As you drive into Oamaru from the north, you can hardly miss the sight
of a large factory with a rainbow-coloured sign and large images of candies festooned on the façade. This would be the Rainbow Confectionery, a venerable Oamaru institution with a remarkably lengthy and interesting history.
The Rainbow Confectionery traces its lineage to the year 1884, when a Jewish immigrant by the name of Julius Romison began to manufacture sweets in Dunedin. By 1888 he had expanded his operation from his kitchen to a two-storey factory, and had no fewer than three retail shops. His product was of such high quality, that at the 1890 Dunedin Exhibition he won the top prize for confectionery, thus establishing his reputation throughout the country.
In 1946, a decade or so after Mr Romison’s death, the name of the company was changed to Regina Confections, and in 1949 the business was relocated from Dunedin to its current site in Oamaru. During the following decades, a number of new products were created at the Regina plant, including the now-iconic Kiwi classic, Pineapple Chunks.
After a few challenging years that saw the business sold to Nestlé NZ, the factory was due to be closed in 2001 as Nestlé sought to consolidate its manufacturing, but a number of the original employees decided to take the business over and continue operations independently. Today the factory does a booming business, selling traditional New Zealand sweets across the country, including the pineapple chunks, gummy airplanes, Irish moss, and more. The factory shop sells the entire range, including seconds that are not deemed suitable for normal trade, but whose flavour is first-rate. During Christmas and Easter, they also produce holiday-themed treats that are always popular with children (and the children at heart!).