This morning at 6:00 a.m. local time (GMT), the last shift finished work at the H. J. Heinz Co.’s plant in Birmingham, England, closing production in England of its famous HP Sauce. Production will be shifted to a plant in the Netherlands.
HP is a vinegar-based sauce, used primarily on breakfast dishes if I understand it correctly. It is not available in the U.S. under that name, or at least, not available widely. I have been unable to get a description of what it tastes like.
HP was registered as a trademark before 1900, in what appears to be a reference to “Houses of Parliament,” where, the creator of the sauce said, it was quite popular. For a time it was called “Wilson’s sauce” after British Prime Minister Harold Wilson. According to a BBC story:
The closure has been opposed by unions and civic leaders but US owners Heinz decided the factory was not viable.
Businesses near to the factory launched a Save Our Sauce campaign and protests were held in Birmingham and outside the American Embassy in London in a bid to get the company to change its plans.
Birmingham City Council leaders met with Heinz managers to try to draw up fresh plans and MPs tried to get HP banned from tables inside the Houses of Parliament as it was no longer “a symbol of Britishness”, but all to no avail.
Production team leader Danny Lloyd, who has worked at the factory for 18 years, said it was “like the bottom had fallen out” of the workers’ worlds.
Heinz markets Heinz 57 sauce in the U.S, primarily intended for beef dishes, and competing with A.1. Sauce, a product now owned by Kraft Food, another monster, conglomerate food marketing organization. Heinz also owns the Lea & Perrins brand, which is famous in the U.S. for British-invented Worcerstershire sauce.
A high school class could make quite a meal of branded foods and sauces once made by small, local companies, now owned by large, global conglomerates.
Update, March 16, 2007: How big is this thing? Courtesy of Paul Groves, check out this link: www.brownsauce.org