The History of HP Sauce

The History of HP SauceHP Sauce is a brown sauce originally produced by HP Foods in the United Kingdom, now produced by the H. J. Heinz Company in the Netherlands. It was named after London’s Houses of Parliament. Since The History of HP Sauceits first appearance on British dinner tables, HP Sauce has become an icon of British culture.  It was the best-selling brand of brown sauce in the UK in 2005, with 73.8% of the retail market.

HP Sauce has a tomato base, blended with malt vinegar and spirit vinegar, sugars (molasses, glucose-fructose syrup, sugar), dates, cornflour, rye flour, salt, spices and tamarind. It is used as a condiment with hot and cold savoury food, and as an ingredient in soups and stews. It is also popular in Canada, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.

Early history

The original recipe for HP Sauce was invented and developed by Frederick Gibson Garton, a grocer from Nottingham. He registered the name H.P. Sauce in 1895. Garton called the sauce HP because he had heard that a restaurant in the Houses of Parliament had begun serving it.  For many years the bottle labels have carried a picture of the Houses of Parliament. Garton sold the recipe and HP brand to Edwin Samson Moore for the sum of £150 and the settlement of some unpaid bills. Moore, the founder of the Midlands Vinegar Company (the forerunner of HP Foods), subsequently launched HP Sauce in 1903. In 2013, nearly 140 years since it was established, the Midland Vinegar Company Limited returned to the originators family, with Nigel Britton, great great grandson of the founders, now being the owner.

The History of HP SauceThe History of HP SauceThe History of HP Sauce

For many years the description on the label was in both English and French. The factory in Aston, Birmingham, was once bisected by the A38(M) motorway and had a pipeline, carrying vinegar over the motorway, from the Top Yard to the main Tower Road factory site. The Top Yard site was subsequently closed, and vinegar was not brewed on the Aston site during the last few years of production there.

Wilson’s gravy

HP Sauce became known as “Wilson’s gravy” in the 1960s and 1970s after Harold Wilson, the Labour Prime Minister. The name arose after Wilson’s wife, Mary, gave an interview to The Sunday Times in which she claimed “If Harold has a fault, it is that he will drown everything with HP Sauce”.

Heinz takeover

The History of HP SauceThe brand was passed from the Midlands Vinegar Company to Smedley HP Foods Limited, acquired by a division of Imperial Tobacco, then sold to the French Groupe Danone SA in 1988 for £199 million.

In June 2005, Heinz purchased the parent company, HP Foods, from Danone. In October of that year the United Kingdom Office of Fair Trading referred the takeover to the Competition Commission, which approved the £440 million acquisition in April 2006.

Text from Wikipedia