Advertising sign, 'Choose your Arnott's Famous Biscuits', enamel paint on wood, made in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1930-1950
Apart from bringing a former luxury food within the budget of working class households, Arnott's success was built on clever branding and advertising. The Milk Arrowroot 'Living pictures' campaign, which used customers' snapshots of their children, is perhaps the best-known example.
As a result, Arnott's is one of a small number of brand names to gain a spurious association with Australian history and culture (others include Foster's, Holden and Vegemite), an association which has in turn been exploited in Arnott's advertising. The 1997 takeover of the company by US conglomerate Campbell's consequently inspired a degree of controversy.
Because of its 'Australian' associations, Arnott's packaging and other artefacts are sought after by collectors and others. The Powerhouse Museum holds a large collection of Arnott's artefacts and in 1991 presented an exhibition on the company's history.
Unlike some other manufacturers, Arnott's signage was not notable for innovation or striking graphic design, relying instead for its appeal on bold sign-writer's lettering and one of the most recognisable Australian trademarks. This sign is an excellent example of the genre.
As the work of a sign-writer, rather than a lithographer or printer, the sign is also valuable as an example of this medium. Although sign-writing was the main form of advertising graphics for many decades, it is less well represented in graphic design collections than printed graphics.
Charles Pickett, Curator, 2007
The Arnott's factory and office complex at Homebush in Sydney included a signwriting workshop. The sign was probably produced there.
William Arnott began baking biscuits at Newcastle in 1865. A decade later his 'steam biscuit factory' was the first of many Arnott's manufactories to apply industrial techniques to the production of biscuits.
Sydney's first Arnott's factory opened in 1880 and, after acquiring some of its rivals (notably the Melbourne manufacturer Swallow and Ariel), Arnott's became the major biscuit manufacturer in Australia, a position the company still holds.
Arnott's remained in family control until 1970, when it was first listed as a public company. In 1997, the US food manufacturer Campbell's bought a controlling interest in Arnott's.