In 1890 John Mackintosh and his wife opened a shop in Halifax, Northern England, where they created a new kind of sweet by mixing hard toffee with runny caramel. These toffees were made from inexpensive local ingredients such as milk, sugar beet and eggs
They were so successful that in 1898 they expanded the operation to build the world’s first toffee factory. It burned down in 1909 so John bought an old carpet factory and converts it into a new facility. When John Mackintosh died his son Harold inherited the business and in 1936 he invented Quality Street, which is still manufactured in the same facility today.
In the early 1930's only the wealthy could afford boxed chocolates made from exotic ingredients from around the world with elaborate packaging that often cost as much as the chocolates themselves. Harold Mackintosh set out to produce boxes of chocolates that could be sold at a reasonable price and would, therefore, be available to working families. His idea was to cover the different toffees with chocolate and present them in low-cost yet attractive boxes.
Rather than having each piece separated in the box, which would require more costly packaging, Mackintosh decided to have each piece individually wrapped in colored paper and put into a decorative tin. He also introduced new technology, the world’s first twist-wrapping machine, to wrap each chocolate in a distinctive wrapper. By using a tin, instead of a cardboard box, Mackintosh ensured the chocolate aroma burst out out as soon as it was opened and the different textures, colours, shapes and sizes of the sweets made opening the tin and consuming its contents a noisy, vibrant experience that the whole family could enjoy.
In today’s terms, Harold Mackintosh could be considered a marketing genius. Britain in the mid to late 1930s was still feeling the effects of the economic crash at the beginning of the decade and Mackintosh realized that in times of economic hardship and war, people crave nostalgia. Quality Street chocolates were, therefore, packaged in brightly colored tins featuring two characters wearing old fashioned dress, known affectionately as Miss Sweetly and Major Quality. These characters remained on Quality Street tins until the design was changed in 2000.
Mackintosh merged with the Rowntree Confectionary Company in York, England in 1969.
Nestle purchased Rowntrees in 1988.