Sarson’s is the leading brand of malt vinegar in Britain.
Sarson’s asserts that Thomas Sarson established himself as a vinegar brewer on Craven Street, London, from 1794. I have not been able to independently verify this, but I have no reason to doubt its veracity.
A Mr Sarson was certainly established as a vinegar brewer on Craven Street, City Road, London, by 1822.
Sarson’s “Pure Malt Vinegar” was being advertised in the press by 1842.
James Thomas Sarson (born 1821), vinegar dealer of Brunswick Place, City Road, London was declared bankrupt in 1847.
James Thomas Sarson was described as a vinegar and mustard merchant in 1851. His brother Henry (born 1825) is also described as a vinegar merchant. The business was small-scale at this time.
The business was known as Sarson & Son by 1860.
From 1861 Sarson & Son branded its product as “Virgin Vinegar” to indicate its purity at a time when food adulteration was rife. Most vinegar brewers added sulphuric acid to their product to decrease the necessary fermentation period.
Sarson was advertised as a high quality vinegar. By 1871 it was sold only in capsulated bottles to prevent tampering, and sold through 3,523 outlets.
Henry Sarson employed 20 people, including four carmen, four van boys, three clerks, three women and six salesmen, by 1881. The business was still a relatively modest concern.
Henry Sarson sold his share in the partnership in 1893, leaving his two sons, Henry Logsdail Sarson (1861 – 1918) and Percival Stanley Sarson (1867 – 1951), to manage the business. The brothers converted Sarsons into a private limited company. Percy Sarson was a keen businessman, with a feisty personality.
Over one million gallons of vinegar were brewed in 1913.
The Crosse & Blackwell vinegar interests were merged with those of Distillers and Beaufoy Grimble in 1932 to form British Vinegars with a capital of £450,000.
Over five million gallons (around 23 million litres) of vinegar were brewed in 1950.
The Virgin Vinegar brand name was phased out in the 1950s.
Holbrooks & Co, with a vinegar brewery in Stourport, was acquired in 1954.
A site was acquired from the Co-op at Middleton, Manchester in 1968.
Nestle of Switzerland took full control of British Vinegar in 1979.
The London vinegar brewery was closed in 1991.
The Stourport brewery was closed in 1999 with the loss of 22 jobs. Production was relocated to the larger Middleton site.
Sarson’s vinegar was the leading vinegar brand in Britain by 1999, with around a third of the market.
When Sarson’s was acquired by Premier Foods in 2002, over 5.5 million litres were sold every year.
Mizkan of Japan acquired Sarson’s in 2012.
Sarson’s is made from a 9.5 percent alcohol barley wine that the company brews itself. The vinegar is matured for seven days in huge oak vats.