Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Tin of the Week: No.1 - Blue Bird Toffee

After reading about  The Little Vintage Company's tin collection last week and buying a couple of vintage toffee tins in the week, I thought that I would instigate a 'Tin of the Week' and write a few lines about the history of the company behind the tin. This'll continue until I run out of tins (don't worry - my collection isn't that big!) or you all get bored by my inane chuntering on.

In  1895, Brummie Harry Vincent set up a toffee making company and started to do very well in the confectionary trade. Based in his Birmingham factory, he began to sell his 'Harvino' branded toffee, but after watching a play called The Blue Bird of Happiness decided rename his toffee brand to 'Blue Bird'. Little was he to know then, that Blue Bird would soon become one of the country's largest confectionary brands, rubbing shoulders with established stalwarts Rowntree and Cadbury.

In fact, Vincent had more in common with his competitors than just sweeties. By 1925, he could afford to relocate the Blue Bird company to Worcestershire and build not only a new factory, but a model village for his employees along the lines of those constructed by Rowntree and Cadbury.

Anyone who's ever seen Robert Opie's amazing and historically valuable collection of tins and packaging, will be familiar with the brightly coloured and stunning graphic designs that adorned tins for all sorts of foodstuffs from the early twentieth century onwards. It was logos such as the Blue Bird swallow that established brand identity to consumers, especially important when the tin designs changed throughout the year in order to keep the product 'fresh' and visually ahead of the company's confectionary competitors.

It was after Vincent's death in 1952 that Blue Bird began its sad decline, strung out over the following decades. After the ravages of asset strippers and various buyouts, the Blue Bird company left its purpose made factory in Hunnington and became part of Needlers in 1998, thus being known as 'Needler-Bluebird'. This alliance did not last long as in 2002, Needler-Bluebird was brought by Ashbury Confectionary.

Ashbury still produces toffee with the Blue Bird logo and many of the lines such as 'Blue Bird Rum and Butter Toffee' and 'Blue Bird Dairy Toffee' can be brought from online shops selling 'traditional' style sweets.


  1. Thank you, I have learnt something new. I love learning about things, especially the things we know and love. I remember as a child eating Blue Bird Toffee. Now that has bought back memories! Perhaps you could tell me about my tin..........?

  2. I love old tins so please carry on sharing your collection! I store my rechargeable batteries in an old Blue Bird toffee tin.
    Being a West Midlands girl I grew up with Bluer Bird toffee and the tins and hammers crop up at car boot sales with alarming regularity.
    Don't think my teeth could deal with eating the stuff these days. xxx

  3. Thanks for the information! The tins are so sweet! It is good that you are saving them. Have a great day! Lisa

  4. Thanks for your encouraging comments about my Tin of the Week series of posts.

    KC's - Have you tried looking it up on the web, as there are lots of online shops that sell tins that might include one like yours?

    Vix - I still use some of my tins to store things in, too, like the dishwasher tablets, which are stored in an old Oxo tin.

    DB - Hope you enjoy the next thrilling installment!

  5. Uh that is interesting, thanks for sharing, the bluebird design is gorgeous!
    Tamzin X

  6. And thanks for the inspiration in the first place, Tamzin.


  7. I lOVE old tins which is why I have so many in my house & in my online shop! Can't resist a nice tin!
    Isn't a pity that we just get "generic" type tins these days?


  8. I didn't know that Blue Bird had done a model village as well - good for him. I used to love Blue Bird Toffee and my sisters and I would buy a big block and attempt to share it equally between the three of us without cutting our hands off with sharp knives.

  9. CCC - you're right about generic tins, although I did buy one recently by Clipper Teas which had a nice simple design on it. It now holds my daughter's pencils, so I suppose that tradition is being carried on!

    WH - I didn't know either about the model village until I had done my armchair-research! I remember being given those small round tins of Blue Bird toffee with a photo of a kitten on the front at Christmas when I was little. I still wish I had those tins.

  10. Thank you for your lovely comment...


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