Macpherson Robertson and his Candy Business

On September 6 in the year 1859, the founder of MacRobertson’s Steam Confectionery Works was born in Victoria, Australia. His name was Sir Macpherson Robertson, the candyman who also founded an aviation company.

Macpherson Robertson
Macpherson Robertson (Credit: npg.org.uk)

Macpherson Robertson was the son of a carpenter from Scotland who had come to Australia in search of work in the gold mines. Hard times befell the family and his father left the family and went to Fiji. Together with his mother and three siblings, Macpherson moved to Scotland at the age of 10, effectively ending his schooling.

When the family went back to Australia, Macpherson Robertson was already in his late teens. To help make ends meet, he apprenticed at the Victoria Confectionary Company. Then, he found work with other candy companies. Having enough experience, he setup his own candy business in the family bathroom. From Mondays to Thursdays, he made confectionary and sold them on Fridays and Saturdays to nearby shops. As the business grew, other family members got involved. Later, the business was named MacRobertson’s Steam Confectionery Works. By the 1880s, the company with 30 employees, had agents all over Australia. New products such as chocolates and chewing gums were introduced and new factories were built. Elegant packaging coupled with innovative promotional strategies propelled phenomenal growth. In 1900, it became the largest confectionery company in Australia.

To support vertical integration, Macpherson became a partner in the establishment of glucose manufacturing and in the production of condensed milk. He also set-up subsidiary companies to handle packaging and shipping requirements of the confectionary business. Macpherson had other activities outside the candy business. He was a partner in an aviation company called MacRobertson-Miller Aviation Co. He was also involved in several philanthropic activities.

Macpherson Robertson died in 1945 at the age of 85. In 1967, the confectionary business was purchased by Cadbury.

References
http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/robertson-sir-macpherson-8237
https://collections.museumvictoria.com.au/articles/2202

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