Our company history
The company was founded in 1921 by Albert Leslie Simpkin, on his return from World War One. His concept was to manufacture high quality glucose confections using, wherever possible, only natural flavours and colours. He proceeded to aim sales through the chemist/pharmacy shops, as this enabled him to build up a niche market and avoid being in competition with the large confectionery manufacturers. Within three years he had an 80% coverage throughout the UK which meant that he opened 12,000 accounts.
Business continued to flourish and he bought a burnt down refrigeration factory in Hillsborough, Sheffield. Using the shell he built a purpose made factory of 40,000sq ft and employed 180 people. It was at this time he got the idea of extending the range from bulk Barley Sugars in jars to powdered sweets in 8oz tins.
The travel tin evolved to due it being the only container that was relatively airtight. This was an important factor because the sweets had a high fruit juice content and would go sticky when exposed to dampness. The white powder was initialy added to stop the sweets sticking together. The tins in the 1920’s were not totally airtight, as they were seamed cans so the shelf life was still fairly short, however in the 1950’s a can was produced with no seam so the sweets would remain fresh for years.
Due to Simpkins Pharmacy distribution the original tins of Simpkins sweets all contained Barley Sugar Drops (which are proven to alleviate the symptoms of Travel Sickness)… hence the term TRAVEL SWEETS… Simpkins are proud to be the ORIGINAL manufacturer of Travel Sweets.
During the Second World War, when sweets were rationed, the company was zoned as to where sales could be made. Simpkins were confined to North of Birmingham and their competitors South. Today UK sales are still predominantly through chemist and health food outlets – with Travel Tins and Sugar Free confectionery.
However, as a company Simpkins have now evolved and also manufacture for and distribute into most sales sectors including garage forecourts and high class confectionery shops.
As well as Simpkins branded products, there is also a substantial proportion of the business dedicated to own label and corporate brands.
Simpkins have been exporting for over 80 years, originally to the old Commonwealth countries with Vita Glucose tablets and then moving on to Travel Tins in the early 1940s.
Because of the unique taste and texture of the sweets in tins they became very popular throughout Europe, not through pharmacy but sales areas that were connected with Travel.
One of the first major markets in the Far East was Japan and after “Quality Street” Simpkins was among the first English confectionery sold in that country. This was aided by the fact that the product already used natural colours and flavours, thus conforming to the strict Japanese regulations.
Another selling feature in Japan was the presentation that appealed to the consumer, in fact the tins became a status symbol at a low cost. They were given as gifts particularly by the younger generation. Within a short period of time the sales spread through the Far East and as countries like Korea and Taiwan developed sales expanded in those areas.
Due to John Simpkin’s determined approach to export, today Simpkins export to over 40 countries throughout the world.
Started by Albert Leslie Simpkin in 1921, he was then joined by his sons Neville, Brian and John. In 2002 John took complete control of A.L.Simpkin & Co. Ltd.
Today, the company is controlled by John’s children, Adrian and Karen Simpkin, who are joint Managing Directors.