Bisto is one of the most popular products from the UK worldwide. Its origins date back to the early 20th century, when two employees of Cerebos salt known as Roberts & Patterson decided to venture out on their own.
Inspired by their wives, they wanted to create a product that would guarantee perfect gravy every time. Thus Bisto was born as meat-flavored gravy powder, a loose acronym for "Browns, Seasons, and Thickens in One." It launched in 1908, and the first full-page advert for Bisto appeared in the Daily Mail in February 1910.
Growing in popularity over the next decade, the first marketing campaign for the product launched in 1919 with the introduction of the Bisto Kids. Created by illustrator Will Owen, the kids were a brother and sister in ragged clothing who would catch the smell in the street with the tagline "Ah, Bisto!", a slogan which became very popular and is still used today.
The Bisto Kids cartoon was equally as popular, and there was even a competition in the 1930s to find the real-life Bisto Kids. But it wasn't until the mid-1990s when real-life Bisto Kids were introduced into the product's advertising; a result, the cartoon kids have not been seen since, having been replaced by real families and children. The current tagline of "Aah! Bisto" was introduced in 2000.
According to Museum of Brands, "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."
In the past decade, the Bisto brand has embraced an image of traditional family togetherness, emphasizing meals like Sunday roasts or family dinners as a central part of their adverting. In one advertisement from 2011 called The Bisto Promise, they promoted the idea that all families should make an effort to have at least one meal all together once a week, and that children promise to behave proper all week long so to receive "proper gravy" as a reward.
The brand has also recently released their "Best" line, consisting of powders of various meat flavors in glass jars. Some of this collection was recently added to BritShop's selection, shop here!
Bisto was originally owned by Cerebos until 1969, when it was purchased by Rank Hovis McDougall. Since 2007, it has been owned and operated by Premier Foods.