Sweetacres and the iconic Aussie lolly

Delivery truck with 'Minties' written on its side.

When James Stedman-Henderson Sweets Ltd moved from the city to Rosebery in 1918, a new dawn in confectionery-making was on the horizon.

As part of the big move, the company ran a competition among its employees to name their premises and the happy result was ‘Sweetacres’, which replaced Lion Brand Confectionery as the company’s name across Australia.

Stedman-Henderson’s new 12-acre factory in the modern industrial suburb gave them the space to expand and innovate its lolly production – the iconic peppermint nougat sweet Minties was created here in 1922.

Minties were soon followed by other wildly popular sweets, such as Jaffas in 1931 and Fantales in 1939.

The company also introduced to Australia the American sweet Life-Savers, which they originally produced in Petersham.

Original Sweetacres Minties and Jelly Beans tins. Courtesy of Mark Dunn.

Sweetacres’ lollies embraced contemporary life. Minties were marketed under the slogan, ‘It's moments like these you need Minties’.

Among the famous illustrators who captured the Minties moment in humorous cartoons were Stan Cross (Smith’s Weekly cartoonist), Jim Bancks (Ginger Meggs) and May Gibbs (Snugglepott and Cuddlepie).

The slogan proved a roaring success – within 5 years it was common parlance.

Each week in the post, the company received dozens of public suggestions for potential ‘Minties moments’. Many of them made their way into advertising campaigns.

Sweetacres tapped into popular cultural trends, using their packaging as a form of promotional endorsement and advertising.

Photographs of English and Australian cricketers, including Don Bradman, were used to sell a line of toffees called Test Caramels. The chocolate covered caramel de luxe Fantales took advantage of Hollywood cinema glamour with wrappers featuring film star trivia.

The company spent over £200,000 on its 16-acre complex at Rosebery. The 12-acre factory on the site, designed by architect John Burcham Clamp, ensured all local sweet manufacture happened under the one roof with the various manufacturing branches in the city and Pyrmont being consolidated. The complex also provided for 1,000-plus mainly female workers, with a large canteen and social hall, sports and cricket grounds, a library, band and sports clubs.

Newspaper advertisement titled 'The home of Minties'. It reads: Sweetacres, where

Image: 'Advocate' (Burnie, Tas. : 1890 - 1954), Saturday 3 May 1930, page 6. National Library of Australia.

James Stedman-Henderson Sweets had a long tradition. The founder James Stedman had been in the sweet-making business since 1850. Together with his 6 sons, he went on to develop the largest import wholesale and manufacturing confectionery business in Australia.

Stedman’s 1908 prize-winning Lion Brand Confectionery, including Butter-Scotch and Tofflets, were justly celebrated. But it was Minties that became the iconic Australian lolly.

City Historian Lisa Murray undertook this research as part of her upcoming book about the history of Redfern, Alexandria and Waterloo.

Main image: Stedman-Henderson Minties wagon, 1942. Courtesy of the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW.