There’s been a bit of a to-do this week, involving a London MP, and a bottle of sauce from Sheffield.
The MP in question is Jim Dowd, a Labour politician who represents the Lewisham West and Penge constituency in south London. On Monday, he spoke in a debate for the second reading of the Intellectual Property Bill in the House of Commons, in what was presumably intended to be a comment about ‘parasitic packaging‘. This is where lesser-known brands design packaging to imitate the look of more popular brands. Asda famously lost a court battle over its ‘Puffin’ bars, which were deemed too similar to McVities’ famous Penguin bars (which, incidentally, have been banned in Canada).
His speech, as with all speeches in the House of Commons, is available for all to view, but here’s the controversial bit:
This issue was brought home to me most strikingly just last Saturday when I was in the Hare & Billet pub in Blackheath, which is well known to my hon. Friend Heidi Alexander, whom I see on the Front Bench. I was having lunch and I asked whether there was any Worcester sauce—everybody knows the famous manufacturers of it and, being a simple soul from south-east London, I thought there was only one Worcester sauce. The nice chap serving us said there certainly was, and he came back with a bottle shaped like the one I always remember containing the marvellous concoction that is Lea & Perrins Worcester sauce. Not only was this bottle the same shape and size, but, amazingly, its label was orange with black lettering. However, it was something from Sheffield, from someone called Henderson’s, whoever they are. I am sure that Mr Henderson and his company are perfectly estimable, and I am sure they pursue an entirely legitimate business, but I could not help feeling, “Of all the colours they could choose for their label and all of the shapes they could have for their bottle!” I did not even know there was such a thing as Sheffield sauce until then.
In other words, Mr Dowd was insinuating that Henderson’s Relish was a rip-off of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce. Which, it isn’t. Henderson’s has been producing its relish in Sheffield for over 100 years.
Upon first appearance, the two look similar. A dark brown liquid, in a similar sized-bottle, and an orange label with old-fashioned-looking serif text. But the ingredients are rather different; Worcestershire sauce contains anchovies and is therefore not vegetarian, unlike Henderson’s Relish, which can be consumed by vegetarians and vegans.
As an aside, I must point out that Lea & Perrins make ‘Worcestershire Sauce’, not ‘Worcester Sauce’. Hari, my ex-girlfriend, hailed from Worcestershire and was always keen to emphasise this to me.
Predictably, Mr Dowd’s outburst has not gone down well in Sheffield, where the condiment is popular. The Arctic Monkeys commissioned special bottles for their recent album launch. Practically every fish and chip shop in the city makes it available – at least, according to ‘11 Reasons Henderson’s Relish Is Way Better Than Worcester Sauce‘ on Buzzfeed. Sean Bean – Ned in Game of Thrones – is a fan. You can even buy Henderson’s Relish flavoured crisps.
And local MPs have jumped to its defence. Paul Blomfield, a fellow Labour MP for Sheffield Central, wrote this open letter on his Facebook page. The Deputy Prime Minster Nick Clegg, who is also MP for Sheffield Hallam, posted this blog post on his official web site. And the former government minister David Blunkett, MP for Sheffield Brightside, has previously used Henderson’s Relish whilst cooking shepherds pie on Gordon Ramsey’s TV show The F Word.
Henderson’s have since invited Mr Dowd to come and visit them in Sheffield. Of course, I’m sure that they are ‘relishing’ the exposure that this debacle has caused. Sorry – that was an awful pun.
I admit that I don’t think I’ve ever tried Henderson’s Relish, and that we have a bottle of Lea & Perrins in our cupboard. I’ll make a note to pick some up in future though.