HP Sauce
HP Sauce on a bacon sandwich
Product typeBrown sauce
OwnerKraft Heinz (2005–pres.)
Produced byHeinz
Introduced1895; 129 years ago (1895) [1]
MarketsEurope, Canada
Previous owners
  • Frederick Gibson Garton
  • HP Foods (1903–2005)

HP Sauce is an English brown sauce[2] the main ingredients of which are tomatoes and tamarind extract. It was named after London's Houses of Parliament. After making its first appearance on British dinner tables in the late 19th century, HP Sauce went on to become an icon of British culture.[3] It was the best-selling brand of brown sauce in the UK in 2005, with 73.8% of the retail market.[4] The sauce was originally produced in the United Kingdom, but is now made by Heinz in the Netherlands.

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.[5] It is used as a condiment with hot and cold savoury food, and as an ingredient in soups and stews.

The picture on the front of the bottle is a selection of London landmarks including Elizabeth Tower, the Palace of Westminster, and Westminster Bridge.


Frederick Gibson Garton had a grocers and provisions shop on Milton Street, in Nottingham. He was given a recipe for a brown sauce, by one of his suppliers, that had been obtained in India.[citation needed] He used this recipe for the brown sauce in his pickles and sauce factory in New Basford. This was located at the rear of his home in Sandon Street. Its ingredients included vinegar, water, tomato puree, garlic, tamarind, ground mace, cloves and ginger, shallots, cayenne pepper, raisins, soy, flour and salt. Garton registered the name H.P. Sauce in 1895, choosing it because he had heard a rumour that a restaurant in the Houses of Parliament had begun serving it. The sauce bottle labels carried a picture of the Houses of Parliament. This was by no means his only product. He also made Nottingham Sauce, Sandon Sauce, Worcester Sauce, Banquet Sauce, Yorkshire Sauce and Daddies Favourite Sauce, as well as Garton & Co's Indian Chutney.[citation needed]

In 1899 he was unable to settle a debt with his vinegar suppliers, the Midland Vinegar Company of Aston Cross, Birmingham. Edwin Samson Moore of the vinegar company visited his Nottingham premises to settle the matter. The outcome was that Garton handed over the name and recipe for HP Sauce - for just £150.[6] He also had to agree to keep out of the Sauce and Pickles business. The name of GARTON remained on the bottles of HP sauce for many years afterwards but it was The Midland Vinegar Company who profited from the huge sales that were generated. Today HP and Daddies are the two most popular national brands of brown sauce. They can both trace their origins to a tiny premises in Sandon Street, Basford, Nottinghamshire.[citation needed]

For many years[vague] the bottle labels have carried a picture of the Houses of Parliament.[6]

In the United Kingdom, HP Sauce became informally known as "Wilson's gravy" in the 1960s and 1970s, after Mary Wilson, the wife of Prime Minister Harold Wilson, gave an interview to The Sunday Times, in which she said: "If Harold has a fault, it is that he will drown everything with HP Sauce."[7]

Heinz takeover

Signage from the defunct factory in Aston, exhibited at Birmingham's mac gallery in June 2010

The brand passed from the Midlands Vinegar Company[3] to Smedley HP Foods Limited, which was subsequently acquired by a division of Imperial Tobacco, before being sold to the French Groupe Danone SA in 1988 for £199 million.[8]

In June 2005, Heinz purchased the parent company, HP Foods, from Danone.[9] In October of that year the United Kingdom Office of Fair Trading referred the takeover to the Competition Commission,[10] which approved the £440 million acquisition in April 2006.[11]

The HP Sauce factory in 2006

In May 2006, Heinz announced plans to switch production of HP Sauce from Aston in Birmingham to its European sauces facility in Elst, Netherlands, only weeks after HP launched a campaign to "Save the Proper British Cafe". The announcement prompted a call to boycott Heinz products. The move, resulting in the loss of approximately 125 jobs at the Aston factory, was criticised by politicians and union officials, especially as the owner still wanted to use the image of the House of Commons on its bottles. In the same month, local Labour MP Khalid Mahmood brandished a bottle of HP Sauce during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons as part of a protest against the Heinz move. He also made reference to the sauce's popularity with the former Labour Prime Minister Harold Wilson. These plans were confirmed on 23 August 2006[12] and the factory at Aston ceased production on 16 March 2007.[13] A week later a "wake" was held at the location of the factory.[14]

The factory was demolished in the summer of 2007.[15]

The six-acre Aston site was purchased by developer Chancerygate in 2007 at £800,000 per acre; they subsequently sold it for half that price and it now houses a distribution warehouse for East End Foods.[16]


A bottle of Fruity HP Sauce

HP Sauce is available in a range of formats and sizes, including the iconic 9 oz/255 g glass bottle, plastic squeeze bottle, and TopDown bottle.


  1. ^ a b HP Sauce history on Museum of Brands
  2. ^ O'Hara, Christopher B.; Nash, William A. (1999). The Bloody Mary: A Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Most Complex Cocktail. Globe Pequot. p. 87. ISBN 9781558217867.
  3. ^ a b BBC News 9 May 2006 'Great British' sauce heads abroad. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
  4. ^ Authority, Competition (2012). HJ Heinz and HP Foods: A Report on ... – Great Britain: Competition Commission. The Stationery Office. ISBN 9780117036840. Retrieved 1 January 2012.
  5. ^ "HP Brown Sauce". Heinz.
  6. ^ a b Thring, Oliver (4 May 2010). "Consider the brown source | guardian.co.uk". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 7 July 2010.
  7. ^ Hélène Mulholland (13 October 2006). "Ban HP from Houses of Parliament, say MPs". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 22 April 2018.
  8. ^ BBC News Heinz buys HP sauce in £470m deal, 20 June 2005. Retrieved 11 March 2008.
  9. ^ "Heinz buys HP sauce in £470m deal". BBC News. 20 June 2005. Retrieved 7 July 2010.
  10. ^ "Watchdogs probe HP sauce takeover". BBC News. 26 October 2005. Retrieved 7 July 2010.
  11. ^ Terry Macalister (10 May 2006). "HP Sauce to be Holland-ised". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 16 June 2022.
  12. ^ "Staff told of HP factory closure". BBC News. 23 August 2006. Retrieved 7 July 2010.
  13. ^ "Final British bottle of HP sauce". BBC News. 16 March 2007. Retrieved 7 July 2010.
  14. ^ "Mock wake staged in sauce protest". BBC News. 23 March 2007. Retrieved 7 July 2010.
  15. ^ "Demolition of HP factory begins". BBC News. 2 July 2007. Retrieved 7 July 2010.
  16. ^ "M6 CORRIDOR: Lonely road". Logistics Manager. 4 September 2009. Archived from the original on 10 June 2014. Retrieved 25 May 2012. (subscription required)
  17. ^ "Kraft Canada HP Sauces".
  18. ^ IRI Data, 52w/e 26 Jan 8