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  • Writer's pictureRich Honiball

Today in Brand History: Lea & Perrins

In 1837, pharmacists John Lea & William Perrins first commercially manufactured what became known as Worcestershire Sauce. Why the name? Simple. Lea & Perrins were from Worcestershire, England.

Where did the idea come from? Well, Lea & Perrins were asked by Lord Marcus Sandys, the former governor to Bengal, to create a fish sauce from a recipe that he had grown to like in India a couple of years earlier. They were chemists, not chefs, so their first attempts...well, not so good. So they shelved the brew and didn't come back to it for a couple of years (1837). Before tossing it, they tried it again and realized that it matured like wine and was quite unique and tasty.

The pair took over a building next door to their pharmacy in order to start manufacturing larger quantities and started to advertise. One tactic, they tried to get their Worcestershire Sauce on every ship sailing from England, even paying waiters to serve it. The sauce was available on those ships for sail once customers fell in love with the product. Worth noting, while the round bottle may seem typical today, back then sauces were sold in square bottles. Lea & Perrins used pharmacy bottles, which were round.

By 1839, it made its way to the US and John Duncan, a New York businessman, opened a processing plant, imported the ingredients from England and manufactured it exactly according to the English formula. Today the UK version uses malt vinegar while the US version uses white vinegar.

By 1865, Lea & Perrins closed their pharmacy and dedicated their full time and resources to focus on manufacturing and selling Worcestershire Sauce. Which was a good thing as it eventually became a key ingredient to well known concoctions like the Bloody Mary (1921) and the Caesar Salad (1924). The original Caesar Salad did not have anchovies, but rather, a dash of Worcestershire Sauce.

Wor-ces-ter-shire? Wo-chess-ter-shire? Wer-ches-ter? Start the word off by saying “Wooster” and then finish off with “shire.”

Go ahead, practice. I'll wait...


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