On May 13 1929, J.S. Fry & Sons of Bristol launched their latest product onto the market. Children and adults alike went mad for the Crunchie (price 2d (less than 1p decimal)), and its crisp honeycomb toffee centre covered in two coatings of chocolate and … Mmmm! Crunchie …
(Excuse me a moment.)
The Crunchie was a great commercial success, and was soon being turned out in large quantities at the company’s Somerdale plant in Keynsham.
Frys’ competitors wondered how they made it, but it was a closely-guarded commercial secret. The process of forming, shaping and cutting the delicious crunchy honeycomb sugary toffee centre was complicated both in terms of how the ingredients were mixed, and how they were mechanically mass-produced.
On the morning of September 11 1935, the production manager at Messrs Rowntree of York received a package. In it was a tin containing a number of Crunchie bars at various stages of production, and a letter signed by “L. Morrison” offering to tell Rowntrees exactly how to make Crunchies, in return for £5,000.
Now the thing about a lot of British chocolate firms, including both Frys and Rowntrees, is that they were founded by Quakers. These were firms of the utmost moral rectitude, and while many modern companies would seriously consider stumping up a five grand bung, Rowntrees sent the tin and letter straight to the directors of Frys, who lost no time in calling the cops.
The culprit was soon uncovered. This was Jacob (or Jakob) Gloor, a Swiss national aged 65, who lived at Collingwood Road, Redland, Bristol. Gloor had been employed as Frys’ Chief Confectioner since 1924 at a salary of £1,000pa.
Gloor was arrested at Somerdale by Sergeant Phillips of Bristol CID, and in a statement admitted sending the letter and parcel to Rowntrees. He was due to retire on a pension of £2 or £3 per week, but had lost a lot of money in various investments and needed to raise some cash for his old age. He had been in talks with Frys’ management over an annual fee that they were going to pay him as a consultant; he wanted £500 a year, but they offered only £250. That was when he had approached Rowntrees.
Gloor was charged under the Prevention of Corruption Act of 1906 and tried at Bristol Police Court in December 1935.
A number of witnesses for the company claimed that the recipe and production process were the work of several people and the information wasn’t Gloor’s to sell. The defence claimed that it was, and that had he approached Rowntrees following his retirement, he wouldn’t have done anything wrong.
Found guilty, Gloor was fined £50. The bench said that as it was a first offence he would not be imprisoned or deported. Jacob Gloor disappears from history here, and the recipe for Crunchies remained a secret. A very delicious secret.
More on Bristol’s delicious history at the Chocolate! exhibition at M Shed until early May.
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