Sweet as Kiwi lump story

By Rebecca Ryan


Who would have thought that the combination of pineapple, marshmallow and chocolate could combine so sweetly to create a Kiwi favourite?

Not even Charles Richard Diver, the Oamaru man who created them, according to his daughter, Nancy Bell.

The oblong, chewy, pineapple-flavoured sweets covered in chocolate - Pineapple Lumps, or Chunks as they were first known - were invented in 1952 by Diver.

They are part of the fabric of Kiwi culture and their story began in Oamaru.

Diver was born in Oamaru in 1910, but was raised at Enfield. He was one of 13 children, six boys and seven girls, in the Diver family who were well-known in Enfield through their father, John, the manager of the local cream factory.

His daughter has described him as a modest man who rarely complained. It wasn't until a family reunion recently that his children learned their father almost died aged 8 after he was hit by a train at the Waireka crossing in a horse and cart.

"His mother and another family member were hit, but he never did complain about headaches. Somebody said the other day he had bad headaches, but we had no idea," she says. "He spent quite a time in hospital. They didn't expect him to live, but we never knew, it was just when we had a family reunion that it all came out how injured they actually were."

Diver started work as a cook for a threshing mill, touring around the country for his job. He married Ivy Doran in 1934, and soon after moved to Oamaru's South Hill where he worked at Awamoa Park thrashing weeds, then early shifts as a baker.

However, his wife struggled to look after five children while he slept at irregular hours, so he found work at Alliance Textiles before buying a dairy in the South Hill shopping centre.

Diver was a talented sportsman. "He was good at all sports - rugby, athletics, sprinting, tennis, table tennis, you name it," Bell says. "He was much better at table tennis and rugby. He trialled for the All Blacks, he played in Probable vs Possible games for them but didn't get into the final squad."

In Oamaru, he played for the Athletic Rugby Club and North Otago representative team.

Meanwhile, Julius Romison, a Jewish immigrant, had begun running a successful confectionery-manufacturing business in Dunedin. As business grew, Romison built a two-storied factory in Great King St and opened three shops in Dunedin. Romison died in 1935 and the business, J Romison and Company, was put up for tender.

In 1937, Jack McNamara, backed by a group of Dunedin investors, acquired the plant and recipes, and established Romison's Confectionery, later known as Regina Confections. The name came from the Regina brand that was being used by the company to describe the soft caramels and chocolate fruit, which were highly regarded throughout the country. In 1949, McNamara moved the business to the existing Thames Highway site in Oamaru.

Diver was employed as starch production manager at Regina Confectionery when the factory was first established in Oamaru.

Every day, without fail, he would bring the rejected marshmallow sweets home in his lunchbox.

"When he brought the leftovers home, for a start we loved it, all of these wonderful sweets," Bell says. "It was just little bits and pieces, but after living for God-knows-how-many years on the marshmallow, I can't face it anymore."

Diver enjoyed his job and, after rising to the position of confectionery chef, was given the chance to find a use for excess marshmallow at the end of a production run.

A pineapple-flavoured marshmallow chocolate fish always had the most marshmallow left over at the end of a production run, and Diver came up with the idea of creating a small, flat, chocolate-covered morsel of pineapple-flavoured marshmallow.

But it wasn't until after Diver died, in Alexandra in 1994, that Pineapple Chunks really took off.

"It wasn't a really big deal, the Pineapple Chunks, it was just another manufacturing line. There was a lot of things that Regina sold, it was a big business," Bell says.

"It was just something to do with the leftovers. They had wine gums, jelly beans and all of that as well. [Pineapple Chunks] were a good seller, but he had no idea how big it was about to get."

The sweets now go by many different names, but it came as a surprise to the Diver family to hear that the Australians recently tried to stake a claim to the chewy yellow sweet.

Australia's Channel 7 Sunrise television programme offered the lollies to British boy band One Direction among a sample of Australian delicacies, including Vegemite and Tim Tams, with the hosts declaring Pineapple Lumps as "an Aussie delicacy - in Queensland".

From pavlova to Phar Lap, the Australians seem to have a habit of claiming New Zealand cultural cornerstones as their own and, yet again, have wrongfully staked a claim to the Kiwi invention of Pineapple Lumps.

"I was having hysterics, nobody has ever queried Pineapple Chunks," Bell says. "Dad would not be very pleased."

Diver went on to work at Regina until he retired in 1970, at age 60. In 1994, his health deteriorated and he moved to Alexandra where he died, six months later, at the age of 84.

Diver's bagged sweets are now probably best known as Pineapple Lumps bearing the Pascal brand, which would bring a lump to his throat.

They are undoubtedly Kiwi, and it all started on Thames Highway in Oamaru.

- Hamilton News

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf01 at 24 Oct 2014 07:34:47 Processing Time: 515ms