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Bringing brown to the masses


The HP Foods that brings you Omelette ‘n’ Chips is most famous in the UK for HP Sauce, the empire’s leading brand of brown sauce. You’re at least as likely to find a bottle of HP Sauce as a bottle of ketchup on your table in the local cafe. I’m not sure what people put it on. I’ve never seen anyone eat it.

It tastes…brown.

Oh, so very brown. Like steak sauce, but without the kick. It’s made out of vinegar and dates and…brown.

Meat sauces and chutneys were popular in England in the 19th Century. Making them was time-consuming and required exotic ingredients, so they were out of the reach of most households.

In the 1890s, grocer Frederick Gibson Garton hawked his own sauces from a hand cart. He registered the name HP in 1896, after he heard a rumor his sauce was served in the dining room of the Houses of Parliament. He sold the name and the recipe to vinegar mogul Edwin Samson Moore, who brought brown to the people in 1903. The launch was delayed in deference to the death of Queen Victoria.

You couldn’t get more British than that if you tattoo’d the Union Jack on your arse while whistling Rule Britannia.

Sadly, HP Sauce has fallen in with Johnny Foreigner in latter days. First the French (Danone) and then the Americans (Heinz). Under Heinz’s’z ownership, production was moved to the Netherlands. Enraged Brits (ha ha! Just kidding. Somewhat shirty Brits) tried to organize a boycott in response, but, thanks to their supine neighbors, HP still accounts for more than 70% of the brown market.

Brown trivia

· At one time, a motorway cut through the middle of the Aston factory, necessitating a vinegar pipeline over the highway
· HP Sauce was known as “Wilson’s Gravy” during the tenure of Labour PM Harold Wilson, after his wife told the Times “If Harold has a fault, it is that he will drown everything with HP Sauce”
· Wilson later admitted it was Worcestershire sauce he slathered on everything
· Which makes much more sense
· Who came up with the slogan “what can brown do for you?”? Seriously, is UPS retarded?
· Between HP Sauce, Daddies Favorite and Heinz 57, the Heinz Corporation has a perilous stranglehold on the British brown trade
· Heinz also makes the most popular and ubiquitous British baked beans
· On their web site, they infuriatingly spell it “baked beanz”
· Ohmigod! I just phoned Britain and got a bean check. They spell it “baked beanz” on the cans, too! How the hell could I have missed that all these years?!
· By never drawing a sober breath in Britain, that’s how

Further reading: Waitrose grocery on the subject. This dude takes his brown sauce a little too seriously. Wiki does brown sauce. The UK Heinz site.

June 6, 2007 — 4:56 am
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