Not many people associate Sydney with lollies. These are from elsewhere, imported from overseas to satisfy our sweet teeth. But some of our most iconic lollies are Sydneysiders. Minties for example.
Around 1875, James Stedman, born in Parramatta in 1840, bought a small confectionery business who he had worked for. With a staff of about 20 workers, Stedman began to expand the business, opening a shop on George Street with a factory behind at 145 Clarence Street. In his new “Imperial Steam Confectionery Works” Stedman began wholesaling confectionery as well as selling it through his shop, making chewing gum, butter scotch and toffees as well as importing English and American sweets.
In 1888 Stedman employed 50 people in the factory and shop, producing over 5 tons of confectionery a week. By the turn of the twentieth century his workers had increased to 130 including his 8 sons, 2 brothers and a nephew. It was a family business and a rapidly growing sweet empire.
Sadly in 1913, at the height of its success James died. However the business stayed in the family and in 1918 the factory (after a number of fires in their city buildings) moved to a new 12 acre site at Roseberry, which after a naming competition amongst its female employees, was named Sweetacres.
In 1922 at Sweetacres, James Stedman Hendersons Sweets Ltd (as they were then known) launched a new, chewy lolly called Minties, the sweet that they are best known for. Minties became the advertising showpiece of the company and a few years after they started the slogan ‘It’s moments like these you need Minties’ first appeared. The slogan was coupled with cartons drawn by the leading cartoonists and Illustrators in Sydney at the time including May Gibbs (Cuddlepot and Snugglepie), James Banks (Ginger Meggs) and later Norman Hetherington (Mr Squiggle).
In 1931 Minties were joined by Jaffas and in 1940 Fantales with their movie trivia on the wrappers.
Another Sydney icon in the sweet trade was Harry Levy, better known as Darrell Lea. Levy arrived in Sydney in 1916 with a young family and established a fruit and vege shop on the Corso in Manly. Training as a confectioner in England as a boy, Levy supplemented the fruit trade in the slower winter months with lollies, made in the shop.
The lolly business prospered and so in 1924 Levy opened a milk bar and confectionery in Castlereagh Street in the city to cater to the theatres nearby. In 1930 Levy took over a shirt shop that had closed in Pitt Street and changed his name to Lea and the company to Darrell Lea after his youngest son.
With his experience in selling fruit, Lea began to create window displays with his sweets, including pyramids of lollies, such as is still used in Darrell Lea shops. With over thirty different chocolates and a marketing strategy which saw them selling at about half the cost of their competitors, Darrell Lea offered a bright, affordable treat to families in the midst of a economic depression. Sweets had gone from luxury item to easy indulgence.
In 1935 the company, now run by his sons, moved into the archway space under the southern approach to the Harbour Bridge where they continued until 1962 when they opened their factory at Kogarah.
They still operate from Kogarah and remain a family owned, Sydney based company.