Following a trip to the United States, a grocer called Samuel Wallace Smedley was inspired to establish a canned goods company in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, in 1924.
Canning machinery was imported to the Wisbech factory from the US and production commenced in 1926. The new canned food sold well and a first prize was awarded in 1927 and 1928 at the Birmingham Fruit Show. Every Smedley’s can proudly showed its British mark of origin, as products were exported around the world.
In 1929 a canning works was set up in Evesham and a new factory was built in the town in 1932. The business expanded, such that by 1937 there were also canning plants in Dundee, Paddock Wood and Spalding, later increasing to include Faversham, Barming, Blairgowrie and Coupar Angus, and the Smedley name was well known in all the grocer’s shops throughout the country.
In 1937 Smedley’s became the first frozen food company in the UK by introducing the first frozen peas to the nation. The lack of refrigerators in homes at this time meant that the peas were sold mainly to the catering trade and institutions which had suitable storage. This included the include the Royal Navy battleship which took King George V and his entourage to Canada in 1939.
After the Second World War, Smedley’s expanded their frozen food product range to include such items as fishfingers, rice pudding and meat pies.
In 1968 Smedley’s was acquired by Imperial Tobacco Ltd. who merged it with HP Foods to form Smedley-HP and the Smedley brand name was dropped from the products.