In a Parallel Universe

From the Brand Historian’s Timeline: 1995

Northern Lights, the first instalment of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is an excellent indication of what to expect from 1995. The book is set in Oxford but an Oxford in a parallel universe, featuring settings which are simultaneously familiar but also very different, which aptly also describes the new brands which debuted that year.

eBay radically changed the second-hand auction business and put the e into commerce. DVDs brought digital technology into the mainstream and changed home entertainment forever. Nandos and Lush brought excitement, energy and breakthroughs to food service and personal care. But in a parallel universe, or to be exact in Freightliner Road, Hull, there was also Aunt Bessie’s.

Aunt Bessie’s Yorkshire Pudding is one on the most loved British national treasures (voted 10th in the things people love about England in a 2012 survey) and the brand logo featuring her smiling, ruddy complexion is a like a long-standing culinary Britannia, and yet Aunt Bessie is actually only 26, and funnily enough, as old as another celebrated Yorkshire lass, Bridget Jones. Imagine their conversation.

Yorkshire Puddings probably have their origins in making the most of the fat dripping from roasting meats combined with a batter mix of eggs, flour and milk. In 1737, a book written by a knight of the realm with the slightly controversial title – at least by today’s standards- The Whole Duty of a Woman, features an early recipe. 

Yorkshire Puddings combine huge consumer craving with a degree of technical difficulty and bother which makes them a prime candidate for branding. William Jackson, a long-established Yorkshire family business manufacturing and retailing foods had discovered the magic of the quick-frozen ready-to-serve Yorkshire pudding when in the 1970s, it supplied thousands to the happy campers at Butlin’s holiday camps. Own label supply to supermarkets followed and as the mountain of puddings grew, Jackson’s decided to launch under their own brand. 

At a time when British culinary habits were changing quickly, Aunt Bessie’s is a wonderful example of how zigging when everyone else is zagging can be a winning strategy. Just as cultural commentators were talking incessantly in their best pesto prose about the death of the Sunday roast, Aunt Bessie’s showed it was actually in rude health and was indeed going from strength to strength. In 2018, the Great Hull Pudding gravy train departed for the next phase of its journey: the brand was sold for £210m to Nomad Foods, the owners of BirdsEye, where today her range goes from roast dinner staples, to quick and easy midweek wins, to deliciously different carb swaps. Oh, and she has a blog.

Playlist for Bridget Jones and Aunt Bessie’s Girls Night In:

Roll with It Oasis

I Should Coco Supergrass

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