Darrell Lea

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Darrell Lea Confectionery Ltd
Industry Chocolate
Founded 1927
Headquarters Ingleburn, New South Wales, Australia
Key people
Darrell Bernard Lea
Products Chocolate, liquorice and other confectionery
Owner Quinn family

Darrell Lea is an Australian company that makes and sells chocolate, liquorice and other confectionery. It is based in Ingleburn, New South Wales.

The Darrell Lea saga began in 1927 when London-born Harry Lea and wife Esther began making chocolate in the Sydney suburb of Manly. Within a few years Mr. Lea had purchased his first confectionery store and by the mid-1930s the Darrell Lea brand was well on its way to becoming an Australian icon. Over the next 85 years Darrell Lea become a household name and new products such as Rocklea Road and Soft Eating Liquorice became pantry favourites.

While the brands continued to be loved, unfortunately the business model was not commercially viable and in 2012 Darrell Lea was placed into voluntary administration. Enter Tony Quinn, owner of NZ motorsport parks Highlands and Hampton Downs, who always had a love for confectionery and saw an irresistible opportunity to save the iconic brand. With a wealth of manufacturing expertise acquired through the success of their VIP Petfood business, Tony along with his son Klark and other members of the family quickly endeavoured to return the business into a solvent entity.

Since 2012 the Quinns have made wholesale changes to Darrell Lea by stepping out of the candy store model and instead focusing on creating the finst confectionery in Australia. Darrell Lea can now be found in all of Australia’s leading retailers and has expanded exponentially every year since 2013. This shows no sign of slowing down and, for the 12 months to July 2016, Darrell Lea had the largest dollar growth of any confectionery manufacturer in Australia. Heritage mixed with innovation is at the core of the business and, if the success in Australia is any indication, Darrell Lea is about to unleash a wave of excitement globally[promotional language]


Darrell Lea store at the corner of King and George streets Sydney

Darrell Lea was in the ownership of the Lea family from its foundation by Harry Lea until the early 2010s. Harry, who was born on 15 February 1876 in the East End of London, migrated to Australia in 1888 and started making confectionery in 1917 at the back of his Manly Corso fruit shop. Lea started the first shop in New South Wales in 1927 in Sydney's Haymarket, being a combined milk bar and confectionery shop. During the Depression in 1929, a shop became vacant in Pitt Street, and in 1935 a factory was established at 1 York Street. His first almond noughat creation was called Bulgarian Rock.

Monty (Montague) and Harris Lea, the two middle sons of Harry, opened a manufacturing operation in Melbourne, with their first shop in Swanston Street, in 1940.

Harry Lea died in 1957. Maurice Lea, Harry's eldest son, opened five shops in Brisbane in 1966 and delivered fresh stock until he (Maurice) retired in 1996. Robert Lea, Harris' second son, opened a shop in Adelaide in 1966.

In 1968, the company was listed on the stock exchange, with Darrell as Chairman and Managing Director (Harris became Managing Director in 1971), but was privatised again in 1982, with Jason Durard Lea (28 September 1942 - 12 September 2005), Monty’s son, being Managing Director from 1983 to 1998. Darrell died in 1990, aged 62.

In 1982, the Kogarah factory was rebuilt due to a fire two years before, and set up with modern chocolate-making machinery. In 2004, Darrell Lea licorice was a dessert ingredient at the wedding of Mary Donaldson to Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark.

In April 2008, Darrell Lea won a 5-year legal battle brought by rival chocolate company Cadbury over Darrell Lea's use of the colour purple on its packaging (which Cadbury uses for its Dairy Milk range packaging), when the Australian judge ruled that Darrell Lea was not trying to fool customers by adopting the shade.[1] [2][3]


On 10 July 2012, Darrell Lea was placed into voluntary administration due to a review of the business by its directors who had concerns about Darrell Lea's ability to meet its ongoing financial obligations. Half its company run stores were closed, with the loss of nearly 200 jobs.[4] The administrators were PPB Advisory.

On 3 September 2012 the company was acquired by the Queensland owners of VIP Petfoods, the Quinn family. The business will be further restructured, with the loss of 172 casual and 246 permanent jobs. Only 83 Darrell Lea employees will remain. The last company owned stores were all permanently closed by end of business on 9 September 2012. Darrell Lea products will continue to be sold through its licensed retailer network.[4]


Prior to 2012, Darrell Lea's range comprised over 500 products, with 60 extra items created for Easter and Christmas. In the review conducted by the Quinn family after the restructure, the company eliminated or put on hold many of the lesser-known products to concentrate on expanding the sales and distribution of its more profitable products.

The range included: Batch 37 Soft Eating Liquorice, Rocklea Road, Caramel Snow, Peppermint Snow, Ginger fudge bar, BoPeep boiled sweets, Peanut Brittle, Chocolate coated ginger


Darrell Lea has a significant export business with the US, Canada, UK and New Zealand accounting for the majority of exported revenue. Globally, Darrell Lea is best known for being the home of "Australian Soft Eating Liquorice" which can be found in many of the worlds leading retailers including, Kroger, Target, Publix, Walgreen's, Albertson's, Sobey's, Overwaitea, Waitrose and Countdown (to name a few). The business is also a large manufacturer of private label confectionery and partners with leading retailers globally.

Community involvement[edit]

Darrell Lea has sponsored a local high school in order to assist students in continuing their studies to completion, and the Lorna Hodgkinson Sunshine Home[5] which works with people with intellectual disability. Additionally, the company helps organisations such as the Starlight Foundation, Variety Club, and other local youth groups.[citation needed]


  1. ^ King, Ian (14 April 2008) "Cadbury's eggs take a beating". The Sun. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  2. ^ (12 April 2008). "Cadbury vs Darrell Lea chocolate war over colour purple". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved on 10 July 2012.
  3. ^ Clay Lucas (9 March 2005)."Lea purple rides again after Cadbury backdown". The Age Company. Retrieved 10 July 2012.
  4. ^ a b Williams, Kylie (3 September 2012). "Darrell Lea to remain Australian owned". Herald Sun. Retrieved 3 September 2012. 
  5. ^ The Lorna Hodgkinson Sunshine Home - sponsors list

External links[edit]