Alexander McDougall

1809 - 1899

Inventor of self-raising flour. Born in Coldstream in the Scottish Borders, McDougall struggled as a shoe-maker in Dumfries, He moved to Manchester (England) where he became a school-master. There he was eventually able to achieved his ambition of becoming a manufacturing chemist and in 1864 invented a replacement for yeast as a raising agent for flour. Yeast produces the carbon dioxide necessary for dough to rise, but being a living culture has to be carefully treated and stored. McDougall developed a purely chemical combination of Calcium Phosphate and Sodium Hydrogen Carbonate, which released carbon dioxide when mixed with dough. McDougall and his two sons initially tried to interest bakers in this additive, but success only came when they bought flour and mixed in the self-raising ingredient themselves. Milling became a key part of the business and McDougall's sons built their Manchester Mill and by 1869 had set up the Wheatsheaf Mill in Millwall (London).

McDougall went on to become a respected Manchester alderman and magistrate. He died in Southport.

In 1961, McDougall's company became part of Rank Hovis McDougall (RHM), which today is one of the largest food producers and bakeries in the UK and Ireland, with a turnover exceeding £1.7 billion. RHM owns many leading brands such as Hovis bread, Mr Kipling and Lyons cakes, Sharwood's sauces, Robertson preserves and Bisto gravy. RHM is also major supplier to companies like Marks & Spencer, McDonald's and Pizza Hut. McDougalls flour remains a market-leading brand.

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