RETRO: Sweet taste of success

Geoge Bassett & Co. Ltd'A general view as liquorice allsort cubes come along the conveyor belt for sorting - 3rd February 1972
Geoge Bassett & Co. Ltd'A general view as liquorice allsort cubes come along the conveyor belt for sorting - 3rd February 1972
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They are a favourite all over the world but Sheffield’s very own Liquorice Allsorts only exist because Charlie tripped over a doormat.

Strange though it may sound, one man’s stumble in 1899 led to the creation of a sweet selection which saw George Bassett passing the £2m profit mark for the first time in 1973.

Geoge Bassett & Co. Ltd'Production line 1989

Geoge Bassett & Co. Ltd'Production line 1989

George was just 25 when he bought a retail confectionary and wine business near Sheffield’s Midland Station in 1843. He began manufacturing in the America Works near the Royal Infirmary in 1859, yet it wasn’t until 1899 that Allsorts came into being.

One of the firm’s representatives, Charlie Thompson, tripped over a doormat as he was calling on a customer and his tray of samples spilled all over the floor.

The customer was attracted by the assortments as Charlie was gathering the sweets into a heap, and immediately placed an order ‘for all sorts’. Thus the mix was born, the name stuck, and one of Sheffield’s most popular exports was quite literally stumbled upon.

The story of how a small Sheffield sweet shop grew into a business employing 2,000 people and producing 20,000 tons of sweets a year was told during celebrations marking a century of manufacturing by the firm in 1959.

The Sheffield Telegraph reported: “Sales expanded year by year and the premises were constantly extended and modernised. Export markers were developed until today Bassett’s are one of the largest exporters of sweets in the country, and certainly one of the largest to dollar markets. Today, Bassett’s produce more than twice as many sweets as they did before World War II. In doing so, they use some 10,000 tons of sugar a year, 1,500 tons of treacle, and 1,500 tons of coconut.

“It is a firmly held belief at Bassett’s that a firm which derives its livelihood from making products designed to give pleasure must ensure as a first condition of success its own employees find pleasure in their work.

“There is no simple solution, but that intangible thing called atmosphere is undoubtedly an essential ingredient. Bassett’s pride themselves on having created an atmosphere which enables people at all levels to find satisfaction in their work.”