Early Biscuits Manufacturers

Minerva Biscuit Factory - Durban

 In 1935 a firm known as the Minerva Biscuit factory was opened on leased premises at No. 45 Morrison Street, Durban.   There were therefore now three biscuit manufacturers in Durban, ie. Bakers Ltd, Pyott Ltd and the Minerva Biscuit Company.

It is interesting to ponder why the business was named Minerva. It can be recalled that the Minerva was a very famous vessel that had called regularly at Durban port but unfortunately had eventually been shipwrecked outside the harbour.

Map on the left : A portion of map near Durban beach showing the site of the Minerva biscuit factory.

My uncle – Albert Baumann – who was for many years Chairman of Bakers Ltd and in fact was largely instrumental in building up the company, recorded in some notes the following:

 “In 1935 a firm known as the Minerva Biscuit Factory opened a Biscuit Factory at the corner of Hunter Street and John Milne Road, immediately opposite our African Compounds.  In order to get business they introduced larger discounts, and all biscuit manufacturers followed suit.  I do not think the Minerva Biscuit Factory lasted more than six months before they became insolvent.  The person who operated this plant was a man named Farrenkothen, who originally came out from Germany to work for Will Baumann in the Cape Town Biscuit Factory known as Selected Products.  His people had a biscuit factory in Germany, but they went insolvent.  Baker Perkins supplied the plant to the Minerva Biscuit Company on hire purchase agreement, and automatically became the owners of the plant when they went insolvent.

As we were anxious to see the end of this Biscuit Plant, we negotiated with Baker Perkins.  This plant consisted of a Mixer, a Brake, a Biscuit Cutting Machine, and a 3-pan Electric Oven.  Pyotts bought the cutting machine and we bought the rest of the plant, ie. the 3-Pan Electric Oven and Mixer.  (We sent the Brake to Selected Products).”

I recall that we always referred to the oven as “The Minerva Oven” and it was in use in the Bakers Ltd factory for many, many years. 

At that time I was accustomed as a young lad sometimes to accompany my grandfather on various short journeys around town and have a dim memory of going with him one day into a building, like a very large shed, in which there was machinery.   I recollect my grandfather saying that he had come to look at some machinery that he was going to buy.  The place was deserted so it quite possibly could have been a weekend.   At that time I was 12 years old and I am sure that it was the old Minerva factory that we were visiting.

I came across Mr Farrenkothen in about 1970.  He was then a much older man and was temporarily running Premier’s biscuit operation (“Three Rings”) in Johannesburg pending the appointment of a new Managing Director to that company.

Photograph on the left : An old Minerva Biscuit Tin found at a Trading Store. The wording at the foot of the tin states “Minerva Biscuit Company (Pty) Ltd Sweet Favourites”.