Sarson’s is the leading brand of malt vinegar in Britain.
Sarson’s claimed in 1860 that the business had been established for “upwards of fifty years”, which suggests an establishment date of around 1810.
A Mr Sarson was established as a vinegar brewer on Craven Street, City Road, London, by 1822.
Premises had been removed to the corner of Brunswick Place, City Road, London by 1830.
James Sarson (born 1791) was head of the business by 1841.
Sarson’s “Pure Malt Vinegar” was being advertised in the press by 1842.
James Thomas Sarson (born 1821) had joined his father in business by 1846, and the firm began to trade as Sarson & Son.
Henry Sarson enters the business
Henry Sarson (born 1825), brother to J T Sarson, had joined the business by 1847.
James Thomas Sarson was described as a vinegar and mustard merchant in 1851. The business was relatively small at this time.
Sarson & Son branded its product as “Virgin Vinegar” from 1861 in order 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 & Son did not add caramel to darken their vinegar, unlike most brewers, so their product had a much lighter colour than its rivals.
Sarson was advertised as a high quality vinegar. It was packaged in capsulated bottles to prevent tampering, and sold through 3,523 outlets by 1871.
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 & Sons; mass production
Henry Sarson’s two sons, Henry Logsdail Sarson (1861 – 1918) and Percival Stanley Sarson (1867 – 1951), had entered the business by 1892, which began to trade as Henry Sarson & Sons.
Percy Sarson was a keen businessman, with a feisty personality.
Henry Sarson retired from the business in 1893.
Henry Sarson & Sons had been converted into a private limited company by 1900.
Over one million gallons of vinegar were brewed in 1913.
In 1919 Sarsons fired an employee of 16 years service after she took her sick child to hospital.
In 1921 the company was accused of fixing the market to keep the price of malt vinegar artificially hight.
Acquisition by Crosse & Blackwell
Crosse & Blackwell acquired Henry Sarson & Sons and Champion & Slee, another large London vinegar brewer, in 1929. The merger brought together the three largest vinegar brewers in the South of England. Crosse & Blackwell closed down the Sarson’s brewery and concentrated production at the Champion & Slee site.
The Crosse & Blackwell vinegar interests were merged with those of Distillers and Beaufoy Grimble to form British Vinegar with a capital of £450,000 in 1932.
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.
Sarson’s was acquired by Premier Foods in 2002. Over 5.5 million litres of vinegar 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 large oak vats.