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24 September 2014
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A brief history of Bovril

Known for being British, Bovril should really be known as a Staffordshire thing – we’ve been making it here for nearly 40 years! Here's the facts on the savoury hot drink that warms the hearts and hands of football fans!

Bovril was invented by a Scotsman, John Lawson Johnston, after he won a contract to supply one million cans of beef to the French army in the 1870s. 

The problem was, Britain didn’t have enough meat so Johnston developed the product from beef extract (then known as Johnston's Fluid Beef). 

But by 1888 over 3,000 pubs and grocers were serving it! 

It came to Burton upon Trent in East Staffordshire (where Marmite is also made!) when production was moved from London in 1968. 

It is made as one of Unilever’s food brands, who also have Birds Eye, Marmite and Wall’s on board.

Football fans

Bovril is closely associated with football fans. On the terraces of every football stadium up and down the country, Bovril eases the chill of a winter's afternoon and sometimes the pain of conceding a goal!

Many will also remember that as well as a hot drink (after all, it's what the good old Thermos flask was invented for), the stuff was also for used to make soup and as a spread for toast!

In 2004, the manufacturers acted to stop its long term decline when the 40% beef stock was replaced with savoury yeast mix to make it suitable for veggies. 

International appeal

The drink has international appeal too! Fans of the brand come from as far as Canada and America where people who can’t get hold of it apparently search for a substitute for their favourite taste. 

At the moment it’s actually quite popular in Asia too but that doesn’t do much to promote a Staffordshire brand. 

Next time you’re out doing the shopping, why not pop a bit of Bovril in the trolley and remember why everyone used to love it. 

Maybe someday it will become as much a part of Staffordshire as oatcakes and pottery!

Bovril - did you know?

1. Bovril is stirred into porridge and coffee in Malaysia.
2. The name Bovril comes from a name found in a book by the inventor.
3. In 1909 the first Bovril electric advertising sign was erected in London's Piccadilly Circus.
4. A stand at Rangers Football Club was once renamed the Bovril Stand because of the large and distinctive advertisement displayed on its roof.
5. Bovril collectibles take up quite a few pages on online auction sites and you can expect to make a few quid on any old jars or advertising materials you have for the product.

last updated: 19/10/06
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