Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,946 pages of information and 233,606 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.
of 152-156 Old Street, London.
1870 In the war against the Prussians, Napoleon III found that his armies could not 'march on empty stomachs'. He therefore ordered one million cans of beef to feed his starving troops. The task of providing all this beef went to a Briton named John Lawson Johnston, living in Canada. Britain did not have a large enough quantity of beef to meet the French people's and Napoleon III's demands, so Johnston created a product known as 'Johnston's Fluid Beef' - later called Bovril.
1884 Johnston moved to London, and set up a factory to produce the drink.
1886 Bovril was launched on the UK market
By 1888, in excess of 3,000 British pubs, grocers and chemists were beginning to sell Bovril.
1889 The Bovril Company was formed, with a capital of £150,000. John Lawson Johnston was the first Chairman. He was succeeded by Lord Playfair.
Experimented making Virol which soon joined the product range
1897 The company was sold on, at higher price than had been paid the previous year; the old name was assumed.
1900 Johnston died and his son George took over the running of the company.
1908 Half a million acres of land was purchased in Argentina so the company could rear its own cattle.
1930s Acquired Marmite Food Extract Co
1966 Saw the beginnings of Bovril's instant beef stock.
1971 The Beef Stock was followed by the 'King Beef' range of instant flavours for stews, casseroles and gravy.
2004 Company became part of Unilever, who decided to remove the word "beef" from the brand name.