Eighteen months after axing HP Sauce in Birmingham on the grounds that production costs would be cheaper in Holland, foods conglomerate Heinz has begun making the world-famous condiment in Spain.
The company initially said the move from Aston to the Netherlands would save it £25 million over 10 years, but yesterday Heinz admitted that more than six million 450 gramme bottles of the sauce are manufactured each year at La Landa in northern Spain.
Spokesman Nigel Dickie said it was more efficient to use Heinz’s long-standing outlet in the country to produce the popular plastic top-down bottles, which are shipped to Britain and sold in supermarkets. The rest of the HP Sauce range continues to be made in Holland.
Mr Dickie insisted neither the new location nor the Spanish water would make any difference to the unique taste.
He added: “Wherever it is made, exactly the same recipe is used with the same internationally-sourced high quality ingredients. I would challenge anyone to tell the difference. It is different water but that doesn’t play too much part in the recipe given the amount of vinegar used and other ingredients.
“As our overall business continues to grow we are looking to make sure we have the most efficient operation and we have had manufacturing facilities as part of our European operation for many years in Spain.
“This is one of our most popular products because it is easy to use, although I think traditionalists prefer glass bottles.”
Heinz announced plans to close its 108-year-old Aston production centre two years ago. Trade unions, MPs, Birmingham City Council and the regional development agency Advantage West Midlands fought unsuccessfully to keep HP Sauce.
Businesses started a Save Our Sauce campaign and attempts were made to have the condiment banned from the House of Commons and to prevent Heinz from reproducing Big Ben on the front of bottle.
Even union leaders at the Heinz plant in Holland joined the campaign to keep HP Sauce in Birmingham. But Heinz, after looking at 17 different proposals to cut costs by changing working practices, said the cost of maintaining production was unsustainable and the factory closed in March 2007, with the loss of 120 jobs.