For more than a century, family-owned confectionary company, George Romney Ltd. has been making the delicious snack that has become synonymous with many a mountaineering adventure.
Based in the market town of Kendal in the Lake District, the company was responsible for creating Romney’s Kendal Mint Cake – the energy-packed bar made from sugar, glucose, water and peppermint oil. The moreish snack has been perennially popular since production began in 1918, with contemporary mountaineers still insisting on carrying it with them more than one hundred years later.
When looking back over its long history, one particular triumph stands out in the memory of the company and its staff. In November 1952, George Romney Ltd. received a letter from the Mount Everest expedition team. In the letter, the following request was made:
‘Kendal Mint Cake (Brown variety) – 38lbs approximately’.
The reason for their choice was also included:
‘Experience has shown this to be an excellent special high altitude food.’
Packing for pocket money George Romney Ltd. agreed to supply the bars free of charge. Former managing director of Romney’s and third-generation owner, Shane Barron is the grandson of Samuel Thomas Clarke and the father of current Managing Director, John Barron. He remembers packing the specially produced Mint Cake for the expedition team as a ten-year-old boy. It had to be made in small tablets that were then sealed in tins and packed into tea chests:
“I was small and was one of the very few people who could get into the tea chests to pack the sweets. I also got some pocket money for helping.”
The intrepid team of mountaineers went on to become the first ever to ascend to the summit of Mount Everest, with news of their success breaking on the morning of Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation in June 1953.
Shane Barron recalls: “I remember it was Coronation Day that we heard that they had made it to the top (of Everest). We were watching the Coronation on a TV we had just bought second-hand for the occasion. When the news came through, my grandfather was over the moon, especially by the fact that Edmund Hillary had actually eaten Mint Cake on the summit. He complained because he hadn’t been able to take enough with him to the top.”
The bars of Romney’s Kendal Mint Cake must have been a huge help to the team, as the expedition’s successful ascent has gone down in history as a symbol of achievement and human endeavour. Indeed, the company received a letter of thanks soon afterwards, stating:
“Thank you for the prompt delivery of this consignment, which has been of the greatest assistance to us.”
Production of Romney’s Kendal Mint Cake continues to this day with its familiar recipe and distinctive packaging. Production takes place at specialist premises at Mintsfeet Industrial Estate in Kendal, where the company has been based since 1969. Sixteen employees produce over 100 tonnes of Romney’s Kendal Mint Cake every year, as well as a range of fudge hampers and old-fashioned treacle toffee – still made to a traditional family recipe.