Anecdote Index






(24) by Gerald Diamond

When Lyons bought Kunzles I was the Project Engineer given the job of buying a new chocolate moulding machine.  At Garretts Green factory Kunzle had choc. moulding 2 machines both old-both Danish, an Aaasted and a Jenson.

This factory was to be closed and everything moved to the other one in the group,which was in Smethwick - the old Scribona Fullers bakery. It must have been around 1973.

I went to Denmark and Germany and eventually we bought a Bindler Mouding machine which was a huge rectangular loose mould machine, with nickel plated moulds for the 4 shapes. The whole project of installation in an air-conditioned area, - we build internal rooms and then the long conveyors where they were hand filled with Genoese sponge, butter cream and decorated.

There were 10 ladies each side - a total of 40 girls alone .  The total crew for the whole line must have been about 55, so it was incredibly labour intensive.

The move to Smethwick must have cost around £150,000 and remember this was around 1973.  The machinery was far from perfect. I recall the moulds tended to slip out of position in the coolers and cause smash-ups.

Anyway the line ran and production was ok and they were packed in singles x 24 to a carton, in 4's and also in 6's. so there was a lot of cartooning and over wrapping  machinery as well which we moved .

A few years later Lyons decided to move all their 4 or 5 factories into one huge  facility in Yorkshire. Naturally I got the job.of sorting out the move of the Showboat plant.  The product was stockpiled but the job could never be done quickly and I guess they were all sold and taken off the shelve for a few months.

We built a new room to be air conditioned under the mezzanine, and dismantled and re-installed the Bindler moulder, and also moved the 15 ton chocolate tanks, all the jacketed piping and the other specialist chocolate machinery.

When the shell were de-moulded the moulds were inverted, so the shells, by then cooled so they shrink, were hit with automatic nylon faced hammers.  Noise regulations ment this noise had to be muted and I made an acoustic hood to place over this area, but the hood had to lifted regularly so we put a beam and electric hoist in the ceiling to do this, and then of course such lifting equipment has to have a safety certificate every year, so more admin cost!

We still had the huge crew of girls filling the shells.  We spent time considering how to automate the whole thing.

Change the cake to rice crispies so they could be metered automatically, etc.  We ended up with a huge new machine -on paper only-  I can't remember what it would have cost to make but the Directors would never have authorised.  Chocolate prices were always rising.  They did trials on a less expensive grade of chocolate, moving the coco solid % lower;  mabe this lost sales and slowly the product died.  Lyons killed it off long before RHM and Kipling came in the scene. 

 I went to Australia for the firm in Sept 1977.  By then the line was running.  I think it only lasted there about 2 years.   So I hope I have given you some facts about Showboats and there is no chance that the product will ever return.  The economics just don't add up.

© Gerald Diamond 2004