/ Food & Drink

Stop meddling with our favourite recipes!

HP sauce

From Twinings tea to KFC, Mars bars to HP Sauce, manufacturers keep changing their recipes, often destroying much-loved products. Would you fight for your favourite recipe, like many others have?

Breakfast on a sunny Saturday morning. A nice pot of tea and a full English breakfast, accompanied with my favourite sauce.

However is my breakfast truly what it seems? It appears the heritage brands we all know and love are changing under our very noses.

Tea Jim – but not as we know it

In April this year tea giant Twinings changed its recipe for Earl Grey adding ‘a dash of lemon and a touch more bergamot’ to the teabags. There was an instant backlash with devoted supporters claiming it to be ‘vile’, ‘dishwater’ and one commentator saying it made her feel ‘nauseous’.

Luckily, the public outcry has lead Twinings to rethink its decision and release the original recipe as “Classic Earl Grey”. I can just picture Patrick Stewart aboard the Starship Enterprise eyeing his cup of Earl Grey with unease.

I also can’t help but wonder what Harold Wilson, who popularised HP Sauce in the 1960s, would make of his favourite condiment now that maker Heinz has changed the recipe.

The recipe had remained true to the original for 116 years but now Heinz has more than halved the levels of salt without informing consumers. Here at Which? we’re all for healthier options, but the backlash shows that others may not be. Fans of ‘Wilson’s gravy’ say the sauce has lost its taste – Marco Pierre White described it as ‘dodgy’, but will Heinz rethink its decision as public pressure mounts?

Not so finger lickin’ good?

It seems that companies have always been tinkering with recipes. After selling his famous Kentucky Fried Chicken chain in 1964, Colonel Sanders criticised the new owners for ruining his gravy by turning it into ‘sludge’ with a ‘wallpaper taste’.

Famously in 2007 Mars had to back down after attempting to change the whey used to manufacture the bars, from a vegetarian source to one including traces of rennet, an enzyme from animals. Vegetarian groups protested and Mars made a spectacular u-turn stating that it had become ‘very clear, very quickly’ that it had made a mistake.

So, would you fight to keep the recipe of your favourite food true to the original? Will Heinz have to backtrack in the face of public pressure and return “Wilson’s Gravy” to its original recipe? For the sake of my Saturday fry up, I hope so!


My gripe is with Sharwoods and their chicken tikka masala. Another case of why fix what ain’t broke, they have brought out a “new recipe” which I find land and unappetising. The old version was really tasty. You could taste the herbs and compared well with the meal you will expect in a restaurant. I can only assume that this is a cost-cutting exercise on the ingredients used. In my case, it just means that they have lost a good customer. In many cases, these companies are killing the goose that laid the golden egg.


Recipe changes can be disastrous for people with severe allergies. We used to be able to shop, with confidence when we new that our particular favourite was “allergy free” now we need to always check – in case the recipe has altered. Classic example : Heinz beanz in 400g made in uk – gluten free, 200g made in Poland and not Gluten free.


Hi Nick and thanks for your comment. I think you make a really important point – whereas for most of us changes to recipes may just affect flavour and enjoyment, for you and many others out there these changes stop you from eating your favourite foods. My girlfriend is a vegetarian and we often find that products change from using vegetarian additives to animal derived ones (e.g. Rennet). Luckily there haven’t been any major items we no longer buy but I do empathise with your situation!


I have looked at a bottle of HP Sauce. The label proclaims it at The Original HP Sauce, implying (at least to me) that the recipe is original. The small print indicates that HP Sauce is the original brown sauce and says nothing about the recipe.

I’m not sure Her Majesty the Queen, who has given a Royal Warrant to HP Foods Ltd., would approve.


Hi wavechange and thanks for your comment.

I’ve recently bought some HP so will have to examine the bottle tonight!

On a similar note I remember looking at a loaf of Hovis a few years ago and reading that they still used the “traditional” old recipe. The ingredients list included several E numbers which I doubt existed when Hovis first started making bread in 1886. This article covers the issue in a bit more detail.


Thanks Scott. Some E-numbers have been in food for many years (e.g. caramel (E150) and bicarbonate of soda (E500) and I don’t think the emulsifiers and stabillisers now in Hovis will do any harm, though the pesticide residues mentioned in the article might.

I am surprised that the new version of HP sauce does not come with an instruction to store it in the fridge after opening. That’s where I have put mine after learning that the salt content had been decreased.


Hi Wavechange,

I hadn’t thought of that! I suppose salt is quite essential for prolonging the life of certain foods. I wonder if it will affect how long the sauce lasts for? What do you think of the taste of the new sauce? Have you noticed a change in flavour with it or any other products that have changed their recipes?


Hmmm. It tastes as spicy as before and perhaps sweeter and more fruity, but without having both versions it difficult to be sure.


TUC or Tuc crackers/ biscuits used to be rather salty but of late has not been quite so…. I do not hesitate to make my views known and for all I know, my suggestion may well have been acted upon… my understanding is, increased salt content prolongs the shelf life of a product thereby directly or otherwise leading to increased profits for the manufacturer, but salt in any unacceptable amount is bad for health that we all are probably aware.

Many processed foods, however, contain too much E numbers, additives, salt. sugars AND whatever else…. and I generally try to avoid them as very much as possible. I do not, of course, knowingly use MSG.