Rowntree was an English confectionery business based in York. Rowntree developed the Kit Kat (introduced in 1935), Aero (introduced in 1935), Fruit Pastilles (introduced in 1881), Smarties (introduced in 1937) brands, and the Rolo and Quality Street brands when it merged with Mackintosh's in 1969 to form Rowntree Mackintosh Confectionery.
Founded in 1862, the company developed strong associations with Quaker philanthropy. Throughout much of the 19th and 20th centuries, it was one of the big three confectionery manufacturers in the United Kingdom, alongside Cadbury and Fry. By the time the company was acquired by Nestlé in 1988, it was the fourth-largest confectionery manufacturer in the world. The Rowntree brand continues to be used to market Nestlé's jelly sweet brands, such as Fruit Pastilles and Fruit Gums.
In 1862, Rowntree's was founded at Castlegate, York by Henry Isaac Rowntree, as the company manager bought out the Tuke family. In 1864, Rowntree acquired an old iron foundry at Tanners Moat for £1,000, and moved production there. In 1869, the factory was staffed by 12 men. By 1869, Rowntree was in financial difficulties and his brother, Joseph Rowntree, joined him in full partnership, and H.I. Rowntree & Co was formally established.
In 1881, Rowntree introduced Fruit Pastilles, competing against French imports of the time, and the product proved to be a great success, accounting for about 25% of the company's tonnage by 1887. This success allowed the company to invest in a Van Houten press, which enabled it to produce chocolate with the cocoa butter removed, to compete with Cadbury's successful Cocoa Essence. In the 1890s, Rowntree transformed from a small family business into a large-scale manufacturer, as sales more than quadrupled due to an increased demand among the public for confectionery.
In 1890, to cater for this increased demand, Rowntree acquired a 20-acre site at Haxby Road on the outskirts of York. The Tanners Moat site had become too small for Rowntree's needs, and the company had noted the success of Cadbury's purpose-built factory in Bournville.