Maconochies was established in Lowestoft, Suffolk by brothers Archibald and James Maconochie in 1873. The company was a wholesale provisions merchant and manufacturer of canned fish and meat, bottled fruits, pickles and marmalade.
As well as the works in Lowestoft, the company had a factory on the Isle of Dogs in London, and a fish canning plant in the port of Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, which produced over 5 million cans of herrings and sardines in 1903.
Maconochies won a huge contract to supply the British Army with rations of tinned stew of meat and vegetables during the Boer War (1899-1902) and, more than a decade later, at the outbreak of the First World War, the contract was still in place.
Maconochie stew became a household name during the War. The tins of stew claimed that the contents consisted of “the finest beef, potatoes, haricot beans, carrots and onions.” However accounts of the time described the stew as “a tinned ration consisting of sliced carrots and turnips in a deal of thin soup.” Warmed in the tin, the stew was regarded as barely edible. Cold, it was a “man-killer”. The soldiers at the front seldom had the chance to heat the tins of stew and unsurprisingly most of them detested it.
A more popular Maconochie product was Pan Yan pickle which was produced from 1907. The brand became the company’s best seller and enjoyed almost 60 years of consistently strong sales.