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Doreen Lofthouse, mastermind of Fisherman’s Friends lozenges, leaves £41m fortune behind in will

The philanthropic widow who helped steer a British cough sweet brand towards global success has left behind £41 million to charity after passing away earlier this year.

Doreen Lofthouse, who made her fortune after transforming Fisherman’s Friend from a Lancashire dock-based firm into an international powerhouse sold across 120 countries, passed away aged 91 in March.

In her will, Doreen left more than £300,00 to be shared among her housekeepers, secretaries and gardeners, reports the Sun. She also left behind valuable jewellery to her surviving son’s wife, Linda Lofthouse.

The remainder of her estimated £41million fortune will go to her Lofthouse Foundation, which provides millions of pounds in charitable investments in Fleetwood, Lancashire.

Described as a ‘true pioneer’ by those who knew her, the entrepreneurial genius of Doreen allowed her to reinvest millions into her beloved coastal town, earning her the nickname ‘the Mother of Fleetwood’.

But her impact on the family business was so seismic that the measurements of the aniseed lozenge was modelled on a button on a dress worn by Doreen in 1974. 

Doreen Lofthouse, who made her fortune after transforming Fisherman’s Friend from a Lancashire dock-based firm into an international powerhouse sold across 120 countries, passed away aged 91 in March

Fisherman's Friends were first introduced to Fleetwood by chemist James Lofthouse in 1865 as a remedy for sailors' sore throats. [File picture]

Fisherman’s Friends were first introduced to Fleetwood by chemist James Lofthouse in 1865 as a remedy for sailors’ sore throats. [File picture]

Fisherman’s Friends were first introduced to Fleetwood by chemist James Lofthouse in 1865 as a remedy for sailors’ sore throats.

For the next 100 years, his creation was merely confined to the fishing community of Fleetwood. But then a sparky young girl with bright ideas married into the family. 

Doreen, who left school aged 15 with no qualifications helped launch Fisherman’s Friends towards global stardom – with five billions sweets sold globally each year to the tune of £55m annual revenue.  

The entrepreneurial genius of Mrs Lofthouse allowed her to reinvest millions into her beloved coastal town, earning her the nickname 'the Mother of Fleetwood'

The entrepreneurial genius of Mrs Lofthouse allowed her to reinvest millions into her beloved coastal town, earning her the nickname ‘the Mother of Fleetwood’

After being born in Fleetwood Lancs in 1930, she worked as a clerk in a family-run chemist in the coastal town that was renowned for selling liquorice medicinal remedies to local trawlermen.

Doreen was originally married to Alan Lofthouse, who worked in the family pharmacy. After their divorce, she re-married with Tony Lofthouse, 15 years her junior, in 1976.

Tony was working in the seasonal shops when Doreen arrived on the scene. By all accounts, she had a similar effect to an entire mouthful of Fisherman’s Friend.

‘She saw all these letters from people in Blackburn or Accrington or wherever wanting Fisherman’s Friend, so she got in a car and drove off to these towns and looked for a good shop. 

Doreen Lofthouse: The success story behind Fisherman’s Friends

Fisherman’s Friends were first introduced to Fleetwood by chemist James Lofthouse in 1865 as a remedy for sailors’ sore throats.

For the next 100 years, his liquorice, menthol, eucalyptus oil and capsicum creations were merely confined to the fishing community of Fleetwood. But then a sparky young girl with bright ideas married into the family. 

Her impact on the family business was so seismic that the measurements of the Fisherman’s Friend aniseed lozenge was modelled on a button on a dress worn by Doreen in 1974. 

Doreen Lofthouse, who left school aged 15 with no qualifications joined the business as a clerk, and later helped launch Fisherman’s Friends towards global stardom – with five billions sweets sold globally each year to the tune of £55m annual revenue.  

After working 100-hour weeks with husband Tony, she persuaded national chemist Boots to stock the menthol lozenge to great success.

The business then became an international sensation after Scandinavian countries took a liking to the popular cough sweet.

By 1994, Fisherman’s Friend was Britain’s biggest branded food export to Germany, which would import some 100 million packets a year. 

‘Then she would show the shopkeeper the letters. If he stocked the lozenges, she would send all those people to that shop.’

With the pair working 100-hour weeks, sales soared and production doubled on the lozenge machine in the back room of the family shop in Lord Street.

Then Doreen had a breakthrough. She had persuaded a branch of Boots near Birmingham to stock Fisherman’s Friend and it had performed so well that Boots’ headquarters got in touch.  

Within a handful of years, the business was able to move into a newly converted tram shed, before expanding further with a 20,000sq ft unit in Fleetwood in 1972.

A year later, and UK-based distribution firm Impex Management agreed to supply to the sweet across Scandinavia.

After initial stocks quickly sold out in Norway, orders started piling up from Iceland, Greenland, Sweden and more.  

By the mid-1990s, Fisherman’s Friend was Britain’s biggest branded food export to Germany, which would import some 100 million packets a year. 

Doreen, who was awarded an OBE in 2008, once sent a packet of lozenges to Margaret Thatcher after seeing her coughing in public.

Her family’s impact on the local area is considerable, from a £1.6 million renovation of the local hospital to the £750,000 statue of Eros on the main road into Fleetwood. 

The Lofthouse Foundation also financed the town’s 150th anniversary celebrations, sponsored a new town lifeboat and refurbished a number of public spaces. 

Garry Payne, chief executive of Wyre Council said after her passing: ‘Mrs Lofthouse was a true pioneer of Fleetwood… She was a woman who deeply cared about the town and I thank her for everything she has done.’ 


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