Commercially baked biscuits, widely available by 1900, were an acceptable substitute for home baking. From beginnings as a flour and cocoa miller in Nelson in 1864, John Griffin began making biscuits and confectionery. Having rebuilt in Nelson following several factory fires, his business moved to larger and more modern premises in Lower Hutt in 1938. This factory used the first continuous automatic biscuit-baking oven in the southern hemisphere.
Profiting from supplying Allied troops fighting in the Pacific during the Second World War, the company purchased enrobing machines in the late 1950s to make chocolate-coated biscuits. Griffin’s wine, superwine and gingernut biscuits were widely eaten.
The Lower Hutt factory closed in 2008. Production continued at a revamped Papakura factory which had originally opened in 1967.
Girl Guide biscuits
Traditional vanilla-flavoured biscuits are sold as a fundraiser for Guides and Brownie units. In the early 2000s they sold about 1.7 million packets per year, including new chocolate-coated versions. The idea was copied from the Girl Scouts in America, where girls first baked and sold the biscuits themselves. In New Zealand they were made commercially by Griffin’s.
Hudson’s biscuits and chocolates
Richard Hudson set up his bakery making biscuits in Dunedin in the late 1860s. In 1884 he visited Europe where he bought a chocolate-making plant.
Cadbury originally supplied New Zealand with chocolate from its factory in England, but in 1928 increased duties on imported goods forced the company to look for a local manufacturer, to remain competitive. An amalgamation in 1930 formed Cadbury Fry Hudson, building on Richard Hudson’s existing Dunedin chocolate, confectionery and biscuit business.
Over time the company expanded its product range, adding more confectionaries. Sweets such as Pebbles, Minties and Moro bars became common.
Whittakers was a family owned business set up in Christchurch. In 1896 James Whittaker sold chocolate from his horse-drawn van. In the 2000s Whittakers’ Porirua factory supplied markets in Australia and New Zealand with chocolate and toffees – but the company was best known for its Peanut Slab, a peanut and chocolate bar.
Baker Ernest Adams started a partnership with Hugh Bruce in Christchurch in 1920, Adams Bruce. Their own poultry farm supplied the eggs for their cakes, which were sold through their specialty cake shops. In an innovative move for the 1930s, raw ingredients were checked in a test laboratory first, to ensure the cakes met quality standards. In the early 2000s the company traded as Ernest Adams.