Life Savers Incorporated

Location: 100 Cumberland Avenue, Hamilton, Ontario

Life Savers CarsWhat is now the Life Savers plant on Cumberland Avenue in Hamilton was at one time the home of the Beech-Nut Packing Company's sole Canadian factory. In 1922, the Hamilton city council voted 17 to 4 to remove the restrictions preventing an industry from locating on the former F. F. Dalley Company property at the head of Sanford Avenue. Although neighbouring citizens presented a petition signed by 200 protesting the arrival of a new industry, Hamilton inspectors at the New York based Beech-Nut Packing Company determined it to be satisfactory and so Beech-Nut's Canadian operations began. Production began the next year starting with chewing gum. Reportedly, Beech-Nut was so pleased with the treatment they received from the city of Hamilton that they distributed free boxes of gum on the streets and to every retailer in the city.

In 1931, Life Savers Limited acquired Beech-Nut, amalgamating the two companies in what would become the first of several buyouts for the Hamilton plant. The Life Savers company originally started in New York City in 1913 as the Mint Products Company when a man named Edward Noble bought a line of distinctly shaped mints from a candy manufacturer in Cleveland, Ohio. The Life Savers plant in Hamilton was not the first one in Canada, that honour belonged to a plant built in Prescott, Ontario around 1920. However due to a fire which destroyed the Prescott plant, the Hamilton plant became the only existing Canadian Life Savers plant until the 1980's (when a second plant was built in Nova Scotia). After the merger Life Savers continued to manufacture Beech-Nut suckers and gum, though they were discontinued after awhile.

Boxes and Boxes of Life SaversIn 1951 the prosperous Life Savers company opened a $600,000 plant on Cumberland Avenue, replacing its previous factory just west of it. The new plant contained over 45,000 square feet of floor space, almost twice as much as the previous works.

By 1969 the plant was producing over a billion individual candies each year. There were 26 flavours of Life Savers manufactured at that time as well as six different types of Beech-Nut candies. On top of this, the company considered expanding its product line, choosing from 227 products, all produced by its parent company Squibb Beech-Nut Incorporated

In 1974 Life Savers introduced their distinctive lollipop (with a hole in the centre) along with a new type of gum which sold for five cents less than its competitors. However, Life Savers wasn't able to retain its lower prices for too long. Even advances in production efficiency could not balance out price increases in essential ingredients like sugar.

In 1979 Life Savers' Canadian head office was moved from Hamilton to Burlington. Two years later, the company introduced new flavours designed to appeal to an adult market. These included butter cream mint and chocolate mint, as well as low-calorie Life Savers. By this time 100 Hamiltonian employees produced 30 million rolls of candy each year, which were then distributed to 600,000 Canadian stores. Additionally, gum (made at the new Life Savers plant in Amherst, Nova Scotia) was packaged by the Hamilton plant. 1981 also saw the second buyout of the company with Nabisco Brands Incorporated acquiring Life Savers from the (renamed) E. R. Squibb Corporation for $250 million.

Life Savers Up Close

In 1983 Life Savers began producing sugarless Breath Saver mints, previously imported from the United States and packaged in Hamilton. Furthermore, production had doubled in the past two years with 60 million rolls being made in 16 different flavours. Other products manufactured at this time included lollipops and Beech-Nut cough drops.

1987 marked the third switch in parent companies for Life Savers as Nabisco sold its Canadian candy operations to Hershey Canada Incorporated This resulted in reduced employment and production for the Hamilton plant. In 1988, 75 workers made 50 million rolls of candy. Though the Five Flavours (lemon, lime, pineapple, orange, and cherry) rolls remained the most popular, accounting for a third of all sales, Life Savers introduced new flavours every year.

In 1996 Life Savers was bought by their current parent company, Beta Brands Limited Although Beta Brands planned to consolidate Life Savers production with its operations at the McCormick's cookies and crackers plant in London, Ontario in February, 1998, it reversed its decision in September and signed a five year contract with the union at Life Savers guaranteeing that the Hamilton plant would remain open.

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