Due to popular demand we have unarchived this blog post...
Originally we got a lot of stick for posting it, mainly by people tied to the industrial side of food production or fans of the brands whose practices we are questioning.
A few people said we shouldn’t point out the negatives of other brands and instead focus on our own positives.
We did that and you can find it here. The trouble is it's nothing new to hear about the merits of a product, we want to make noise about the things that are often hidden...
We think sauce should be better than it is and it’s why we started this business in the first place. We’re highlighting a problem with the whole category, if you don’t care, that’s fine!
Regardless, we are on a mission to bring craft sauces made with real ingredients to as many people as possible.
1. Big brand supermarket sauces are nearly all full of additives.
Additives are chemicals that have been deemed to be acceptable for use in food products to enhance flavour, texture and appearance or improve shelf life; including salt and sugar. However, just because they are allowed, doesn’t mean they should be used at every opportunity and who's to say what effect a lifetime of consuming them is going to have on us.
Food additives allow fake food products to seem like they’re the real deal. Surprisingly, a great example of an additive free sauce is Heinz Tomato Ketchup, it’s a shame that can’t be said about the rest of their products.
One to look out for is cornflour, although this is pretty harmless apart from masking flavour and making sauces gloopy. Other thickeners include xanthan and guar gum and modified starch, these are slightly dodgier and have been linked to various gut related side effects (read more here and here).
Flavourings of any kind, natural or artificial are fake. If the ingredients are doing their job, the product shouldn't need a flavouring. An example of a ‘natural’ flavouring is Castoreum which tastes like raspberry or vanilla but actually comes from a gland found near a beaver's anus (read more). Smoke flavouring is another horrible chemical (read more) used to replace the smoky flavour of a great ingredient like chipotle (smoked jalapeno pepper) or smoked paprika.
Potassium sorbate is a preservative that is commonly used and has been found to be mildly toxic in recent studies, preservatives kill microorganisms so it shouldn't be surprising! We managed to preserve food just fine without it, but it seems corners must be cut nowadays.
Next time you’re filling up your trolley with your usual choice of sauce, have a look on the ingredients list and you’re bound to come across at least some of these suspects.
2. Classic “British” brands aren’t even British
Speaking of Heinz, this brand dominates the UK sauce shelves – 16% of all sauce sales in the UK are Heinz products. We all grew up with Heinz (now Kraft Heinz) and many of you probably realised that it is an American company.
Most people aren’t aware that a lot of our ‘beloved’ British sauce brands such as HP (with HP sauce now being made in Holland), Daddies, Lea & Perrins have also been bought up and are now owned by Kraft Heinz (read more). We won't even go into the Cadbury story.
This behemoth of a company generates over £20 billion per year globally and is owned by even larger investment companies who also own the majority of Burger King (hence why McDonalds stopped serving Heinz sauces) (read more). This monstrosity of a company swallows up smaller businesses, cuts costs and jobs and then moves on to the next target, it's all about profit. These huge profits are going straight out to the shareholders and we as a country should really try buying into and supporting British brands and British companies.
Another big sauce player is Hellman’s, owned by Unilever, which is one of over 400 brands owned by the company. Described as being a Dutch-British company, its revenue is around £40 billion per year and despite being larger has already once been targeted for takeover by Kraft Heinz. Unilever is to be fair a much more ethical business and we're not going to fault them just for being big!
However, expect to see another takeover attempt soon which could mean that the US giant Kraft Heinz will have swallowed up yet more British brands.
3. Plenty of big brands are faking their sauces
Many of the restaurant sauces you buy in the shops are actually all come from the company.
If you thought they came from the restaurant, think again. In fact the restaurant sauces are usually made in different factories, so you’re not even getting the exact same sauce (read more).
4. Fake brands with a fake image and a fake persona
Many brands are thought up simply to capitalise on a trend and make a quick buck.
For example, there’s been a big trend for street food and interesting sauces and along came a new brand trying to be edgy and cool. It's clear that this is all marketing when there are no real people behind the brand, no story and therefore no passion. This brand's sauces promised a lot with interesting sounding products but sadly they came with the usual additives and lack of real flavour.
A few months ago a couple of the guys from this particular brand's team came and sought us out at a trade show. They were upset because I had ‘trolled’ one of their Facebook posts. This behaviour is far from the laid back attitude they try to portray.
5. A lot of small brands are faking it too
Outsourcing production is quite a common practice in the world of food in general, it’s pretty much the done thing.
There are many brands that give the image of a homemade product but really they’re made in a large factory, which is a bit misleading. We had our sauces made like this for a few months and it helped us to grow beyond our home kitchen, but we quickly realised that we were sacrificing quality for convenience and that’s not us. You can’t be a true craft or artisan producer if you don’t make your own product.
Hats off to the brilliant small brands that are grinding away to create the best quality products themselves. However, beware that some 'artisan or craft' producers may be portraying an image of a homemade product that actually isn't.
6. Manufacturers cut corners at every opportunity
Big manufacturers are using the poorest quality ingredients to make sauces that are cheap and as profitable as possible.
Have you ever made a Bolognese or a curry with powdered onions or garlic? How about tomato powder, we’ve even come across butter powder… imagine putting that on your toast. These fake ingredients are used to make life easy for the manufacturers at the expense of the customer’s experience.
If you were to look at the ingredients of most sauces you’d see the main ingredients are usually water, sugar and vinegar. We believe sauce should be better than this so we use real ingredients, real fruit and vegetables, no added water, sea salt and brown sugar.
For us, every ingredient is an opportunity to add flavour and quality, not to cut a corner and save some money.