Early Biscuits Manufacturers

Bakers Limited

The original name of the enterprise when it started producing machine-made biscuits was L Baumann & Co Ltd and later, for reasons that will be seen, it was changed to Bakers Ltd.

The first of the Baumanns to come to South Africa was John Frederick Baumann (born in Wurttemburg in Germany in 1824).  He boarded a ship at Hull on the eastern coast of England at the age of 26 and sailed to South Africa.  On his arrival in the village of Durban three months later in 1851 he opened business as a bread baker and grocery store.  It is interesting to note that he placed an advertisement on the front page of the first ‘Natal Mercury’ (Issue No. 1) published on Thursday, November 25, 1852.

He was joined many years later by his nephew, John Michael Leonard Baumann.

Photograph on the left : The photograph is of the first two Baumanns to come to South Africa.

J M L Baumann was born in Niederstetten in the independent Duchy of Wurttemburg, and was apprenticed as a baker.  At the age of 16 he left Germany and travelled to London, where he gained employment in the bakery business.  Within a few years he owned his own bakery business in the east end of London.

It was in 1879 that J F Baumann visited London and by chance made contact with his nephew, J M L Baumann, of whose existence he was previously unaware.  The uncle suggested to his nephew that he should come out to South Africa and join him in business.  J M L Baumann sailed with his wife in April 1880 and the arrangement was that the uncle would look after the grocery side and the nephew would take care of the baking side.  A few years later the lease on their premises expired.  It was then decided that J M L Baumann would buy out the bread side from his uncle.  He bought a site at the corner of Brickhill Road and West Street, where he erected a small building.

Ship Biscuits


Photograph on the left : This was the first biscuit making machinery to be installed in South Africa. I remember my grandfather chuckling and saying the machine paid its cost ten times in profits.



My uncle, Albert Baumann, wrote the following comments:

In 1883 when father’s bakery was where Illing’s buildings are at the moment, 160 West Street, Plowright had a bakery on the opposite side of the road to the Town Hall side of Dick King Street.

Photograph on the left : Corner of Brickhill Road and West Street (1883).

Plowright called on father and asked him whether he would care to buy the biscuit plant which he (Plowright) had operating then.  This plant was capable of making Ship biscuits and Arrowroot Oval.  Although Plowright had worked a similar plant for a firm in London, he was not able to make a success of it.  The plant was about 2 ft wide and about 10 ft long, operated by hand.  There was also an old mangle which was used as a brake. 

Plowright asked £65 and father agreed to take the plant, conditionally that Plowright showed him how to work it after it was erected in his bakery.

A steady business was done in Ship biscuits with sailing vessels which had to carry stocks to last probably three months.  The various garrisons stationed about the country also placed orders for Ship biscuits.  Whenever any war was on, heavy orders were placed for this type of biscuit.”

Photograph on the left : Shows sacks of Ship Biscuits ready for delivery.

When I was a young lad of about 21 years my grandfather told me the story of this first biscuit plant to be installed in South Africa.  My grandfather said he had never before baked biscuits but was persuaded to look at the machine.  He said there were stacks of biscuits standing around and that despite his lack of knowledge about biscuit baking, my grandfather immediately realised that these were too thick and were under baked.   The biscuits were soft and could easily be bent.

Fancy Biscuits Machine

In 1895 my grandfather installed the first machine to make fancy biscuits.  It can therefore be claimed that the first machine-made commercial biscuits ever baked in South Africa were made in Durban.  This machine would cut out the biscuits and automatically place them on pans which were then put into the oven by hand.   The machine was installed in the same room as the Ship biscuit machine.  This was in the premises at the corner of West Street and Brickhill Road.

Photograph on the right : The second machine was able to produce a range of commercial biscuits.


Photograph on the left : Corner of West Street and Brickhill Road (1895).



Photograph on the right : The first biscuit price list issued in South Africa 1895.

A copy of the first biscuit price list ever printed in South Africa is shown on the right.   My grandfather also arranged for four or five advertisements to be placed in the local morning newspaper, the Natal Mercury, showing a photograph of the building and the price list set out underneath it.   A copy of this is also included below.


Photograph on the left : The appreared several times on the front page of the 'Natal Mercury'.