Making a “Chocolate King”

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

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Equally legendary is the tale of pauper Macpherson Robertson (1860–1945), who converted an old nail can into a furnace, procured a secondhand pannikin for boiling sugar and began making lollies in the family bathroom. Outfitted for 9 pence as a teenager, he would boast an annual turnover of 2 million pounds and a staff of 2,500 by 1925. His company MacRobertson’s Chocolates became self-contained, encompassing a 1,000-acre cacao plantation in New Guinea along with subsidiary industries—maize, milk, timber, cask-making, and engineering—spread over a 35-acre Melbourne property dubbed “the Great White City.” By 1935 “the young man with the nail can” had become Australia’s “Chocolate King,” the highest taxpayer in the country. MacRobertson’s was renowned for exquisite packaging and for products like Cherry Ripe, Old Gold Chocolate, Snack, Freddo Frog, Columbine Caramels, and Clinkers.