Fox’s Confectionery Mascot “Peppy The Polar Bear”

Leicesters most famous bear, Peppy, Fox’s confectionery mascot is now on permanent display at Leicester’s New Walk Museum. The history behind the polar bear is very interesting as the bear was nearly lost in time due to being un-politically correct. It has survived by luck and now has pride of place in one of the counties most loved museums.

The history behind Fox’s Confectionery.

Fox’s is an english confectionary company based in Braunstone, Leicester. The company began as a wholesale grocery and confectionery business. Walter Richard Fox started the business in a Victorian warehouse in Leicester, 1880. By 1897 the company was producing over 100 different confectionery lines.

Fox’s Glacier Mints and their mascot.

In 1918, Ric Fox, one of the founders of the company introduced the “Fox’s Glacier Mints” line. So named after resembling miniature blocks of ice as they are clear and translucent. A competition was held in 1922 for the workers to find a suitable name and logo for the brand. The winner was awarded £5. Peppy (from peppermint) the Polar Bear was chosen to be the front for Fox’s Glacier Mints. The trademarked bear was created by Leicester-based artist C. Reginald Dalby, better known for his illustrations of “Thomas the Tank Engine”. Peppy first appeared on the packaging later that year.

Peppy goes on tour.

Managers commissioned a taxidermist to find a polar bear and stuff it to look like the winning design. A bear was shot dead in the 1920s and after being stuffed it was originally displayed at the entrance to the factory. It was also was also used for publicity around the country. The bear measured 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in) high and 2 m (6 ft 7 in) long, and of an indeterminate gender.

The bear was used to promote the brand at football games and carnivals. The publicity it caused was overwhelming as not many people would have seen a polar bear before.

The decline of the mascot.

When the company was taken over by Rowntrees in the 1960s, Peppy and four other bears used in promotions across the country were no longer required due to television advertisements. It was also considered distasteful.

Peppy was then long forgotten about for a considerable amount of time.  After being rediscovered in a dusty back room, the bear was donated to the New Walk museum. This is because Big Bear Limited, which took over Fox’s in 2003, refused to put Peppy back on display because it was considered “gory“.

Maria Moran, the firm’s brand manager, said:

“It’s not the most politically correct thing to have a giant bear hanging around when they’re facing extinction because of melting ice caps.” 

“We found it in the back when we were clearing out and decided to donate it to a museum – the best place for it.”

“We didn’t want it in the reception because it’s so gory we feared it could scare the customers when they visited.”

Peppy the bear back in mint condition.

After surviving by luck and being classed as un-politically correct. Peppy now has pride of place in Leicester’s New Walk Museum. The museum has carried out extensive restoration work. As a result, “Peppy the Polar Bear” can again be enjoyed by the public once again. The Museum is now looking for the remaining mascots.

A personal story about Peppy.

The most heart touching story about Peppy that I have personally read was about a father who told his children about the large polar bear that adorns the top of the Fox’s Confectionery factory.

“This is what Peppy, the Foxes Glacier Mint bear means to me and my family. I was born in 1960. Throughout mine and my two brothers childhoods, our late father led us to believe that his first job was to take the polar bear on top of the Fox’s Glacier Mint factory for a walk. You may think this stupid, but as I child I believed my dad’s every word and I will keep this memory until the day I die.

My sister was born 13 years later than me and was also told this tale. Even when doing a school project, she was asked what her father’s first job was. Yes, you would have guessed right; She wrote down that our father’s first job was taking “Peppy the Polar Bear” for a walk. At this point she was told off and told not to be so silly. Upon returning home that day, she asked me the truth. At once, the memory flooded back and I told her the very same thing my father had explained to all his children, “his first job was to walk the polar bear”.

The day came when it was my Dad’s time to leave us and when in LOROS (A Leicester cancer charity) we asked him if there was anything he wanted? He said he wanted one of those white mountains. We all looked at each other and knew that even in his darkest hour he wanted a Fox’s Glacier Mint.

I visited the New Walk Museum last week. To see Peppy the polar bear in proud position in the museum made the tears flow and my heart melt as the memories of a wonderful, funny man came flooding back. Nobody will ever convince me that Peppy never walked through the streets of Leicester with my Dad, Derek Lowe by his side.

When my father took his final journey my sister slipped a Fox’s Glacier Mint into his top pocket.

If you ever visit Newark Museum and you see Peppy, give my Dad a thought; The man whose first job was walking “Peppy The Polar Bear”.”

Karen O’Connell

A note from Reggie Dickinson, Fox’s Purchasing Manager in the 1950’s.

“In the 1950’s I was the Purchasing Manager for Fox’s.

One of my interesting assignments was to negotiate with a taxidermist who had acquired  a dead bear from Dudley Zoo.

He didn’t make a bad job of the taxidermy although I remember it took ages to solidify and had to be propped up for a few weeks.

Eventually it turned out to be a magnificent partner to the other Polar Bear in the firm’s ownership.

I moved on in the early 60’s so I lost trace of its further history.

As a career buyer it has always been difficult to persuade peers that ‘I bought a Polar Bear!”

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You can visit Peppy the polar bear at Leicester’s New Walk Museum. 

If anyone can shed any light on Peppy’s mysterious past or have any photos or memories of the bear, please contact me via the contact page

Resources: Minka’s Bear PassionThe TelegraphBBCFox’s

Thomas Kirkup is an engineer in the Royal Navy. Born and raised in Leicester he is fascinated by the city's long and varied history. He also hates to discus himself in the third person, but can be persuaded to do so from time to time.

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