All About Arnott’s History


In 1865, a small bakery opened in Hunter Street, Newcastle,


north of Sydney. It supplied bread, pies and biscuits to the local


townspeople as well as to the crews of the many ships that


docked at the port to load coal.


From these humble beginnings rose a company whose name is


now synonymous with biscuit-making. This is the story of Arnott’s


Biscuits and its founder, William Arnott - a man whose passion for


his business led him to create one of the most successful and


enduring biscuit making operations in the world. Today, Arnott’s


employs thousands of people and supplies biscuits to more than


40 countries around the world. Millions of Australians have grown


up on Arnott’s biscuits and for them, Arnott’s is more than


a biscuit company, it is a piece of Australia’s history.


1820s


William Arnott was born in Pathhead, near Kirkcaly, Fifeshire


in 1827. During his teens he became an apprentice journeyman


baker and pastry cook, earning two shillings and sixpence a week.


1850s


For an ambitious young man like William Arnott, Australia offered


wealth, opportunity and a positive future. The Scottish newspapers


promised that any man of enterprise could succeed. Bakers,


it was reported, were reaping grand fortunes.


William and his younger brother, David, set sail for Australia


in October 1847. During the voyage, William met a young


Irishwoman called Monica Sinclair, who would later become


his wife.


The journey took 135 days. While at sea, the passengers’ diet


included oatmeal, scotch barley and a starchy vegetable called


arrowroot. This was a popular commodity in the Colony. It was also


a name that William was to remember and use for what was


to become one of Australia’s best-loved biscuits.


Arriving in Sydney, William moved to Maitland with his brother and


new wife Monica, where the brothers found work as bakers.


Like many young men of the time, William was swept up in the


goldrush fever that hit Bathurst. Although he didn’t find any gold,


he set up a successful bakery on the fields and made enough


money to return to Maitland and open his own bakery.


1


www.arnotts.com.au


William Arnott


Sailing to Australia



Page 2


1860s


After the disastrous Maitland floods of the early 1860’s and the


death of his first wife, William and his five children moved to


Newcastle. William had a bankroll of just £14, but Newcastle was


a busy coal port with huge potential for population growth and


business opportunity.


In 1865 William Arnott re-married, to Margaret Maclean Fleming


from Dumbarton, Scotland. William rented a small shop in Hunter


Street and built a small oven at the back. As the demand for his


goods increased, William worked around the clock. Eventually the


demand became too big for the Hunter Street shop, so William


purchased the entire building and set up a larger second shop.


One of William Arnott’s biggest sellers at this time was Ships


Biscuits. These were essential food for the hundreds of ships that


called at Newcastle. They were thick dry plain biscuits packed in


large, sealed tins to ensure they would stay fresh for long periods


at sea.


1870s


Business continued


to grow and William


Arnott extended his


product range to


include cakes and


sweet biscuits.


In 1875, he built


his first factory in


Melvell Street, Newcastle – “William Arnott’s Steam Biscuit


Factory” – and fitted it out with the best bakehouse machinery


available.


Three years after the factory opened, Arnott’s was employing fifty


people. Around 1.5 tonnes of biscuits were produced daily. William


Arnott, who always insisted on the best quality and freshest


ingredients, purchased two hundred cows to ensure a constant


and reliable supply of fresh milk, a vital ingredient for many of his


baked products.


1880s


During the 1880’s William decided it was time to expand to


Sydney. The biscuits were a hit and became widely distributed in


the colony’s capital city. Production at the Melvell St plant


increased significantly and by the end of the decade more than


300 people were employed.


In 1882, Arnott’s launched one of its most famous biscuits, Milk


Arrowroot.


2


www.arnotts.com.au


Hunter Street Bakery


Newcastle


Steam Biscuit Factory


Melvell St. Newcastle


Original artwork for


Arnott’s logo



Page 3


Arrowroot was at the time considered a good source of nutritious


starch, so the biscuits were marketed as an ideal food to help


babies grow big and strong.


An inspired advertising campaign was launched , called Living


Pictures. As part of this campaign parents were encouraged


to send in photographs of their plump, healthy children, who had


been fed Arnott’s biscuits.


The healthiest babies were selected to appear in advertisements


that ran in a Sydney daily newspaper. These children were given


a few shillings and a tin of Milk Arrowroot biscuits as a prize.