Henry Whiteway started his cider business in Whimple in 1891. Clay soil in the Whimple area was found to be ideal for growing orchard fruit, and Henry encouraged farmers in the vicinity to sell their apples to him. He used a scientific approach to orchard management to improve the quality of his apples, and so create a successful business.
In the early days Whiteway’s often sold direct to private customers as well as to retailers. Eton and Harrow schools were early customers. By the 1920s the company was exporting as far afield as India, Africa, Egypt, Persia, Australia, Japan, China, Mesopotamia and to various Spanish speaking countries.
As the business expanded Whiteway’s started to buy up local farms and other Devon cider producers. In 1901 premises were acquired in London, initially as a sales office, with storage and a bottling plant being added later. Storage depots were also rented in Leeds and Glasgow for distribution in the north. By the late 1930s Whiteways had four cyder factories in Devon, a winery at Paignton, and bottling facilities at Whimple, London and Sheffield. Another distribution depot in Coventry was added in the 1950s. The accounts department was based in Whimple, and by the 1960s exports were controlled entirely from Whimple, with bottling for export taking place there.
In 1902 Whiteway’s introduced one of their most popular products – Cydrax. This was a non-alcoholic, sparkling, apple drink, and it was particularly marketed to the temperance movement and majority Muslim countries. By 1951 it was being exported to Saudi Arabia, Trinidad and the Persian Gulf. In 1957 a pear version, Peardrax, was launched. In the 1970s this became especially popular in Trinidad, where it suited local tastes and had no serious competition. Today the Peardrax and Cydrax brands are owned by a Caribbean company, and remain hugely popular in Trinidad and Tobago, especially at Christmas.
Over the course of the twentieth century Whiteway’s diversified away from just cider, and products included Sanatogen Tonic Wine, sherries such as Pony Cream British Sherry and Armadillo Sherry, Clan Dew (a sherry and whisky blend), Rougemont Castle Wine, and soft drinks such as Apple Bee. A sparkling perry, Baby Pom, was marketed as Whiteway’s answer to the hugely successful Babycham produced by Showerings of Shepton Mallett, but it never managed to eclipse its rival and was withdrawn after a few years.
From the 1960s onwards Whiteway’s was subject to a series of mergers and takeovers which saw it eventually become part of the Allied Domecq group. The popularity of Whiteway’s products went into decline and their brands eventually disappeared from shops in Britain, as the UK cider industry underwent a long and complicated restructuring.
Whiteway’s factory in Whimple closed in 1989. During the 1990s it was demolished and the land redeveloped as a housing estate.