HP Sauce and Frederick Gibson Garton
Innovation is at the Heart of the Midlands, including the invention of HP 'brown'Sauce!
HP Sauce is the best known brand of savoury brown sauce in Britain and no full English breakfast is complete without a generous dollop of it. The original recipe for HP Sauce was invented and developed by Frederick Gibson Garton, a grocer from Nottingham.
Mr Garton, who had a shop in Milton Street, came up with the recipe for the famous sauce in his pickles and sauce factory in New Basford. Its ingredients were vinegar, water, tomato puree, garlic, tamarind, ground mace, cloves and ginger, shallots, cayenne pepper, raisins, soy, flour.
Why is it called HP Sauce?
Garton registered the name H.P. Sauce in 1895 and called the sauce HP because he had heard that a restaurant in the Houses of Parliament had begun serving it. Which is why the bottle labels have carried a picture of the Houses of Parliament ever since. HP Sauce also became known as “Wilson’s Gravy” in the 1960s and 1970s – named after Labour Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. This association arose following an interview given to the Sunday Times by his wife, Mary Wilson, in which she claimed “If Harold has a fault, it is that he will drown everything with HP Sauce”. This additional emphasis on political connection has continued indefinitely, with 2012 issues of satirical current affairs publication Private Eye carrying the title ‘HP Sauce’ for the magazine’s Parliamentary news section.
Why would Garton not have a bottle of HP Sauce in the house?
In 1899 he had a meeting with one of his suppliers whose account he had been slow to settle, Edwin Samson Moore of the Midland Vinegar Company of Aston Cross, Birmingham. To pay his debt, he handed over the name and recipe for HP Sauce - for just £150. But it was worse than that, his agreement with Moore obliged him not only to help develop the product in Birmingham, but to stay out of the sauce and chutney markets.
Mr Garton's name did stay on the bottle for several years, but it would make a fortune for the Birmingham company, not himself. Having realised he had missed out on a fortune, according to his son John, he forbade all talk of HP Sauce, and would not even have a bottle in the house.
Heinz bought HP Sauce for £440 million and it's now made in the Netherlands
By 2005, HP was the biggest brown sauce retailer in Britain with 73.8% of the UK market. In this year, the American food processing company Heinz bought the parent company HP Foods and was approved in April 2006 for the £440 million purchase.
In May 2006, Heinz controversially announced plans to switch production of HP Sauce from the UK to its European facility in the Netherlands. In 2007, production of the sauce at the Aston Cross factory ended after 108 years.
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