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Callard and Bowser-Suchard Inc.

Callard and Bowser-Suchard Inc.

800 Westchester Avenue
Rye Brook, New York 10573
Telephone: (312) 644-2121
Fax: (312) 644-0097
Web site:

Wholly Owned Subsidiary of Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company
Founded: 1837
Employees: NA
Sales: $107.8 million (2000 est.)
NAIC: 311340 Nonchocolate Confectionery Manufacturing

Callard and Bowser-Suchard Inc. is a Rye Brook, New York-based subsidiary of Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company, responsible for Altoids mints and other products. Since the exceptionally strong mintsor "curiously strong" mints as its advertising has long heldbecame prominent in the mid-1990s, Callard and Bowser has added a number of products under the Altoids name. The company's best known product remains its traditional mints, available in peppermint, wintergreen, cinnamon, and spearmint flavors. They are packed in a distinctive rectangular tin box, a major part of Altoids' success. People have found seemingly endless uses for the empty tins: as emergency medical kits, sewing kits, pinhole cameras, MP3 players, tobacco or illegal drug containers, iPod battery packs, and some that have even been turned into emergency camping stoves. Other products include specialty flavored Altoids, available in Ginger and Liquorice; hard sour candies, packaged in round tins and offered in Citrus, Apple, Tangerine, Mango, and Raspberry flavors; Cinnamon, Peppermint, Sour Apple, and Sour Cherry chewing gum in oblong tins; and Sugar-Free Smalls, mints available in Peppermint and Cinnamon. Altoids also sells breath strips in Cinnamon and Peppermint flavors. Altoids mint products are manufactured in Bridgend, Wales; the strips are produced in the United States; and the chewing gum products are made in Italy.


Although the one-brand Callard and Bowser-Suchard company known today is a recent incarnation, the roots of the company and Altoids date back to 1783 when, according to company sources, a man named Smith Kendon, owner of Smith & Company, developed the recipe for the intense lozenge. It relied on the purest oil of peppermint to make it far stronger than regular mints. Altoids were not sold as a breath mint, however. With the standards on what a product could and could not claim a matter for consideration many years later, Altoids, as the mints were called, were marketed as a stomach calmative. Dubious curative claims for its products were hardly new to Smith & Company, nor were medical-sounding names. In addition to Altoidssupposedly coined by joining the Latin alt (to change) with the Greek oids (taking the form of)the firm also sold Zenoids as an aid to digestion, Cyphoids to relieve throat problems, and Notoids, an antiseptic voice and throat treatment. Even as late as the 1920s Altoids claimed in its advertising that it acted "as an antidote to poisons in the stomach. One or two taken after meals will stop any poisonous fermentation." It was also around this time that the "curiously strong" tag gained currency in the product's marketing efforts.

Altoids became part of the Callard and Bowser firm through a merger in the 1800s. The confectionery company had been formed in England in 1837 by Daniel Callard and his brother-in-law, J. Bowser. In addition to Smith & Company, the firm would acquire William Nuttall of Doncaster, and for a time Altoids would be marketed under the Nuttall brand. In 1953 Callard and Bowser became part of Arthur Guinness Sons & Co. Ltd. Offering a full line of candy, Callard and Bowser was best known for its Creamline Toffee and the green thistle on all of its packaging. The products were imported to the United States, but in 1981 Guinness established an office in White Plains, New York, to improve marketing efforts and supermarket distribution. It was not long, however, before Guinness decided to divest Callard and Bowser, which management believed no longer fit into its long-term plans. In 1982 the unit was sold to a U.S. company, Beatrice Foods. It returned to British ownership in 1988 when United Biscuit acquired the business for £21.5 million in cash. Callard and Bowser were slotted into United Biscuit's confectionery division, along with Terry's of York. The unit was renamed Terry's Group, but the brands retained their own identity.

Altoids was first introduced in the United States in the Seattle market during the 1920s, the same period when the cardboard packaging was replaced by the now iconic tin, apparently to prevent the box from being crushed and allowing the mints to litter pockets and purses. In essence, Altoids was forced upon a local distributor who was more interested in Callard and Bowser's more familiar toffee and butterscotch product lines. Altoids remained an obscure product both in Britain and the United States until the late 1980s when it began to develop a following in the Seattle club set, in a period of grunge music, heavy smoking, and a raging love affair with exotic coffees and microbrew beers. Altoids became part of this trendy mix, its popularity spurred by word of mouth. In 1991 Terry's Group announced, according to the British trade publication Marketing, that it was launching a "new range of mints called Altoids, peppermints in a tin." In reality it was a test relaunch of the product, labeled Nutall's Altoids and marketed with the tagline: "A Little Tin Of Intriguingly Different Strongmints." Marketing credited its rising popularly in the United States to "hordes of anglophilic consumers [who] flocked to buy what they consider to be a quintessentially English productendearingly eccentric, brimming with history and all that." It was unlikely, however, that Seattle youth were as anglophilic as the British press assumed; more likely, they were attracted to the product because of its unusually strong flavor. Nevertheless, Terry's played up the historical aspect of the product. The tin was designed to resemble a snuff box, which marketers hoped would appeal to the target audience of 18- to 45-year-old males, and inside a wrapping of crinkly paper included the embossed words "established 1780 in the reign of George III."


The relaunch of Altoids had little impact overall. The mints continued to grow in the Pacific Northwest, but remained virtually unknown to the rest of the country. In 1993 Callard and Bowser was sold to Kraft Foods Inc. and folded into the Suchard subsidiary, known for its chocolate brands, including Toblerone and Milka. The marketing manager for the brand, Mark Sugden, working out of Callard and Bowser's New York marketing office, was well aware of the passionate following that was developing for Altoids, the recipient of numerous fan letters. In 1994 he convinced the new corporate parent to increase the budget enough for him to hire Chicago advertising agency Leo Burnett Co. to develop a marketing campaign, which debuted in 1995.

Limited by a $1 million budget, the Altoids marketing team could not afford the television advertising employed by the breath mint category leaders, Tic-Tacs and Certs. Instead, the agency developed a poster campaign that adopted a quirky, humorous edge, aiming to appeal to a cynical but smart audience. The ads, found in bus shelters and subways, as well as alternative weekly newspapers, featured a dominatrix wearing a leopard print and the subhead, "Pleasure in Pain." Other taglines included "Not recommended for the faint of tongue" and "Mints so strong, they come in a metal box."


The irreverent, quirky personality of Altoids has led Altoids Peppermint tins to be the #1 mint in the U.S.

Altoids sales increased rapidly, and Kraft stoked the flame by boosting the ad budget to more than $7 million as the mint was pitched to most of the urban markets. The brand's growing appeal also was aided by free publicity, such as the appearance of Altoids tins on the prosecutors table at the O. J. Simpson murder trial and on the popular "Rosie O'Donnell Show." But with success came competition. In short order several extra-strength mints were put on the market, and even old-guard Velamints were sold in tins.

Hardly on the radar screen at the start of the 1990s, Altoids became the No. 3 brand of breath mints by the summer of 1998 with a 7.7 percent market share, despite a $2 price that was more than twice that of No. 1 Tic-Tacs and No. 2 Certs. Altoids had shaken up the breath mint category and to maintain its place and provide some diversification, Callard and Bowser introduced a new Altoids product in 1998, Wintergreen Altoids.

By the start of the new century Altoids sales increased to the $100 million level. So too did the influx of competitors continue. According to the Wall Street Journal a wide assortment of products joined the fray: "From energy mints and caffeinated mints to mints made vegetarian style, breath fresheners of all shapes, sizes and gimmicks are trying to find a spot in the hypercharged battle against bad breath." By this point, Altoids had gone beyond the breath mint category to become something like a lifestyle brand. Hence, the distinctive tin case became as important as the mints inside. To add some variety, in 2001, Callard and Bowser offered heart-shaped tins, called Love Tins.


Sales of Altoids began to tail off in the early 2000s, leading to the introduction of new product lines. In 2002 Spearmint Altoids and Ginger Altoids were introduced on a limited basis. In that same year, Altoids Sour Candies were unveiled. To distinguish them from the signature mints, they were packaged in a round tin. Callard and Bowser ventured even further afield in 2003 when it introduced Altoids Breath Strips, a category in which Altoids was the interloper. Listerine Pocket Paks were the first on the market to offer consumers breath strips that dissolved on the tongue, and after Listerine had sold more than $82 million of the product in a year's time it was inevitable that other breath mint companies sought to apply their brand names to the emerging category. While most competitors would have difficulty challenging Listerine, which had staked out a dominant share of the new market, Altoids was able to transfer its "curiously strong" tagline and edgy marketing approachemploying comic strips that rely on striking imagesto carve out a share of the market. Again, Altoids' marketing successfully emphasized attitude and lifestyle. Also in late 2003 sugar-free chewing gums were introduced under the Altoids label. In addition to the brand's signature peppermint flavor, the new gums were available in cinnamon, sour cherry, and sour apple. They were, of course, packaged in different shaped tins, more elliptical in shape, with 20 per container.

By 2004 Kraft Foods had squeezed all it could out of Altoids and looked to cash in on the value it had brought to the brand during the past decade. Altoids, as well as the Life Savers brands, were put up for sale in January 2004 as part of a strategic decision to focus on fewer, larger brands, such as snack giants Oreos, Chips Ahoy, and Ritz. Moreover, Kraft's strong suit was in the center aisles of the supermarket, not the checkout areas of the storesor for that matter drugstores and convenience storeswhere a high percentage of candy, mints, and chocolates was sold. It was clear that Kraft would not be able to become the category leader in candy and chocolate, and serving as the No. 4 player in the field was not in keeping with the company's expectations. In addition, there were other companies better suited to building sales for Altoids and Life Savers in the channels where it was weak, giving Kraft confidence that it would have no difficulty finding a buyer for Altoids and Life Savers.


The Altoids recipe is first developed.
Callard and Bowser is formed in England.
Arthur Guinness Sons & Co. Ltd. acquires Callard and Bowser.
The company is sold to Beatrice Foods.
United Biscuit acquires the business.
Altoids is relaunched.
Kraft Foods picks up the Altoids brand.
An advertising campaign builds brand awareness.
Altoids breath strips and chewing gums are added.
The Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company acquires Altoids.

In November 2004 Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company agreed to buy the two brands at a cost of nearly $1.5 billion. The deal closed in June 2005. Wrigley had done especially well selling multiple brands of chewing gum in the very channels in which Kraft was weak, so the new owner appeared to be a good fit for Altoids, which had seen sales of its flagship mint slip over the previous three years. For Wrigley, the addition of Altoids and Life Savers helped in its bid to diversify beyond gum. Just two years earlier the company's $12.5 billion offer had failed to land Hershey. This time Wrigley was not to be denied, as it outbid Hershey, Mars, Nestlé, and Cadbury Schweppes.

Under Wrigley's ownership, production of Altoids Breath Strips was moved to plants in Tennessee and gum production was shifted to Italy. The longtime Callard and Bowser plant in Bridgend, Wales, however, continued to produce the company's venerable mints. The product lines also were filled out in the months following the Wrigley takeover. Mango flavor sours were added in December 2005, and in May 2006 spearmint and wintergreen gums were introduced. A new product, "Sugar-Free Smalls," was unveiled in the middle of 2005. The small square mints sweetened with sorbitol and sucralose came in peppermint and cinnamon flavors. A year later wintergreen smalls were added.

Ed Dinger


Cadbury Adams USA; Ferrero U.S.A., Inc.; Pfizer Inc.


Balu, Rekha, "Food: How a Confection Became a Trendy Fashion Accessory," Wall Street Journal, September 29, 1998, p. B1.

Beirne, Mike, "Wrigley Deal with Kraft Seen As Both Sweet, Sour," Brandweek, November 22, 2004, p. 13.

Dean, Paul, "Altoids: A Breath of Fresh Air in an Old Tin," Los Angeles Times, December 24, 1996, p. F2.

Dwek, Robert, "Nuttall's Altoids Relaunched by Terry's," Marketing, November 14, 1991, p. 5.

Egan, Cathleen, "Altoids Mint Success Opens Door for Candy Market's Niche Players," Wall Street Journal, August 20, 2001, p. B8.

Warner, Melanie, "Kraft Foods Will Sell Altoids and Life Savers to Wrigley," New York Times, November 16, 2004, p. C4.

Weschsler, Pat, "A Curiously Strong Campaign," Business Week, April 21, 1997, p. 134.

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