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TypePrivate (1831–1964)
Subsidiary (1931–)
Founded1831; 192 years ago (1831) in Carlisle, Cumberland
FounderJonathan Dodgson Carr
United Kingdom
ProductsBiscuits (United Biscuits) Flour Carr's Flour Mills Ltd , animal feed, fuel, engineering (Carr's Group)

Carr's is a British biscuit and cracker manufacturer, currently owned by Pladis Global through its subsidiary United Biscuits. The company was founded in 1831 by Jonathan Dodgson Carr and is marketed in the United States by Kellogg's.


In 1831, Carr formed a small bakery and biscuit factory in the English city of Carlisle in Cumberland; he received a royal warrant in 1841.[1] Within 15 years of being founded, it had become Britain's largest baking business.[2]

1922 newspaper advertisement

Carr's business was both a mill and a bakery, an early example of vertical integration, and produced bread by night and biscuits by day.[3] The biscuits were loosely based on dry biscuits used on long voyages by sailors.[3] They could be kept crisp and fresh in tins, and despite their fragility could easily be transported to other parts of the country by canal and railway.[3]

Jonathan Carr protested against the Corn Laws, which placed steep tariffs on imported wheat to keep the price of British wheat artificially high. This meant bread was expensive even in times of famine.[4] Carr died in 1884, but by 1885, the company was making 128 varieties of biscuit and employing 1000 workers.[5]

In 1894 the company was registered as Carr and Co. Ltd. but reverted to being a private company in 1908. Carrs Flour Mills Limited was incorporated after acquiring the flour-milling assets.[5][2] Jonathan's four sons were less skilled at managing the business, but biscuit production remained in the family. It became part of Cavenham Foods in 1964 until 1972, when it was sold to United Biscuits group, along with Cavenham's other biscuit brands Wright's Biscuits and Kemps for $10 million.[3][6][7] United Biscuits was sold by its private equity owners to the Turkish-based multinational Yıldız Holding in 2014; in 2016 all UB brands including Carr's were combined with Yildiz's other snack brands to form pladis.

Among members of the Carr family who worked for the business was former Commando Capt. Richard Carr MBE. He was decorated for repeated escape attempts from Italian and German prisoner-of-war camps in the Second World War.[8]


Since 1972 the Carr's biscuit factory has been part of United Biscuits, and the Carr's branded products are marketed in the US by Kellogg's. The factory today is known officially as McVitie's but still known locally as Carr's.

Carr's Flour Mills and the later established agricultural supplies and feeds businesses became Carr's Milling Industries plc, which is still based in Carlisle and now known as Carr's Group PLC. Its products have since the 1990s appeared in UK supermarkets through the Carr's Breadmaker flour range. Carr's Group also own companies involved in light engineering.[2] In 2016 Carr's Group sold the flour-milling division to Whitworths Holdings Ltd.

In March 2012, it was announced that Carr's Table Water Biscuits had lost its royal warrant due to 'changing tastes' in the Royal Households.[9] Carr's promptly licensed the coat of arms of the City of Carlisle to replace the coat of royal arms on their packaging.


In 2005 the Caldewgate factory in Carlisle lost two months' production due to flooding.[10]

In 2016 the local newspaper News and Star stated that the factory had reopened with a £1 million government grant.[10] However, that same month United Biscuits announced that the factory in Caldewgate, Carlisle, had experienced five feet (over 150 cm) of floodwater on 6 December, which damaged the brick ovens and would result in product shortages on retail shelves.[10][11]

After closure of the works for a month to repair and clear flood damage, production and distribution gradually resumed in spring 2016.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Story of Carr's". United Biscuits (UK). Archived from the original on 29 August 2014. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  2. ^ a b c "Company History". Carr’s Milling Industries. Archived from the original on 31 March 2015. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d Brendon, Piers (11 October 1997). "Baking business history at the biscuit factory". The Independent. London. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  4. ^ Artingstoll, Belinda (11 March 2010). "A story of Carrs biscuit factory and an old waistcoat". BBC. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  5. ^ a b "Carr and Co". Grace's Guide. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  6. ^ Peter Johnson (2002). The Structure of British Industry. p. 194. ISBN 9781134999019.
  7. ^ "Cavenham Ltd". The Wall Street Journal: 99. 1972.
  8. ^ "Army captain was real life 'Cooler King' from The Great Escape". The Telegraph. London. 17 June 2009. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  9. ^ Story, Chris (2 March 2012). "Carr's Table Water Biscuits Lose Royal Stamp of Approval". Cumberland News. Archived from the original on 9 March 2016. Retrieved 4 December 2013.
  10. ^ a b c Carr's water biscuit shortage looms after factory hit by UK floods, The Independent, 22 January 2016
  11. ^ The Guardian, 21 Jan 2016, Too wet for water biscuits as Carr's pauses production.
  12. ^ Butler, Sarah (1 April 2016). "Flood-hit Carlisle factory resumes production of Carr's water biscuits". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 May 2016.

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