Collection Stories

Edmonds: ‘Sure to Rise’ 

By 1929, there were only 1.5 million people in New Zealand, yet we were purchasing around three million tins of Edmonds Baking Powder per year!

On the shelf or in the cupboards, the name Edmonds is synonymous with New Zealand kitchens. It is also to be found in the Whanganui Regional Museum collection as these images show.

The classic kiwi brand had humble beginnings. Twenty year old Thomas John Edmonds and his wife arrived in Christchurch from London in 1879 and opened a small general store. Edmonds fielded many complaints about the quality of baking powder available at the time, so he used his knowledge and experience from working with Allen & Sons Confectioners in London to begin making his own baking powder in the back of his shop.

The first batch of 200 tins sold slowly so Edmonds travelled around the Canterbury region and gave away free samples, promising to pick them up on his next visit if the cooks and bakers weren’t satisfied. None were returned.

Legend has it that when one customer asked why she should purchase his baking powder over another brand he responded, ‘It is sure to rise, Madam’. This statement served as the origin for both the catchphrase and the logo of the rising sun on each tin. It also predicted the future popularity of the product.

After Edmonds won a prize at the 1890 Dunedin Exhibition the demand for Edmonds Baking Powder grew. Over a million tins were sold by 1912. Ten years later, Edmonds built a new factory to cope with the demand for baking powder and his growing range of other baking products. By 1929, around three million tins were being sold each year. Not bad for a country of 1.5 million people!

The Edmonds Cookery Book was launched to promote Edmonds Baking Powder. The first edition printed in 1908 comprised 50 ‘economical everyday recipes and cooking hints’. Housewives received a free copy by submitting a written request. In addition, the brilliant marketing ploy of sending a complimentary copy to every newly engaged couple ensured that the brand was to be found in most of the country’s kitchens.

Only two copies of the original edition are known to still exist. With each new edition, Edmonds has kept up to date with changing tastes and cooking techniques. It is still being published today.

The 7th Deluxe Edition in 1955 included some distinctly kiwi recipes such as Toheroa Soup, Aotea Biscuits, Whitebait Fritters and Tree Tomato Jam. Tripe was removed from the 8th edition in 1967 and the ‘Food for Invalids’ section was removed from the 27th edition in 1988. From 1993, the recipe books included sections on Nutrition, International Foods and Breakfast.

The 11th edition in 1971 was written specifically for gas ovens. Microwave cooking appeared in the 1980s. The 15th edition in 1976 included both metric and imperial measurements for the first time and was also spiral bound so that it stayed open and flat.

The production and administration of Edmonds products moved to Auckland in 1982 and continues today as part of Australian-owned Goodman Fielder.

The cookbook remains one of New Zealand’s best sellers. If you need to update your copy of this classic kiwi recipe book it is for sale in the museum shop, along with Sure to Rise – The Edmonds Story, which tells the tale of this kiwi icon and from which the information in this article is drawn.

By Sandi Black, Kaihāpai Kōrero/Archivist at Whanganui Regional Museum.

Image: The changing face of Edmonds Baking Powder, dating left to right c1920s, c1950s, and c1985.

Photographed by Kathy Greensides
WRM TH.3674; TH.3675; 2003.47

Karen Hughes

20 September 2023

Cultural History