Peek Frean & Co. was the first mass producer of biscuits. The company was established by James Peek and George Frean in Dockhead, London in 1857.
A new factory was built in nearby Bermondsey nine years later. It provided Bermondsey with a major source of employment and gave the area the nickname “ Biscuit Town “.
The Franco-Prussian War of 1870 brought Peek Frean & Co. to prominence, when 10 million fine navy biscuits were ordered for the troops. Around this time the old factory in Dockhead burned down. The sight was so spectacular that the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) went there on a fire engine to see it.
The most famous biscuits to be invented by Peek Frean were the Garibaldi (1861), the Bourbon (1910) and the first ever chocolate coated biscuit called Chocolate Table.
In 1901 Peek Frean became a limited company and decided to expand the confectionary side of the business. In 1913 a new factory was built in Bedford which became Meltis Limited, operating as a subsidiary of Peek Freans.
In 1921 Peek Frean & Co. Ltd merged with rival firm Huntley and Palmers to form Associated Biscuit Manufacturers Ltd., though both companies retained their own brands and premises. The new company was acquired by Nabisco in 1982 who closed down the Bermondsey factory in 1989.