HP Sauce: The Sticky Story Behind the UK’s Favorite Brown Sauce


When you think of food in the UK, the first thing that comes to mind is probably how, well, Brown All is. It may seem strange to Americans, but that’s no coincidence: while the UK is known for its meaty dishes, the prevalence of color in British cuisine also speaks for the country’s enduring love affair with brown sauces. And in the realm of brown sauces, HP Sauce is number one.

The controversial origins of the HP sauce

Fans of HP Sauce compare it to a taste bomb: it’s a little bit sweet, just a little bit spicy, and undeniably hearty. But the roots of this typically British spice are controversial. The original recipe was developed by Frederick Gibson Garton, a grocer based in Nottingham, England, according to the company. It is said that he made the first batch at his pickling factory at 47 Sandon Street in New Basford sometime in the 1890s (although other sources state them as early as 1884) by making tomatoes, dates, molasses, rye flour, tamarind, and others Spices mixed with malt vinegar and brandy vinegar to create its robust taste and texture.

When Garton used the bottled spice as a trademark, he initially called it “The Banquet Sauce”. Legend has it that when he learned that it was being served in a restaurant in the Houses of Parliament, he renamed it “Garton’s HP Sauce” in 1895 as a tribute, “HP” standing for “House of Parliament”.

But there’s more than one backstory to how this brown sauce came about. Another theory claims that the spice was originally made by David Hoe, a man from the village of Bottesford, Leicestershire, in the 1840s and 50s. It is speculated that he later sold the recipe to Garton, who later referred to it as his own invention. Another story claims that a man named Harry Palmer made the spice in the 1880s and sold it as Harry Palmer’s famous bitter sauce. But Palmer, a gambling addict, eventually sold the recipe to Garton to cover his rising debt. In this version Garton kept “HP” in the name as an ode to the author of the sauce. (This version of the story has been highly controversial.)

What we do know is that Garton ran into money problems in 1903 that forced him to sell his trademark and recipe to Edwin Samson Moore, founder of the Midlands Vinegar Company, a Birmingham-based malt vinegar factory, for £ 150 (worth.) for sale approximately £ 19,000 or USD 26,000 in today’s currency, adjusted for inflation). The new owners brought the sauce back on the market, removing Garton’s name but keeping the “HP” and adding the now iconic lithographic image of the Houses of Parliament to the label, with Victoria Tower and Big Ben prominently featured.

The cultural significance of the HP sauce

During the food shortages caused by World War I and later World War II, HP Sauce was marketed to give a little pep on leftovers and inferior cuts of meat, which made it an integral part of the dining table in the mid-20th century. And it wasn’t enough for the sauce to have a place in cupboards across the nation – it soon started popping up in every corner of British culture. In 1940, John Betjeman – later named UK Poet Prize Winner from 1972 until his death in 1984 – paid homage to the condiment in the poem “Lake District”: “For me, the jump, the lake and the limbs connect alcohol-free wine / And the HP sauce shake again. “

It was nicknamed “Wilson’s Sauce” in the 1960s and 70s after a story by Mary Wilson, a poet and wife of then Prime Minister Harold Wilson The Sunday Times, “If Harold has a mistake, he’ll drown everything in HP sauce.” It was PR gold for both Wilson and the brand itself. Correspondingly outlook Magazine saw it as a sign that Wilson – a member of the British Labor Party – could identify with the country’s working class, a boon to any politician during the election season.

However, copycats are emerging with success, and a number of similar sauces hoping to break into the HP market have hit shelves over the years, the most famous of which is Daddies. Originally called Daddies Favorite when it was launched in 1904, this spicy doppelganger was available at a cheaper price to capitalize on the growing public interest in brown sauces. Another rival, OK Sauce, became the 1911 Festival of Empire exhibit sometime in the late 19th. Like both Daddies and HP, it is still available to this day, although it is mainly found in the Chinese markets based in the UK.

HP Sauce is developing in modern times

To keep up with changing tastes and the variety of palates, HP Sauce has occasionally introduced new variants of its proven formula, starting with HP Fruity from 1969, a preparation that was based on the original tomato and malt vinegar oranges and mango Chutney added base. This variant was soon joined by HP BBQ Sauce, HP Pepper and HP Reduced Salt & Sugar, a health-conscious interpretation of the traditional recipe, which was formulated according to the nutritional guidelines of the British government.

As of 2021, an estimated 28 million bottles of HP Sauce will be consumed each year, according to the company, which says a lot about the spice’s enduring appeal. Over the past century, however, the brand’s ownership has not lasted: in 1998 it was acquired by Groupe Danone SA, a multinational food company based in Paris, and in 2005 it was bought by the Heinz Company for £ 470 million ($ 855 million ).

At the time of the takeover by Heinz, HP Sauce was still being produced in the Aston district of Birmingham, where the Midlands Vinegar Company was based. Following the acquisition, Heinz closed the historic Aston factory and relocated production to Holland, a controversial turnaround that sparked public backlash, including a protest in 2006 and a short-lived boycott of Heinz products in the UK.

Although the cult British brand is now technically made in Holland, it still accounts for around three-quarters of the UK’s brown sauce market, according to data The guard. A 2016 poll found that HP Sauce was the most popular brand among British citizens who voted to leave the European Union (EU). And while Brexit doesn’t seem to have affected the availability of the brown sauce, it resulted in a 21 percent price hike.

How to use HP sauce

HP Sauce is similar to A1 sauce, a popular seasoning in the US that is most commonly used for steaks or burgers. You can use HP Sauce in a similar way, but it’s versatile enough to be incorporated into a variety of other well-known British recipes as well.

Sausage sandwiches are a popular meal in the UK and HP Sauce is widely used to add character to each bite. Cottage pie (also known as shepherd’s pie) is another comfort food dish that the HP sauce can make a huge difference in, especially if you mix it into each layer of ground beef, carrots, onions, and potatoes to let the taste in everything penetrates and gives every ingredient that certain something. You can even add it to Bolognese sauce to add a new twist to an ordinary bowl of spaghetti.

If you’re enjoying a traditional Full English breakfast of sausages, bacon, fried eggs, baked beans, tomatoes and toast, a splash of this brown condiment could be the perfect finish – just try not to get it in your tea (perhaps the only iconic British culinary Treats To Avoid Mixing With HP).

Where to find HP sauce

HP Sauce is available in most supermarkets. You can also find it online at Amazon, where it’s available in 9-ounce bottles and 2-liter containers. Different versions of HP Sauce, such as HP Fruity or HP Honey BBQ Sauce, are also available online. If you want a step-by-step guide on how to make sausage casseroles or other popular dishes with this iconic brown sauce, you can find more tips on the HP Sauce website.

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