Taikoo Sugar Refinery, further information
HF: Taikoo Sugar Refinery started producing refined sugar in Hong Kong in 1884 and did not cease operation till 1972. During this period of almost a century, it produced some of the world’s highest quality refined sugar widely consumed in many parts of Asia, Australia and North America. Its history illustrates important aspects of Hong Kong’s industrial development.(1)
Taikoo Sugar Refinery was established by John Samuel Swire in June 1881 after a thorough investigation into the feasibility and openings for a new refinery in China.
His determination to build the largest and most up-to-date plant was initially stimulated by a period of intense rivalry with Jardine, Matheson & Co. who already owned a refinery. A site for the refinery was selected at Quarry Bay, Hong Kong and the capital for the venture was put up chiefly by John Samuel Swire himself, Holt’s James Barrow, H J Butterfield, Messrs. Ismay and Imrie, W J Thompson and R N Dale.
Taikoo Sugar Refinery at Quarry Bay began operations in 1884.
John Swire & Sons were appointed Managers and Butterfield and Swire, Hong Kong, were responsible for the overall management and, as General Agents, for the purchase of raw sugars and the selling and distribution of the finished products. China was always the chief market but Australia, Japan and India were also important at different times.
The Taikoo Sugar Refinery (TSR) faced stiff competition from Jardine Matheson & Co. in its early years but, by the 1920s, the Japanese had become their greatest competitors. An up-country marketing system was established to counter this and to expand TSR markets in inland China, as well as efforts to widen the Far Eastern areas served by TSR.
The 1920s were a period of constant difficulties – a strike in 1923, poor markets in 1924 and a three month boycott in 1925. 1925, however, also saw the expansion of the Taikoo Sugar Refinery into the largest single unit refinery in the world. In December 1941 Hong Kong fell to the Japanese and production was halted until the plant was returned to John Swire & Sons in the autumn of 1945.
Taikoo’s sugar refining activity appears to have ceased around 1970 and the company is now a major sugar importer.(2)
Although the Taikoo Sugar Refinery ceased operation in Hong Kong in the 1970s and the site was redeveloped by Swire as a large housing estate with commercial components Taikoo sugar continues to be manufactured (outside of Hong Kong) today and can be purchased at local Hong Kong grocery stores. The Swire Company further developed the refinery after the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong as a sugar processing and packaging operation, thus preparing for the firm’s entry into the beverage market in the 1990s.(3)
- Hong Kong Memory Project
- SOAS, University of London Special Collections
This article was first posted on 20th October 2023.
Related Indhhk articles:
- The Taikoo Sugar Refinery
- Taikoo Sugar Refinery during WW2 (HK Sugar Refinery)
- Taikoo Sugar Refinery – Bullivant’s Ropeway for transporting coal from ship to shore
- Bullivant & Co., Millwall, London, supplier of Taikoo Sugar Refinery’s aerial ropeway cables – additional information
- Taikoo Sugar Refinery, Aerial Ropeway – further image
- The Aerial Ropeway (1891-1932) and Sanitarium (1893-1932) of the Taikoo Sugar Refinery
- Facebook ‘Photos of Taikoo and Kowloon Dock Families’ group – additional images