The Waitaki Public Libraries are honouring the Oamaru man who invented Pineapple Chunks with a new display, coinciding with a reunion of his family in the North Otago town.
Launching on January 27, the display will celebrate Charles Richard Diver, the chef who invented the original chocolate-covered pineapple treat.
Mr Diver’s grandaughter, Linda Wilson, suggested the display, hoping to give recognition to her grandfather for creating what has become a national icon.
Museum curator Chloe Searle agreed, saying it was a good opportunity to shine a spotlight on local innovation.
“It is an iconic New Zealand lolly – and maybe people don’t realise it’s got that connection to being invented in Oamaru, and is still being made here.”
The display would feature memorabilia lent by the Diver family and items such as old advertisements and signage held within the Waitaki Museum and Archive collection.
Not to be confused with Pineapple Lumps, Mr Diver invented Pineapple Chunks in the 1950s while working at Regina Confections, now known as Rainbow Confectionery.
He was first employed as starch production manager. After rising to the position of confectionery chef, he was given the chance to find a use for excess marshmallow at the end of a production run.
A pineapple-flavoured chocolate fish always had the most marshmallow left over, and Mr Diver came up with the idea of creating a small, flat, chocolate-covered morsel of pineapple-flavoured marshmallow – which became known as Pineapple Chunks.
Mr Diver’s daughter , Nancy Bell, still has the original recipe, which came in handy when Rainbow Confectionery relaunched Pineapple Chunks in 2013, after a 20-year hiatus in their production in Oamaru.
As part of the lolly’s reintroduction, the factory added a picture and blurb about Mr Diver on the packet to acknowledge his responsibility for the iconic treat.
“It was nice Dad got some recognition,” Mrs Bell said.
Mr Diver was also a talented sportsman. He played rugby for the Athletic Rugby Club and North Otago representative team – and once trialled for the All Blacks.
He worked at Regina until he retired in 1970, at age 60. He later moved to Alexandra and died in 1994, aged 84.
Although Mr Diver and his family were forever associated with Pineapple Chunks in Oamaru, they had more deep roots in the North Otago town that next week’s reunion sought to celebrate.
Mrs Bell’s ancestors originally came to New Zealand in 1875 after travelling on a ship named Zealandia for about 100 days.
Oamaru did not have a wharf until 1878 , so upon arrival they were rowed to shore and started a new life in the North Otago town.
Mr Diver was one of 13 children – he had seven sisters and five brothers.
Between them, Mrs Bell and her four siblings had 14 children, 18 grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren.
“I have a lot of presents to buy.”
About 200 to 300 family members attended the last family reunion a few years ago, but Mrs Bell was not convinced there would be such a big turn out this time.