Heinz inherited a major responsibility when it bought HP Foods from French company Danone in 2005. The company manufactured the two most iconic condiments in the UK — Lea & Perrin Worcestershire sauce and HP Sauce. (HP Sauce is an extremely popular brown sauce that is commonly eaten atop traditional British foods.) The latter had been the companies namesake for more than a century and was named for the House of Parliament, as British an institution as tea and crumpets. Britain was probably never going to be happy to have a huge American corporation in control of such a beloved institution — but Heinz also has not made things easy for themselves.
First came the announcement, in 2006, that Heinz was shutting the HP factory in England and moving production to its own factory in Elst, The Netherlands. This led one Minister of Parliament to call for a total boycott of Heinz products in the UK.
But this week brought the even more controversial revelation that Heinz had changed the HP Sauce Recipe for the first time in 116 years. The company said that it had made the move to bring HP sauce in accordance with new government regulations on sodium usage. The sauce was tweaked to reduce sodium levels from 2.1% to 1.3% by weight, more than a third.
British people are furious over the move. Celebrity chef Marco Pierre White, famous for his temper, denounced the recipe change, calling the new HP sauce “disgusting.” The Telegraph practically compares the recipe tweak to a war crime, describing the move as “secretly changing the HP Sauce recipe at 116 years.” The Twitterati are up in arms. Heinz also owns the second-biggest brown sauce brand, Daddies, and has plans to rejigger that recipe as well, leaving salt-loving brown sauce eaters nowhere to turn but generic supermarket varieties.
HuffPost Food is absolutely in support of healthier packaged and fast foods, but there is also something to be said for the traditional. And the best argument we’ve seen for the return “Classic” HP Sauce is pretty convincing: people use condiments very sparingly, so a 38% cut in sodium, on something that people might only eat two tablespoons of, is not going to make a major difference in health.