For a number of years, Leicester based confectionery company Fox’s used stuffed Polar Bears in its Glacier Mints advertisement campaigns.
The history behind the stuffed animals is of significant interest. The mascots, which at one point in history had attracted large crowds of potential customers. However, with the introduction of television and radio advertisement, they were put into storage, left to rot.
One of these bears survived and with a little bit of luck has recently received a full restoration. Leicester’s Newalk Museum currently stores the original mascot.
Fox’s confectionery history.
Fox’s is an English confectionery company that until very recently was 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 its branding.
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 factory workers to find a suitable mascot name for the brand. The winner would receive £5. Peppy (from peppermint) the Polar Bear was chosen to be the front for Fox’s Glacier Mints.
Reginald Dalby was commissioned to design the now-famous trademarked bear. He was a Leicester based artist, who was well known for his illustrations for the “Thomas the Tank Engine” books.
It depicted Peppy, a white polar bear standing on a single block of clear ice.
Peppy goes on tour.
After the logo was created, mangers wanted to bring Peppy to life. At first, they had wanted to use a real polar bear. And to tour the country with it to promote the new mint.
However, this was unenviable. So they commissioned a taxidermist to find a polar bear and to stuff it to look like the winning design.
In 1920, a polar bear was shot dead and then stuffed. Between touring it was displayed with pride of place at the entrance to the factory.
Peppy measured 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in) high and 2 m (6 ft 7 in) long, and of indeterminate gender.
Whilst on tour the bear was used to promote the brand at sporting matches and carnivals. The stuffed bear attract crowds of potential customers that numbered in the thousands. This was due to not many people never have seen a polar bear before.
The Marketing campaign was a huge success. The branding is still in use to this day.
The decline of the mascot.
In the 1960s, Rowntrees brought out Fox’s and stopped using the bears (more stuffed bears had been acquired) to promote the mints. This was mostly down to the fact that the company gained more success advertising on television and on the radio.
The bears were sadly thrown into storage and forgotten about.
After being in storage for a considerable amount of time, one of the bears was 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 back in mint condition.
After surviving by luck and being classed as un-politically correct. Peppy for a period, had 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 when he is on rotation at the museum or on tour.
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”.”
A note from Reggie Dickinson, Fox’s Purchasing Manager in the 1950s.
“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 ’60s 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!”
If you are interested in Leicester’s history then we recommend the following books (Click on the images or links below)
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