Our History

Way back in 1959, when Harold McMillan was Prime Minister, and sweets were less than 6p per quarter and milk was 4p per pint, a young man, Douglas Rae, a qualified banker with £100 in his pocket, set out on a business career when he formed, from scratch, a limited company to market confectionery.  His family, his friends and his colleagues within banking circles thought that he had gone mad; they only thought it!

Back in the 50’s and earlier, young bankers, irrespective of their qualifications, were very poorly remunerated. Having married in 1957 and with a young son born in 1958 and another in October 1959, Douglas Rae concluded that he could no longer afford to give Banking the benefit of his services for so very little in return so he took the decision to plunge into business on his own account.

Having acquired the exclusive agency for Daintee Confectionery Co., work began in earnest.  Good early progress was made and, shortly thereafter, further agencies were acquired.  Within 5 years, three full-time sales staff had been engaged so that full coverage of Scotland could be offered to companies seeking an exclusive distributor for Scotland.

In 1965, Golden Casket acquired the exclusive distribution rights for Scotland for the famous Kunzle cakes.  In the year previous, the turnover for Kunzle cakes was only £10,000 per year but, within 18 months of acquiring the agency, Golden Casket had increased the turnover to over £200K.  Growth continued and by 1968 Douglas Rae had 12 salesmen operating in Central Scotland giving an annual turnover of just over £500,000.

The year 1969 saw Charles Forte acquire the Kunzle Company which virtually signalled the end for the successful Golden Casket/Kunzle arrangement.   Although Golden Casket had a contract with Kunzle, Forte, on acquiring the Kunzle business, quite naturally wanted the profitable Central Scotland operation.  In exchange for Forte taking over the Kunzle sales, Golden Casket were given the Scottish agency for the famous English manufacturing company, Fuller’s, who produced cakes, chocolates and sugar confectionery.  Fuller’s was a sister company of Terry’s of York which was another Forte holding company. Although initially Golden Casket suffered badly through the loss of the Kunzle agency, it was not too long before sales were built up again with the ever increasing demand for Fuller’s cakes and sweets.

In 1971, circumstances forced the Company into making a very important and significant decision.   Terry’s announced that their sister company, Fuller’s, was about to be sold.  A large American company, who were keen to get their own manufactured products into the UK market through Fuller’s 6,000 accounts, were negotiating to acquire the company from Terry’s.
On hearing this news, Douglas Rae immediately headed for York to talk with the Terry’s board.  To lose yet another exclusive agency after so much work and input was too much to ponder.  During the York visit a remarkable deal was struck between Terry’s and Douglas Rae which enabled Golden Casket to acquire Fuller’s.  This would not have been possible but for the excellent support and goodwill of the Terry’s Chairman and Managing Director, Ian Johnston, as without his support and co-operation, an agreement would not have been reached.

The consequence of the agreement to purchase Fuller’s meant Golden Casket effectively became a manufacturer of confectionery as well as being confectionery marketing specialists from that very day.

The present site at Fort Matilda was acquired in 1971 and was transformed from empty units without electricity, which had broken floors and dirty bare walls, into an attractive production factory.  The transformation was not achieved without a great deal of hard work and no little anxiety.  As soon as the factory was habitable, the plant and machinery was transferred from York to Greenock and installed with the assistance of engineers from Terry’s. During the period of the factory construction, Terry’s continued to make all the Fuller’s products at York while the finished products were transferred to Greenock for sales and distribution throughout the UK.  As soon as the installation was completed, Terry’s sent operatives to Greenock to train the newly acquired Greenock staff.   Progress was slow at first and, when demand far outstripped the level of Greenock production, Terry’s kept supporting the Company by continuing to manufacture goods according to their needs for a further five years.  This outstanding relationship was made possible through the friendship of Douglas Rae and Ian Johnston.  Who said that ‘big business’ does not have a kindly face?

In 1976, Fuller’s (Golden Casket) were asked by old established confectionery manufacturers, Buchanan’s of Scotland, if they would be interested in making their extensive range of products for them under “own label”, as their Glasgow factory was to close having been acquired, under compulsory purchase order, by the then Glasgow Corporation.  The addition of Buchanan’s requirements greatly boosted the weekly output from the Greenock factory; in fact, the Buchanan’s brand became such a significant part of the Greenock production that Douglas Rae negotiated the takeover of Buchanan’s under a unique settlement agreement which is still in vogue to this day.

Running parallel to the expansion of the manufacturing side, Golden Casket acquired an exclusive agency for a Dutch company which, over the years and to this day, has been an ongoing success story.  Gilda BV, Rotterdam, with little business in the UK market, placed their trust in Golden Casket who, within a few years, increased the Gilda UK turnover from £50K per annum to over £1M.

In 1987, Fuller’s was sold to John J.  Lees Plc.  Golden Casket and Buchanan’s of Scotland however, remained under the ownership of Douglas Rae.  In 1989, the business of Drysdale & Gibb was taken over as it fitted comfortably into the niche market occupied with pride by Buchanan’s.  All plant, plus a few members of staff, were transferred from Wishaw to Greenock.

Turnover continued to increase and, in 1995, a further acquisition was made when Golden Casket took over the ailing English company, Caramel House Ltd of Merseyside.  As with the Drysdale & Gibb takeover, the business of Caramel House was transferred to Greenock and merged with the existing business.

In 1990, a new product range named ‘Millions’, the brainchild of Douglas Rae, was launched.  Millions, the tiny, tasty chewy sweets, available in several different fruit flavours, became an instant success.   Through innovative marketing and presentation, the Millions brand has grown to now being worth over £11M in today’s marketplace.  TV campaigns in support of Millions have also helped to boost demand for this product range which is a great favourite with children and adults alike.  Similarly a website was created by Marketing Director, Sandra Fisher, who has been responsible for much of the growth of the popular Millions brand.

Simultaneous with the introduction of Millions was another product range that has also prospered and which is now worth over £11M in the marketplace, namely ‘£One Pounders’ – a range which now encompasses more than 60 varieties of sweets, all with the same retail price and, similarly, the same trade price for each variety.  £One Pounders has become the private retailer’s ‘own label’ brand and is only available through the private sector.

£One Pounders, like Millions, has benefited through substantial TV support which has helped grow the brand to an extent that it is now a firm favourite with consumers throughout the entire UK.  £One Pounders represents the best value for money of any confectionery range currently on sale in the UK.  Over 4,000 £One Pounders stands, displaying the ‘big yellow bags’ are sited in retail shops throughout the country helping growth of the Greenock based brand.

In 1998, the Company acquired the business of Hills of Hawick whose main product, Hawick Balls, enjoyed a high profile through the constant PR generated by Bill McLaren, the well known rugby commentator.  Hill’s, like Caramel House, was acquired ‘lock, stock and barrel’ with the plant and the production being transferred to our Greenock factory.

Over the years, in fact every year, the turnover of Golden Casket has increased and it is now one of the most successful confectionery companies and the largest in Scotland.

The Company which was formed in 1959 is still being led by the founder, Douglas Rae.  Its success, however, is not due to just one man.

The Company’s strength is to be found in the dedication and knowledge of its committed staff, the majority of whom have served the Company for many, many years.

A further and interesting acquisition took place in the summer of 2006 when Scotland’s oldest manufacturing company, J. & A. Ferguson’s Limited of Glasgow, was purchased. The Ferguson’s business was started in 1794 and produces possibly the finest chocolates that are manufactured today in the UK.  This is the expressed view of many Ferguson’s customers who shared these comments with us when the Ferguson’s business was acquired.  The company is now registered as J. & A. Ferguson’s (1794) Ltd.

To own the oldest manufacturing company in Scotland gives an added pride to all employees of Golden Casket.

Manufacturing was moved to Greenock when the business was acquired and is accommodated within a 16,000 sq.ft. factory extension.

Many overtures and offers of takeover have been made to the Company in recent years but all have been rebuffed as Golden Casket want, like Walkers, Tunnock’s and Baxters, to remain independent and within private ownership.

Golden Casket’s policy of acquisition will continue subject to the products of the company of interest being complementary to those currently produced by us.  Our Company are renowned for the consistent high quality of our productions so any acquisition considered will have to match or be capable of matching the high quality standards to which our customers are accustomed.