Launch Date: 1908
Country of Origin: UK
Ownership History: Cerebos Group: 1908 – 1969, Rank Hovis McDougall (RHM): 1969 – 2007, Premier Foods: March 2007 – Present
Brand Overview: Bisto is a brand producing flavoured gravy powders, granules, and sauces.
Bisto was created by two workers of the Cerebos salt works, Mr. Roberts and Mr. Patterson, who were persuaded by their wives to create a product that would guarantee perfect gravy. The result was Bisto, a meat-flavored gravy powder so-called because it “Browns, Seasons and Thickens in One”. The first full-page advert for the product appeared in the Daily Mail on February 4, 1910.
Bisto’s first large marketing campaign was in 1919 with the introduction of the Bisto Kids, a cartoon of a brother and sister created by illustrator Will Owen. Their accompanying ‘Ah! Bisto’ slogan quickly gained popularity. The two characters were used in many adverts and promotions over the years, including a 1930s competition to find real life Bisto Kids, and a 1976 animation of the characters. It wasn’t until 1995 that the Bisto Kids were replaced by real children and families, although the now elongated ‘Aaah, Bisto’ tag line was reintroduced in 2000.
Bisto was originally sold in golden coloured tins and small cardboard boxes with red labels and green accents. A cartoon image of the Bisto Kids was added to the design following their launch and by the 1950s, the now well known ‘Ah! Bisto’ slogan was also featured. During the 1970s, an updated cartoon image of the Bisto Kids took precedence, but the original image did make a reappearance on a 1995 commemorative retro pack. After this, the packaging design became predominantly brown and featured pictures of gravy and food. The unique looping design of the letter ‘B’ in the word Bisto has remained constant throughout the brand’s history
More recently Bisto have incorporated the “togetherness” of meals like Sunday roasts or even family dinners as a core part of their adverting. With their 2011 ad, The Bisto Promise, they pushed the idea that families should make time to all sit together at least once a week to enjoy a meal together and that children will promise to behave all week for a proper dinner with “proper gravy”. This sentiment was then expanded with their “Together Project” which sought to get families to invite elderly people to a Sunday roast at their homes. Both ads sought to highlight the importance of eating meals together and the classic roast or dishes like sausage and mash, both perfect with gravy, are emblematic of British cuisine and family dinners.
In recent years they’ve also released their “Best” line. Packaged in glass jars and with a richer taste, the “Best” range comes in a range of flavours for different meats. The line was subsequently paired with the ads for the “Together Project” to make that roast extra special.
Bisto have positioned themselves as the gravy of the UK and now successfully hold a 62% share of the branded market. By focusing less on what their product is and more what it can do and what it represents, they’ve managed to make themselves synonymous with family time and key to any great roast dinner.
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