This film is part of Free

My World: At the Sweet Factory

No Willy Wonka secretiveness here, as we are taken inside Rowntree’s giant factory in York to reveal the making of their most colourful product.

Documentary 1974 10 mins

From the collection of:

Logo for Yorkshire Film Archive


At last the secret is out, of how Smarties manage not to melt in the hand. A chance to see inside York’s most famous factory, Rowntree’s Victorian Cocoa Works on Haxby Road, before the introduction of more modern manufacturing processes. Remarkably, even in 1976, the millions of Smarties made each day still have their familiar colours coated by hand.

This is a typical example of a local interest documentary made by Yorkshire Television in the 1970s. YTV started up in 1968, and lasted until 2007 when ITV took them over. Rowntrees were also taken over, by Swiss giants Nestle in 1988. They have subsequently made several changes to the brand that has lasted since 1937, including making the tubes hexagonal in 2004. Two years later, when 16,000 Smarties were consumed every minute in this country, they moved production to Hamburg –– with the loss of 645 jobs at their York works. Their most noteworthy advertising tagline was the 1961 “Buy some for Lulu” – perhaps a riposte to Dorothy Provine’s cover of "Don't Bring Lulu" which hit the charts that same year.