On this day in history : 10th May 1850 – The birth of Sir Thomas Johnstone Lipton, founder of Lipton’s grocery stores…. Starting as an errand boy he was a millionaire by the age of 30….
Lipton was born in Glasgow to Irish parents who were forced to leave Ireland because of the potato famine of 1845…. In 1864 he became a cabin boy on a steamer operating between Glasgow and Belfast…. It was here he heard stories from old sailors of America and he longed to see it…. He saved up and bought a passage to the States and spent the next five years working and travelling around the country…. He did a variety of jobs, from farm work to door-to-door selling….his final work was as a grocery assistant in New York….
He returned to Glasgow in 1870 and initially helped his parents run their small shop…. The following year he opened his own store, Lipton’s Market, in Stobcross Street, Glasgow….and soon he had a chain of grocery stores, firstly across Glasgow, then Scotland and finally all across Britain….
By 1888 he had some 300 shops and branched out into the tea trade, establishing the Lipton tea brand….which is owned by Unilever today….
Lipton’s grocery merged with several other companies in 1929 and a food retail group with more than 3,000 stores was formed…. Trading under various names on the high street they came together under one name on the Stock Exchange – Allied Suppliers…. The group was bought by Argyll Foods in 1982 and was relaunched as ‘Presto’….
Unilever bought Lipton Tea in several stages beginning in 1938 and completing in 1972…. in 1991 it went in a joint venture with PepsiCo – producing ready to drink teas….especially iced fruit teas….