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Chocolate A Rocky Road Of To Easter

Easter means a number of things to different people. Some regard the season as a significant religious occasion (which it is), others may think of the Royal Easter Show and all its attractions, whilst chocoholics think of a time to binge on chocolate Easter Eggs.

It is the thought of chocolates that comes to mind in this article. Chocolate manufacturers make Easter a time of mass marketing. Back in the mid-1960s when I worked in the centre of Sydney, I noticed that Red Tulip, which also at the time owned the Ricci Remond chocolate brand, would send brochures and catalogues from which to choose Easter Eggs and chocolate gift packs for sale to give to family and friends, to social clubs in offices, shops and factories. The social club would presumably receive a commission on sales made.

The Royal Easter Show at the Sydney Showground, later at Olympic Park at Homebush, also provided an opportunity for the promotion and marketing of chocolate products, Darrell Lea, Cadbury and other manufacturers had showbag stands.

As time went on, many Australian brands of confectionary became parts of major international companies, including manufacturers such as Hoadley’s, whose major brands included “Violet Crumble” and “Polly Waffle”. Interestingly, Hoadley’s originally wanted to call the product just plain simple “Crumble”, however were convinced to name it after Mrs.

Hoadley’s favourite flower “Violet” hence it became “Violet Crumble”. Later, the company became part of Rowntree-MacIntosh which, even later, became part of Nestlé. Both Violet Crumble and Polly Waffle have since reverted to Australian ownership as part of the South Australian company of Robert Menz.

Chocolate A Rocky Road Of To Easter

In the early-mid 2000s, Nestlé withdrew the Bertie Beetle Showbag (another former Hoadley product) from sale at annual shows, citing production costs as the product was now manufactured in New Zealand and shipped to Australia. A public campaign was started pressuring Nestlé to bring back the showbag, which was a crowd favourite. In 2007 Nestlé relented and the showbag was again available, first reappearing in that year’s Sydney Royal Easter Show. In 2006 the price of the showbag, traditionally $2, was raised to $3, resulting in public backlash. In 2007 the showbag returned to its previous price.

Darrell Lea was always a popular showbag stall at the show. Jason Lea Jnr, a great grandson of the founder, has a photograph of which he is extremely proud. The photograph shows Jason as a stocky and bearded man in his thirties with a boater hat and a broad grin shaking hands with a Doug Sutherland, then Lord Mayor of Sydney. Behind him are rows of young employees and a huge mountain of show bags filled with Darrell Lea products. It was taken at the Royal Easter Show in 1983 for the best display in the Royal Hall of Industries.

Jason was a showman. He certainly enjoyed working at such shows and speaks with glee of his time at the shows whilst also displaying his sadness at what happened to what was once a unique family-owned company. Following his success at the 1983 Easter show he followed up in 1986 at the Easter Show with other successful marketing innovations.

Once, to rid the company of excess Easter Eggs, he removed silver paper wrapping from the eggs and smashed about a dozen of the eggs in big clear plastic bags and continued until he had a quite a few bags. He went out of the front of the stall holding a bag of chocolate calling out “The boys have just had an accident out the back and dropped a load of eggs.

The first one with twenty bucks in their hand can have them.” The bags sold out very quickly, with Jason repeating this story giving time for the public to move on so that he had a fresh audience on each occasion.

Another innovation he tried at Brisbane in 1984, where the use of a microphone to spruik was banned, he penned a jingle which, when sung by the whole staff, reverberated throughout the hall.

“Golly gosh golly gee, Here it is from Darrell Lea Hurry hurry,
snappy snappy Here’s the bag to make you happy,
Goodness gracious, goodness me, Buy a bag from Darrell Lea.”

Ivor Jones

Ivor Jones has been involved with the Hills to Hawkesbury Community News since 1980.  He specialises in local history and nostalgic items. He has also been involved in community radio having been Chairman of the Board, and broadcaster at Cumberland Community Radio (now known as Alive90.5).  Ivor is also a passionate community volunteer in many community groups

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