Violet Crumble back in Australian hands after Nestle deal
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Violet Crumble back in Australian hands after Nestle deal

A fourth-generation family owned confectionery business is bringing the iconic Violet Crumble chocolate bar back into Australian hands after striking a deal with Swiss food giant Nestlé.

Adelaide-based Robern Menz will buy the Violet Crumble brand and its associated intellectual property, plant and equipment for an undisclosed sum.

It already produces more than 100 products including Menz FruChocs, Crown Mints and JeliChocs at its Adelaide factory, which will begin manufacturing Violet Crumbles in the coming months.

Robern Menz is as old as the chocolate bar itself. The Robern business traces its origins back to 1908, when Walter Sims opened his first grocery store in Unley, an inner-southern suburb of Adelaide.

Robern Menz CEO Phil Sims, left, with Richard Sims, said: "As the new gatekeeper of Violet Crumble, we are aware of the responsibility that comes along with owning a brand so highly regarded in the Australian market place."

Robern Menz CEO Phil Sims, left, with Richard Sims, said: "As the new gatekeeper of Violet Crumble, we are aware of the responsibility that comes along with owning a brand so highly regarded in the Australian market place."

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English migrant Abel Hoadley is credited with inventing the Violet Crumble a few years later at his confectionery works in Melbourne. His Hoadley's Chocolates business was bought in 1972 by the UK's Rowntree Company, which was in turn acquired by Nestlé in 1989.

In an interesting twist, in 1985, Robern bought a honeycomb plant from Hoadley's and set up a manufacturing plant in Stepney, South Australia. In 1992, Robern bought Menz Confectionery from Arnott's biscuits and renamed the company Robern Menz.

Robern Menz chief executive Phil Sims, a great-grandson of Walter, on Thursday said the company was excited to buy "what is undoubtedly one of Australia's great brands".

"As the new gatekeeper of Violet Crumble, we are aware of the responsibility that comes along with owning a brand so highly regarded in the Australian market place," he said.

Robern Menz will acquire the Violet Crumble brand and its associated intellectual property, plant and equipment for an undisclosed sum.

Robern Menz will acquire the Violet Crumble brand and its associated intellectual property, plant and equipment for an undisclosed sum.

Photo: AAP

"We are fiercely passionate about Australian brands and with a significant honeycomb business of our own, the opportunity was too good to pass on. With our expertise, we can ensure that Violet Crumble is produced with no change to the recipe, and with the same passion and affinity Australians have had towards the brand since 1913."

Robern Menz, which will invest $4 million in 2018 on a factory refit and extension and new warehousing facilities, expects the deal to create up to 30 jobs.

Nestlé general manager, confectionery, Martin Brown said the company was delighted that the history and tradition of Violet Crumble would continue under local ownership.

"I want to recognise the passion of generations of confectioners who have made Violet Crumble in our Nestlé Campbellfield factory. We remain committed to manufacturing our other loved brands, such as KitKat, Milkybar, Allens and Soothers here in Australia," he said.

Mr Sims said Robern Menz had had a relationship with Nestlé over the years "on confidential projects", so at the start of last year when Nestle asked if it was interested in acquiring the Violet Crumble brand, it jumped at the chance.

​"I think it's great for Australia that we've been able to hold onto an iconic Australian brand. It enables us to go to a new level from a national perspective, having a brand like Violet Crumble that's really up there with Vegemite and other iconic Australian foods. It's an exciting future," he told Fairfax.

Robern Menz plans to look at ways to further develop the product for both Australian and overseas markets, including bringing back "nostalgic" formats that were no longer available.

"Clearly there's a demand to bring back some old favourites," Mr Sims said.​

"We already have a very significant honeycomb business ourselves. Violet Crumble is a similar food form. The recipe is very different, but we have very strong skills in this area. [Violet Crumble] is a very good fit for us ... We will continue to work on the expansion of both of them."

The purchase price has not been disclosed but the company was aided by a $750,000 state government Future Jobs Fund grant and a $900,000 loan from the Investment Attraction Agency.

Violet Crumble is the second well-known food brand to return to Australian ownership after dairy company Bega clinched a $469 million deal last year to buy Vegemite from US food giant Mondelez.

with AAP

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