The New Zealand Ice Cream Association
The New Zealand Ice Cream Association

1971 - 1990

Tip Top

Tip Top Milk Bar, Courtenay Place, Wellington, ca. 1936
- Dominion Post.

Leonard Aloysius Patrick (Len) Malaghan was born in Queenstown on 18 February 1906.

His business instincts were soon evident - at the age of ten, with money he had earned from gathering and selling cocksfoot grass seed, he purchased a cow, which he proudly drove home down the main street of Tapanui. By age 13 he owned five cows, milking them twice a day (before and after school) and selling the milk to the local cheese factory.

Len left school at age 14 to work as a cheese and butter-maker at the Tapanui Co-Operative Dairy Co.. By 16 he was a second assistant, by seventeen a qualified cheesemaker. By the age of 18, he had qualified as a dairy factory manager (the youngest person in the country with Grade Notes at the time).

Hungry for experience, he moved to Dunedin to work for the Taieri & Peninsula Milk Supply Company which had both butter and milk supply operations. While there he worked in every department, including the laboratory, and applied for a patent for a butter-making device he invented.

In 1926 he applied for a senior position with the Dairy Division of the Department of Agriculture, but at 20 he was considered too young. Instead he was given the opportunity to train in ice cream production under an American expert, a Mr Munro, at Frozen Products Ltd (Frosty Jack brand) in Wellington. After a season there he returned to Dunedin and worked under another American, a Mr van Every, at Crystal Ice Cream for about three years.

In 1931, Len left Crystal with the idea of starting his own business, however he was offered a position with the Dunedin Ice Cream Manufacturing Company (Royal Ice Cream brand) as ice cream maker and Manager. Len was at Royal for four years, developing a new ice cream formulation and a bottled cream delivery business. With surplus cream, the company set out to investigate butter production and in 1933 Len went on a trip around the North Island to purchase machinery. To cover expenses, he demonstrated at ice cream factories the manufacture and decorating of ice cream cakes with fresh cream. In Auckland, he was approached with a proposition to start ice cream manufacture in the Hygienic Dairy Company factory in Epsom, but being committed in Dunedin, was unable to accept.

Around this time, he went into a highly profitable venture to make milk ice blocks with a Mr Waddington of Arctic Ice Cream Co., Petone, selling the recipe and method of manufacture to ice cream manufacturers throughout New Zealand.

Len had become friends with Albert Edward (Bert) Hayman, one of Royal's customers, who owned the Sunshine Milk Bar in the Octagon in Dunedin. The milk bar was a new concept, following American trends, selling healthy milk-based drinks, both hot and chilled, usually along with soup, sandwiches and other snacks.

In 1935 Len and Bert decided to go into partnership to start a new type of milk bar business, focussing on ice cream and milk shakes. They chose Wellington as the location.

On their way up to Wellington, Len and Bert had discussed their plans with a mutual friend, the manager of the Oamaru Railway Refreshment Rooms. His response was "Why, that's Tip-Top", and an ice cream brand name was born.

Len Malaghan and Bert Hayman in later years.

On their first day in Wellington they selected a shop in Manners St, so confident in the concept that they entered into a 10-year lease at an annual rental almost equal to their total capital, £750, a brave move in the midst of the Great Depression.

The name of the new business was Health Foods, Ltd and their ice cream brand was to be "TIP TOP".

On the day he left Dunedin to move to Wellington, Len married Ann, his partner for this venture and many more.

The shop fit-out took about six weeks, using the red, white and blue colour scheme that would become synonomous with the brand.

On the 10th of October 1935 the new milk bar at 36 Manners St, in central Wellington, was officially opened by J. A. Murdoch, Minister of Agriculture and Chairman of the Dairy Control Board, ensuring that the new venture received plenty of publicity:

- Evening Post, 10 October 1935.


The original Tip Top milk bar, 36 Manners St, Wellington, 1935.
- The Early Tip Top Story, Tip Top archives

Emerging from the Depression years, milk and dairy products were seen as having excellent food value. Ice cream and milkshakes were seen as a nutritious treats for adults, not so much the younger market that we associate milk bars with these days.

                                                                    Health Foods Tip Top Milk Bars advert,
                                                                    Evening Post, 19 December 1936

Bert's Dunedin commitments meant that Len became the active partner in the Manners St. business, the success of which quickly led to expansion. A second Tip Top Milk Bar was opened on Lambton Quay in March 1936, managed by Bert's brother Gordon Hayman and his wife.

In May 1936, they registered a new company, Health Foods New Zealand, with a capital of £15,000, to acquire the Wellington shops and Bert's shop in Dunedin, and to expand their milk bars into other areas.

Interior view of the Tip Top Milk Bar on the corner of Manners and Cuba Streets, ca. 1936
- Alexander Turnbull Library Ref: 1/1-015556-F.

Tip Top milk bars were opened in Eastbourne, Upper Hutt (1937), Blenheim, and around the lower North Island.

The Sunshine Milk Bar in Nelson acquired the "Tip Top agency" for Nelson Districts in 1936. The Sunshine's counter and buffet share several design elements in common with the Wellington Tip Top Milk Bars, suggesting that a standardised Tip Top Milk Bar fit-out was part of the franchise arrangement.

Black & White Milk Bar opening, 64 Willis St., Wellington, 11 June 1936
- Dominion Post.

The Black & White Milk Bar had opened a second shop at 64 Willis St, Wellington, on the 11th of June 1936, and this was possibly another Tip Top "agency" - a photo of the opening function (above) shows almost identical panelling and light fittings.

Both Black & White Milk Bars were taken over by Health Foods in 1937. By December that year there were five Health Foods (NZ)-operated Tip Top Milk Bars in central Wellington, two of them in Cuba St. The Tip Top Milk Bar chain would eventually grow to twenty shops.

Health Foods (NZ) Ltd. Tip Top Milk Bars advertisement,
Evening Post, 11 December 1937

Above and below: Exterior and interior views of a Tip Top Milk Bar, Hastings or Napier, 1937-38.
- Knowledge Bank.

For the first year of business, "TIP TOP" ice cream had been supplied to Health Foods' milk bars by the Dunedin Ice Cream Manufacturing Co.. On leaving the company, Len had been due payment for the ice cream formula that he had developed while working there - instead, he negotiated a supply of ice cream at a reduced cost, for one year.

This was quite a logistical achievement for the time - freighting ice cream from Dunedin to Wellington, by refrigerated ship. On arrival it was stored at the Co-operative Dairy Producers Freezing Co. Ltd's cool stores on Waterloo Quay in central Wellington.

By the end of that first year, they were ready to make their own ice cream. Bert sold his Dunedin shop and made the move to Wellington, to take a more active role in the business.

In July 1936 the Tip Top Ice Cream Company was registered as a manufacturing company, to supply Health Foods (NZ) with ice cream, and some time later, Tip Top opened its own factory at rented premises on the site of the Co-operative Dairy Producers Freezing Co. Ltd's cool stores on Waterloo Quay in central Wellington. The freezing stores business, primarily involved in storing export cheese and butter, provided refrigeration and steam, and leased factory space to Tip Top at £10 per week.

Len Malaghan made sure that the new factory had the very latest equipment, including a number of "firsts" for New Zealand - the first Vogt continuous freezer; the first direct expansion holding vats; the first vehicle with its own refrigeration unit installed; the first refrigerated articulated vehicle.

In 1926 Clarence Vogt of Louisville, Kentucky had developed and patented a continuous, scraped-surface freezer ("Votator"), which revolutionised the ice cream industry, opening the way for true mass production. Tip Top became the first company in New Zealand to employ the new "instant" freezing technology:

Willow Milk Bar advertisement, Hutt News, 24 May 1939

By 1938, Tip Top Milk Bars were operating successfully all around the lower North Island, Nelson and Blenheim, with average per shop ice cream sales around 9000 gallons a year. Bert and Len began to think about the giant Auckland market, where the climate was even more suitable for the ice cream trade.

May 1938 - Tip Top Ice Cream Company Auckland Limited was launched, with Tip Top Ice Cream Company (Wellington), Health Foods (New Zealand) Ltd, Bert Hayman and Len Malaghan as major shareholders. Len knew that the Hygienic Dairy Company premises at 20 Dunkerron Avenue, Epsom were still available, so they purchased the factory and started production.

The first Auckland Tip Top Milk Bar was opened by Health Foods (Auckland) Ltd. in 1938 at 53 Queen St:

The first Auckland Tip Top Milk Bar, lower Queen Street shopping feature,
NZ Herald, 28 September 1938

Tip Top Ice Cream and Ritz Tip Top Milk Bar advertisement,  NZ Herald, 16 November 1938

The New Ritz Tip Top Milk Bar sold Kapai Chocolate-covered Bars for 3d each.

As well as Milk Bars, Tip Top sold packaged ice cream through the usual dairy and grocery outlets. By August 1939, Tip Top already had distribution depots at Hamilton, Rotorua, Taumaranui and Tauranga.

Interestingly, Tip Top was marketed as "American" or "Real American" ice cream, made with the "latest American instant freeze process" and made to "the exclusive and original American Ice Cream Formula". Tip Top's by-lines were "Eat Energy" and "The Extra Cream Ice Cream".

Tip Top Ice Cream Co. Auckland Ltd delivery van, ca. 1939.
- Tip Top archives.

Tip Top Ice Cream Auckland Ltd delivery vans, ca. 1939.
- Tip Top archives.

In 1939 Len and Bert went to the U.S. to study the latest methods of manufacture and to purchase new machinery.

One story illustrates how up to date they were already. While in New York, they were invited to a demonstration of the prototype of the Anderson Automatic filling machine. They declined, saying that they had already seen it in operation. The Americans were most surprised, saying that only two machines had been built, one for demonstration and the other sent "somewhere down under." Bert and Len gently explained that the other prototype of the new machine was already working in the Tip Top factory in Wellington.

In November 1940, Tip Top Auckland ran a "Will-Share" advertising campaign promoting the sharing of ice cream treats over the summer holidays.

Tip Top Ice Cream Sandwich advertisement,  NZ Herald, 23 November 1940

One of the products featured as was the Tip Top Ice Cream Sandwich (above) apparently launched that year and sold for 3d (threepence). It was also referred to as a Threepenny Slice, the forerunner of today's Vanilla Slice.

Also featured were Tip Top Threepenny and Sixpenny Cartons, Dixie Cartons (small waxed cardboard cups sold for 3d each) and a chocolate-covered ice cream-on-a-stick called a Tippy-Tip, which sold for 3d.

Tip-Top Milk Bar Upper Hutt advertisement,
December 1940.

Tip Top Wellington appears to have started to use the classic scripted version of the "Tip-Top" logo (see side-bar above) around 1939-1940. Both Wellington and Auckland companies were also using the block capitals "TIP-TOP" version around this time, but eventually the scripted version took over. A hyphen and/or quotation marks were added from time-to-time over the next 20 years.

Tip Top sales conference, 1940s. Milk Bar managers and staff learned about sundaes, floats and sodas, efficient scooping practices and how to keep dippers ice-free.

With the arrival of the Second World War both Wellington and Auckland-based chains of Tip Top milk bars began to struggle with distribution and staff problems. The milk bar side of the business, Health Foods (NZ) Ltd., was wound down in the early 1940s, although independent Tip Top milk bars continued to operate around the country.

Sugar restrictions and rationing were imposed in 1942, severely limiting ice cream manufacturing. Sugar supplies were cut in half; milkfat by a third.

However by 1944, the large numbers of U.S. servicemen stationed in New Zealand had stimulated demand and the government began to recognise the value of ice cream in raising morale.

In November 1944, Tip Top Auckland ice cream mix was supplied to Camp Tui, a beach rest centre on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands, where an ice cream plant had been installed for the use of RNZAF servicemen on leave from the fighting.

Advertisement for Tip Top Ice Cream in the Auckland Star, October 1944:


One of the recorded strange facts of this war is the authentic story of jungle fighters in the Solomons enjoying cooling, refreshing Ice Cream. The Ice Cream mix was supplied by the Tip Top Ice Cream Company, whose products are so well known to Aucklanders, and was completed "on the spot" by the Allied canteen authorities. The comment was made that ''although the fighters achieved both tasks satisfactorily, licking the Tip Top Ice Cream was a much more enjoyable matter than licking the foe." Needless to say, both were "licked" thoroughly. Aucklanders agree that as an energy builder as well as a morale builder, Tip Top Ice Cream is unequalled.

Initially, Len Malaghan had a third of the shareholding of the Auckland operation and travelled regularly between the two factories. He designed the original Auckland factory layout and supervised manufacture until sufficient staff were trained to carry on. Particulars of every mix were sent to Len in Wellington by telegram and he worked on formulations.

However, as the Auckland business grew, Bert Hayman wanted to raise more funds for expansion by forming a public company. Len didn't agree, and they decided to go their separate ways.

Shareholdings were re-arranged so that Len retained the Wellington business, which stayed a private company, and Bert took over the Auckland business.

1947 - Tip Top Auckland became a Public Company, with a capital of £105,125.

The two businesses were run quite separately for the next 15 years, although each retained the Tip Top name and continued to exchange ideas, new formulas, flavours, plant data and research information.

An agreement was drawn up limiting the Auckland company's activities to the upper half of the North Island, while the Wellington company could operate in the lower half of the North Island and the South Island. The demarcation line was 50 miles north of New Plymouth, north of Waiouru, and north of Hick's Bay.

Both businesses expanded aggressively through the late 40s and into the 50s.

1949 - Tip Top Auckland was listed on the Stock Exchange.

Tip Top Wellington built a South Island factory in Nelson and had distribution points set up in Blenheim, New Plymouth, Hawera, Stratford, Wanganui, Palmerston North, Dannevirke, Hastings, Napier, Waipukurau, Wairoa and Masterton.

Len was also behind the company's first refrigerated trucking operation which became Refrigerated Freight Lines Ltd.

Tip Top Milk Bar, Upper Hutt, 1949.

Tip Top advertising on tram, Queen St, Auckland, 1949.
- Alexander Turnbull PAColl-7171-06

In the early 1950s the manufacturing side of both Tip Top businesses went from strength to strength .

Tip Top (Auckland) staff loading freshly-filled cans into a blast freezer, Dunkerron Ave.  
factory, 1950's.

- Sparrow Industrial Pictures Ltd, Auckland War Memorial Museum online collection.
                 Ref. PH-NEG-SP-2914[i].

Tip Top vehicles outside the Dunkerron Ave.  factory, ca. 1948.
- Tip Top archives.

Tip Top (Auckland) signwriters, Dunkerron Ave.  factory, 1950's.
- Sparrow Industrial Pictures Ltd, Auckland War Memorial Museum online collection.
Ref. PH-NEG-SP-2914[iii].

As the two Tip Tops became more efficient and more powerful, many small producers either went out of business, merged, or were taken over, absorbed into one or other of the two companies. The Auckland business was particularly aggressive in pursuing takeovers.

Tip Top became by far the country's largest ice cream brand.

It wasn't just the provinces that Tip Top had in its sights - in 1950 Tip Top Ice Cream Company (Auckland) Ltd, under Bert Hayman, launched a new ice cream business in Melbourne, Australia, Toppa Ice Cream Ltd.

 Toppa ice cream carton, 1950s.
- Ephemera Society of Australia Inc.

More of the Toppa story ...

Tip Top Ice Cream steel advertising sign, early 1950s.
The cartoon character was known as "Toppy"; Daisy was the brand of Daisy Cones Ltd, est. 1948.
 - Steve Williams.

1950 - Tip Top Auckland took over Royal Ice Cream, Thames.

With its greater economies of scale, Tip Top was able to invest in the technology to produce more sophisticated water ice and ice cream stick novelties. One of the earliest was the Topsy , a chocolate-coated vanilla ice cream on a stick, reputedly named after one of Len's favourite cows.

1951 - the classic Kiwi stick ice cream, the Jelly Tip was born. Creamy Tip Top vanilla ice cream on a stick, tipped with a raspberry flavoured jelly, and coated with chocolate, selling for sixpence.

Tip Top Auckland purchased Frostee in Fiji.

15 ton Leyland truck, refrigeration by McAlpine, 1951.
- Frostee Digest.

1952 - Tip Top Auckland merged with Peters Ice Cream Co. (N.Z.) Ltd, Auckland.

1953 - Tip Top Auckland merged with the Robinson Ice Cream Company Ltd, one of its largest Auckland competitors, and as a result came to own the rights to manufacture the popular Eskimo Pie.

Read more about the Eskimo Pie story.

In 1953, Tip Top Wellington opened a new factory in Johnsonville on 4 1/2 acres of freehold land. The processing area was built to Len Malaghan's own design and featured many innovative technologies and efficiencies. Freon replaced ammonia in the freezers and churns, allowing automation of the process, and plate heat exchangers were used for pasteurisation and ice banks for chilling.

Filling ice cream cartons in the new Tip Top Johnsonville factory.
Still taken from the short film, "From Cow to Cone: The Tip Top Story", 1955.
- Nga Taonga Sound & Vision.

At this time Miss Joyce Treloar, Len's trusted financial advisor, became a shareholder in the Wellington business.

1954 - Tip Top launched the Strawberry Toppa - vanilla ice cream on a stick, coated with a shell of strawberry water ice.

By now Tip Top (Auckland) was operating in North Auckland, Auckland, Waikato, Victoria, Tasmania, Fiji, Samoa, Niue and Tonga, and was selling into the Chatham Islands.

Tip Top display promoting the serialised "radio space thriller" Rocky Starr , ca. 1955. Flavours shown
include Vanilla, Neapolitan, Rainbow, Orange Ripple, Raspberry Ripple, Dandy Candy.
- Tip Top archives.

1955 - Tip Top launched the TT2 "ice-lolly" on a stick (ice block). Legend has it that the name 'TT2' came from the numbering system used for trial recipes in Tip Top's product development process - TT stood for 'Tip Top', and it was recipe No.2! The original TT2 expanded into a whole range of stick ices.

Tip Top Auckland's Dunkerron Ave factory, 1956 (Whites Aviation)
- Alexander Turnbull WA-42756.

Tip Top van salesman Ray Rinsma on deliveries with truck #17, Whakatane, 1956.
- Ed Rinsma.

1956 - Tip Top Auckland's frozen foods subsidiary, General Foods (N.Z.) Ltd. obtained the rights to distribute Wattie's frozen foods (produced by J. Wattie Canneries Ltd).

The following year (1957), Tip Top Auckland began merger discussions with J. Wattie Canneries. )The merger didn't take place until 31 years later, when Tip Top was part of the Goodman Fielder group, which merged with Watties to form Goodman Fielder Wattie).

1958 - Tip Top Auckland merged with the McDonald Ice Cream Manufacturing Co. Ltd, based in Hamilton.

1959 - Bert Hayman and his Managing Director Frank Orr continued their aggressive moves into frozen foods. Firstly they took over a Nelson frozen vegetable processor Quick Frozen Foods Ltd. and, later in the year, took a controlling interest in the Dunedin Ice Cream Manufacturing Co. Ltd (Royal brand).

Both moves helped expand frozen foods distribution in the South Island - the latter company owned a Wattie's frozen foods distribution franchise. A new parent company was set up to cover both ice cream and frozen foods businesses - General Foods Corporation (New Zealand) Ltd.

General Foods began to sell frozen beans and peas under the Tip Top brand.

Detail from Tip Top Frozen Foods double-sided metal footpath sign, ca. 1959.
Packs of Tip Top frozen beans and frozen peas.
"The Frozen Food of the Nation" - "Grown in sunny Nelson, N.Z."
(Ice cream was advertised on the reverse of the sign - " Tip Top - it's Creamier!") .

- jessiesmum.

1960 - The Auckland company's moves to expand into the South Island had upset the long-standing territorial agreement with Tip Top Ice Cream Company (the Wellington-based business), and created some tension between the two companies. Discussions began on how to resolve the situation.

The Wellington and Auckland Tip Top ice cream businesses merged on the 1st of May 1960 as part of General Foods Corporation (NZ) Ltd, which now had Bert Hayman as Chairman, and Len Malaghan as Managing Director. As well as reuniting the founding partners and their burgeoning businesses, the merger opened the way to national distribution, which was achieved within four years.

That same year, General Foods acquired Apex Ice Cream Co. Ltd., giving the company a larger South Island manufacturing base, using Apex's factory at 100 Durham St, Christchurch.

Earlier that year, Apex had merged with Top Notch Delicacies, Christchurch's third-largest ice cream producer.

1961 - General Foods took over the Lucky Ice Cream Co. Ltd. of Westport.

Tip Top Johnsonville factory, ca. 1960.
- Tip Top archives.

Cream tanker, ca. 1960.
- Tip Top archives.

Delivery vehicles, New Plymouth depot, 1961.
- Tip Top archives.

Photo: Tip Top TV advertising shot, take home pack, 1961.
- Tip Top Ice Cream. K E Niven and Co: Commercial negatives. Ref: 1/2-213213-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Tip Top display in a Dairy & Milk Bar window, early 1960s.
- Tip Top archives.

In 1962, General Foods built what was at the time the Southern Hemisphere's largest and most advanced ice cream factory, at a cost of NZ$700,000.

The Mt Wellington Tip Top factory under construction, 21 Aug 1962. Whites Aviation Ltd.
- Ref: WA-58315-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Tip Top Mt Wellington, Auckland factory grand opening, 21 November 1962.
- Tip Top archives.

Prime Minister Keith Holyoake (centre) with iceblock, factory opening, 21 November 1962.
- Tip Top archives.

Frank Orr, Managing Director of General Foods Corp., and Bob Fyfe, General Manager.
- Frostee Digest.

The Prime Minister Right Hon. Keith Holyoake attended the grand opening ceremony on 21st November 1962, along with 600 guests.

The Tip Top factory included staff houses and 20 acres of farm land overlooking a bend in Auckland's Southern motorway. Over time, the Tip Top factory became a New Zealand landmark, known to generations as 'Tip Top Corner'.

1963 - General Foods acquired Supreme Frozen Products and Supreme Ice Cream Co. Ltd., a frozen vegetable processor and ice cream manufacturer based in Timaru.

And that year, General Foods purchased a six acre site on Blenheim Road in Christchurch, for the construction of a planned new South Island factory.

1964 - General Foods made an offer for the Crystal Ice Co. Ltd, based in Dunedin, owners of the Dunedin Ice Cream Manufacturing Co. (Crystal and previously Royal brands), Rices Ice Cream Co., Invercargill, and Southland Ice Cream Co., Invercargill. The Crystal group had just completed the acquisition of Newjoy Ice Cream Ltd., and only the previous year had taken over Rosco Ice Cream Ltd. (operations in Hamilton, Auckland, and Palmerston North), so this was a major expansion for General Foods and consolidation of Tip Top's dominance in the market.

By 1964, Tip Top had achieved full national distribution.

A colour documentary film, "All About Ice Cream" was produced, showing extensive footage inside the new Tip Top Mt Wellington Auckland factory, and a range of products being manufactured and distributed around the country, and up into the Pacific Islands:

"All About Ice Cream" (1964) Robert Steele Productions - Nga Taonga Sound & Vision.

Seven-lane Gram stick novelty machine, Tip Top Mt Wellington factory, 1964.
Still from the documentary film, "All About Ice Cream", Robert Steele Productions.
- Nga Taonga Sound & Vision

1964 - Tip Top launched the Tip Top Trumpet, its version of the European cornetto-style, waffle-coned ice cream sundae with nuts and chocolate. The original Trumpet sold for 1 shilling (1/-), and came with an extensive advertising campaign, including one of our very early TV advertisements.

More about the very first Tip Top Trumpet.

1965 - General Foods took over Christchurch's Perfection Ice Cream Co. Ltd (inventors of the Joy Bar).

As well as it's own brand, Perfection was by then one of several regional manufacturers making and selling Gaytime ice cream - Gaytime seems to have been a collaborative effort to establish a national brand. Gaytime was kept alive by Tip Top for another six years at least, and the Gaytime Goldmine stick ice cream novelty probably became the Tip Top Gaytime.

1965 - Tip Top opened its new factory in Fiji.

Tip Top Fiji delivery truck and staff (ca. 1970).
- Tip Top archives.

Tip Top product range poster, ca. 1965: Pint, Quart, Tub, Sundae, Party Loaf, Slice,
Gaytime, Topsy, Toppa, T.T.2.
- Steve Williams

Around this time, Tip Top took over Auckland's Eldora Ice Cream Co. Ltd, which was also manufacturing ice cream under the Gaytime brand.

1966 - Len and Ann Malaghan made a donation of 100,000 General Foods Corp shares to the Wellington Institute of Cancer and Medical Research. Len had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease in 1962. The Institute was later re-named the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research in his honour.

25 December 1967 - Len Malaghan, co-founder of Tip Top, passed away at his Khandallah home, aged 61.

1968 - General Foods (Tip Top) opened its new South Island ice cream factory on Blenheim Road in Christchurch.

New General Foods Tip Top factory, Blenheim Rd, Christchurch, November 1968.
Wattie's, Gaytime, Tip Top and Bluebird delivery trucks in the foreground.
- Christchurch Star | Christchurch City Librarie.

The same year, General Foods Corporation (NZ) merged with J. Wattie Canneries Ltd and Cropper-NRM to form Watties Industries Ltd.. Tip Top became part of the Watties Frozen Foods division.

1969 - A new high rise freezer with a 70 foot stud was built at Tip Top Johnsonville, with glass insulation throughout and incorporating a new system of palletised stacking and loading.

1972 - Albert Edward Hayman, co-founder of Tip Top passed away at the age of 79.

Tip Top Johnsonville factory, with women workers, 1972 (Evening Post photo).
- Alexander Turnbull Library - 1/4-021010-F

General Foods Corp (NZ) Ltd Wairoa depot, 1970s.
- Tip Top archives.

Tip Top novelty range poster, 1970s.
- Steve Williams.

- Tip Top archives.

Tip Top R2D2 novelty wrapper.
- Steve Williams.

1978 - Tip Top R2D2 was launched; New Zealand's biggest ice cream block-buster, from Star Wars' heyday.

Last tram to Hataitai, 19 September 1979
- Tip Top archives.

1980 - Tip Top acquired the Wall's ice cream brand and business from Rangitaiki Plains Dairy Co., effectively absorbing its largest competitor. The Crofters frozen cheesecake operation was also part of this acquisition. Tip Top continued to market Wall's as a secondary brand for a few years, eventually allowing it to lapse.

Tip Top FruJu poster, 1980s.
- kiwigame

Tip Top sales staff, 1980s
- Tip Top archives.

1984 - New American Ice Cream launched the legendary Goody Goody Gum Drops ice cream flavour. It would later become part of the Tip Top ice cream range.

1985 - Supermodel Rachel Hunter appeared for the first time on television at (only just) 16 years of age in the famous 'VW Beetle' advertisement for Tip Top Trumpet.

Tip Top Trumpet 'Beetle' TV advert, 1985.

Tip Top Trumpet poster, ca. 1990.

November 1987 - Watties Industries merged with trans-Tasman food group Goodman Fielder Ltd to create Goodman Fielder Wattie Ltd.

Tip Top Christchurch factory, Blenheim Road, ca. 1990
- Christchurch Star | Christchurch City Libraries.

1991 - The Tip Top Christchurch plant was given a major upgrade to cope with increased export demands, and to meet the standards and requirements of (in particular) the Japanese market. The plant was optimised for the production of high-value, small-pack, super-premium ice cream made under extremely strict hygiene standards. Brands manufactured under contract included Lady Borden.

Tip Top Paradiso.

October 1992 - the H.J. Heinz Company of Pittsburgh, USA, purchased the Wattie’s group of companies (including Tip Top) from Goodman Fielder.

April 1997
- Tip Top was purchased (from Heinz Watties) by a West Australian food processor, Peters & Browne's Foods. This merger of Peters & Browne's and Tip Top created the largest independent ice cream business in the Southern Hemisphere with combined sales of $550 million.

Shortly afterwards, Tip Top purchased the New American factory in Otahuhu, and closed it down, transferring equipment to its Auckland and Fiji operations. By then, New American was Tip Top's largest competitor in the New Zealand market so Tip Top was refused permission by the Commerce Commission to purchase the whole New American business.

New American's owners, United Dairy, by then a wholly owned subsidiary of New Zealand Cooperative Dairy Company Limited (NZCDC), continued to own and distribute New American brand take home ice cream, with Tip Top being the contract manufacturer and packer.

September 1997 - Tip Top Memphis Meltdown Gooey Caramel was launched, a technical world-first for Tip Top ice cream technologists, a "triple-dipped" premium ice cream stick novelty with a caramel sauce layer between double-coatings of real chocolate. The technology was patented in the US.

On the 18th June 2001 Tip Top Ice Cream became part of Fonterra Co-operative Group after Fonterra purchased the Peters and Browne's Foods Business.

The New Zealand dairy industry now had control of the country's largest ice cream manufacturer, with factories in Auckland, Christchurch and Perth.

September 2005 - Kapiti Fine Foods' brand new $10m ice cream factory in Palmerston North was commissioned, the first in Australasia to use revolutionary new low temperature churning technology. Just two months later, Fonterra announced that it had agreed to acquire Kapiti from its owners, Foodstuffs Wellington and United Milk.

2007 - Tip Top closed its Christchurch export plant with the loss of 70 jobs. Chief executive Ray O'Connor explained that demand from Japan had fallen and that the plant would have needed more than $13 million spent on it over the next five years, whereas a $40 million upgrade of the Auckland plant was near completion.

2010 - Tip Top produced what was believed to be the world's first novelty ice cream wrapped in marshmallow, Memphis Meltdown Rocky Road.

A team of 100 people spent more than 2,000 man hours and went through 12,500 litres of pink marshmallow before finally coming up with the final product, a chocolate ice cream rippled with raspberry jelly, dipped in pink marshmallow, and smothered in chocolate, nuts and coconut - on a stick.

In 2010, Tip Top Ice Cream embarked on a $40 million project to enhance its product development capabilities and improve its working environment including a raft of new health and safety measures and extensive renovations at Tip Top Corner.

In 2011, Tip Top celebrated its 75th anniversary, with the original Trumpet girl Rachel Hunter, and various promotions including a free giveaway of 50,000 Jelly Tips.

November 2011 - In an ironic twist, Fonterra Brands, the parent company of Tip Top Ice Cream, won an appeal in court against a trademark registration by the owners of Dunedin's Tiptop Cafe.

Located on the corner of the Octagon, the Tip Top Cafe had been an institution in Dunedin for 75 years. Operated as the Sunshine Milk Bar by Albert Hayman, it became one of the original Tip Top milk bars in 1936, when Hayman's new Wellington milk bar venture with business partner Len Malaghan, Health Foods (NZ) Ltd, took it over.

The business had been renamed Tiptop Cafe and had moved five doors down the road, in Princes St, in 2007.

The site of the original Tip Top Milk Bar in the Octagon is now occupied by the Alibi Bar.

- Tip Top .

17 July 2012 - Tip Top Ice Cream celebrated the conclusion of a two-year, $40 million site modernisation project, with a dawn lighting up of its new look building on Tip Top corner (above). Once known for its rainbow stripes, the building now sports a fresh new look characterised by 600m2 of glass walls.

Rachel Hunter, whose big break came in 1985 following her starring role in a Trumpet television commercial, assisted with lighting up the transformed building before dawn.

To share the building's makeover with New Zealand, Tip Top ran a Facebook competition to give away a day of magic moments in Auckland for one lucky winner. The winner, Christchurch's Shirley-Ann Griffiths and her children Anna (10) and Liam (12), joined in the celebration to switch on Tip Top corner's lights for the first time.

Tip Top's annual production was now 35 million litres of ice-cream; 106 million ice blocks and 14 million Trumpets. Tip Top Corner filled more than 11 million tubs of ice cream every year - the site's two lines could make up to 45 two litre tubs per minute.

Tip Top's three most popular flavours were french vanilla, vanilla and hokey pokey.

Tip Top container kiosk, 2015.
- Retail Dimension.

2016 - Tip Top launched its new Top Notch range, reviving an old Christchurch ice cream brand that dates back to the 1930s, courtesy of Tip Top's takeover of the Apex Ice Cream Co. in 1960.

- Tip Top .

2016 was also the year that Tip Top celebrated the company's 80th birthday with a new flavour, 80,000 giveaway ice creams each month, and $2 Trumpets.

- Tip Top .

Whites Dairy, Devonport, long famous for scooping Auckland's biggest ice creams,
receives a visit from the Tip Top delivery man, February 2016.
- Chris Newey.

13 May 2019 - Tip Top was sold by Fonterra to Froneri, a joint venture between PAI Partners and Nestle, for $380 million. Froneri is the second-largest manufacturer of ice cream in Europe. Froneri stated that the Tip Top name and its operations, including the Auckland factory site at Mount Wellington, will be maintained.

- Tip Top .

November 2019 - Tip Top Boysenberry Ripple won the Supreme Award for Large Manufacturers at the NZ Ice Cream Awards for the fifth time, an amazing feat for a Standard category scoop and take-home ice cream, up against premium and super-premium products. A classic flavour and family favourite, showcasing Nelson Boysenberries and Tip Top quality.

March 2020 - Tip Top launched a dream collaboration with another Kiwi icon - the Whittaker's Peanut Slab Chocolate Ice Cream Bar.

- Tip Top .

Today, more than 80 years after the first Tip Top Milk Bar opened in Manners Street, Wellington, Tip Top remains by far New Zealand's largest ice cream manufacturer, responsible for much-loved iconic Kiwi products such as Boysenberry Ripple, Goody Goody Gum Drops, TT2, Topsy, Strawberry Toppa, Traffic Light, Trumpet, FruJu, Jelly Tip, Choc Bar, Rocky Road, Joy Bar, Eskimo Pie, Vanilla Slice, Kapiti Ice Cream, Memphis Meltdown, Paradiso, Slushy and Popsicle.

Tip Top favourites - Rocky Road, Jelly Tip, FruJu, Choc Bar.
- Tip Top

- Chris Newey.

Special thanks to Steve Flynn for his assistance and encouragement in preparing this history.

Thanks to Steve and others at Tip Top for giving access to the company's archives and permission to publish images - Minna Reinikkala, Susanna Mayer, Stephanie Hague, Nick Annear and Mel McKenzie.

Thanks also to Steve Williams, Ed Rinsma, Michael Yalland, Darian Zam, jessiesmum and kiwigame for permission to reproduce images from their personal collections.

Other references and related sites:

Christchurch Star Archive, Christchurch City Libraries

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography - Leonard Aloysius Patrick Malaghan

Tip Top New Zealand - Tip Top archives.

Longwhitekid - history of Peter Pan, Tip Top, Meadow Gold, Wall's, Hokey Pokey, and much more:

Nga Taonga Sound & Vision

Papers Past (National Library of New Zealand digitised newspapers database):

"The Early Tip Top Story" - Tip Top archives.

"The Frostee Digest" archives, NZICA.

"Who's Who in the New Zealand Ice Cream Industry" - "The Frostee Digest" archives, NZICA.

BackBack to Ice Cream Brands from the Past.
                   The Tip Top Logo

In the beginning, both Wellington and Auckland businesses used a plain, capitalised TIP TOP, without a hyphen.

The earliest appearance of the iconic scripted Tip-Top logo form that we have found is this sign in the window of a Hawke's Bay Tip Top Milk Bar, around 1938:

A similar version appeared on the hats of the girls serving behind the counter.

The logo in this Upper Hutt Tip Top Milk Bar advertisement from December 1940 looks even more familiar, now with hyphen:

By 1947 the logo had thickened somewhat, looking very close to the 'classic' version, however Tip Top (Auckland) have added "quotation marks":

In 1952, this logo appeared on a children's game, without the 'dash':

Later in the '50s, the lettering thickened even more, and the 'dash' re-appeared:

Some versions around 1960 added an extra amount of scroll to the foot of the "T"s, and retained the quotation marks:

Around 1967, a stylised rosette was wrapped around the words "Tip-Top":

In the early 80s, the blue container was expanded to include the by-line "IT'S CREAMIER", later changed to "REALICECREAMIER".

Around about 1987, a complete re-design took place, modifying and condensing the script typography, and adding a white swirl device on a rainbow background:

The swirl sometimes took on a life of its own (2007):

Around 2007-2008 the swirl was re-designed and the rainbow colours incorporated into it - the typography was also tweaked:

The logo, or sometimes just the swirl, was placed on a rounded triangular white background:

In 2010 there was another subtle change to the typography, and the swirl was moved to the end of the lettering:

In 2018 the swirl grew in size and a background 'wave' was added:

                   Tip Top Trumpet

One of New Zealand's most famous TV commercials, the 1985 Tip Top Trumpet "VW Beetle" ad', helped launch the career of super model Rachel Hunter.

Trumpet ad's have become a part of Kiwi culture over the years.
Read more about the evolution of the Trumpet ad's...

                             The first
     Tip Top Trumpet TV ad'

21 years before that famous "VW Beetle" ad, the first-ever Tip Top Trumpet TV advert starred another soon-to-be-famous Kiwi.

Read more about the first Trumpet ad' ...

                     The Eskimo Pie

Invented in the United States in 1920, the Eskimo Pie was the world's very first ice cream novelty, a chocolate-covered vanilla ice cream bar wrapped in foil. It was a raging success and the invention was patented by the Eskimo Pie Corporation in 1922 and franchised to other ice cream manufacturers around the world.

Robinson Ice Cream Company of Auckland was manufacturing Eskimo Pies by 1925:

Robinson's eskimo pies. 1925
Robinson's Eskimo Pies. 1925. Reference Number: Eph-B-CONFECTIONERY-1925-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Tip Top Ice Cream Company Auckland picked up the license to manufacture the product and use the famous name, probably when they took over Robinson's some time during the 1950s.

It became a mainstay of Tip Top's novelty range, and after 90 years, the Eskimo Pie is still going strong.

Read more about the Eskimo Pie story.

The Joy Bar

New Zealand's iconic Joy Bar was invented in Christchurch in 1948 by the clever people at the Perfection Ice Cream Company.

Perfection Ice Cream Co. Joy Bar, 1961.
 - Tip Top archives.

The product was a huge hit, and when Tip Top took over Perfection Ice Cream Co. in the late '60s, they kept it going.

Although discontinued for several years, Tip Top re-launched the Joy Bar in 2006, as part of their 70th anniversary celebrations, and they are still on the market today.

Read more about the Joy Bar story.

Help Us Tell the Story

- Jessiesmum

If you can fill in any gaps in our history of Tip Top ice cream, please drop us a line:

I remember a Tip Top item called Fro Fudge. Frozen fudge on a stick. Circa 1955.

I don't think there is anything that can compare with it these days. Or is there?

- Ian Smith.

Copyright © The New Zealand Ice Cream Association (Inc.)
PO Box 9364, Wellington,
Telephone +64 4 385 1410.
Design by FoodWorks