Crumble was made, but a box of Violet Crumbles was advertised in 1921. The trademark was registered in 1923. Legend has it that Abel Hoadley named it after his wife’s favourite flower, the violet. However, Abel retired in 1913 and died in 1918 – probably before Violet Crumbles hit the market.
Some accounts would have it that the Violet Crumble dates back to 1913, while the current manufacturers, Nestlé, say 1923. The true date lies somewhere in between.
The Hoadley’s story began in 1889. Abel Hoadley’s original business was jam making, but he rapidly expanded into preserved fruits, candied peels, sauces and confectionery. The jam business was sold in 1910 and in 1913 investors were sought for a new company, Hoadley’s Chocolates Ltd. That same year the founder, Abel Hoadley, retired. He died five years later.
Abel’s sons, Walter and Albert were responsible for managing the company after his death. They, rather than Abel, were almost certainly responsible for the introduction of the Violet Crumble. The new company first introduced a range of boxed chocolates. By 1917, they were marketing an assortment known as Hoadley’s Violet Milk Chocolates – named after Mrs Abel Hoadley’s favourite flower.
The story goes that the assortment included a piece of honeycomb that became particularly popular. This led to the production of individual honeycomb bars, which were dipped in chocolate to prevent them from sticking together. Because of the difficulty of registering the trade name “Crumble” the Hoadleys co-opted the violet symbol that already distinguished their milk chocolate assortment. Thus Violet Crumble was born.
Violet Crumble was advertised by the Perth department store Boans in the lead-up to Christmas 1921. They were sold by the box, for two shillings and sixpence (25 cents). In 1922, individual bars were selling for sixpence each. In 1923, Hoadleys applied to register a trademark – a ‘floral label device incorporating the words “Violet Crumble”’.
By this time Abel was long gone. However, his sons and later his grandson, Gordon Hoadley, continued to run the company until the merger with Rowntree in 1972. The company was known as Rowntree Hoadley Ltd until it was acquired by Nestlé in 1988.
Early in 2018, Nestlé sold the brand to South Australian confectioner Robert Menz, putting the iconic brand back in Australian hands.