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Branston Pickle is made from a variety of diced vegetables, including swede, carrots, onions, cauliflower and gherkins pickled in a sauce made from vinegar, tomato, apple and dates with spices such as mustard, coriander, garlic, cinnamon, pepper, cloves, nutmeg and cayenne pepper with sugar. In recent years high-fructose corn syrup has replaced sugar in the product sold in the American market. Sugar is still used in the British version.
Branston Pickle is sweet and spicy with a chutney-like consistency, containing small chunks of vegetables in a thick brown sticky sauce. It is commonly served as part of a ploughman's lunch, a common menu item in British pubs. It is also frequently combined with cheddar cheese in sandwiches, and many sandwich shops in the UK offer "cheese and pickle" as an option. It is available in the standard 'chunky' version, as well as a 'sandwich' variety, where the vegetable chunks are smaller and easier to spread. Premier Foods also introduced a 'squeezy' variety in a plastic bottle. A spicy variety was briefly manufactured, but was not as popular as the original versions, and is now in short supply.
As with any product that becomes popular, other manufacturers have developed their own brand of a Branston-type pickle. Many supermarkets now have generic own brand versions. In order to prevent problems with the registered trade name, the terms "sweet pickle" or "ploughman's pickle" have been adopted by most manufacturers.
Pickle Crisis of 2004
At 1:45 am on 27 October 2004 a fire almost destroyed the Bury St Edmunds factory and cut the stocks of Branston Pickle in half, reducing the supply of the product, and in some instances increasing the price.
In October 2005, Premier Foods Plc launched Branston Baked Beans. The marketing and promotion of this product was aimed squarely at challenging Heinz's dominance of the UK baked bean market. This marketing included an advert, featuring a Branston Bean Tin explaining how Branston Beans are very "saucy." Promotional activities included a 'Great British Bean Poll' where members of the public across the country were invited to blind taste both 'the brand leader' (assumed to be Heinz) and Branston. In the poll, 76% of participants picked Branston over the brand leader. Heinz was subsequently obliged to re-evaluate its advertising strategy in the face of this aggressive activity, although in public Heinz spokespeople dismissed the challenge as a 'non-starter'. Premier Foods have also attempted to leverage the traditional Branston Pickle brand name by producing Branston Relishes in four different flavours: Hot Chilli & Jalapeño, Gherkin, Sweet Onion and Tomato & Red Pepper.
Premier Foods Sells Branston Brand to Mizkan
In late 2012 it was announced that as part of an aggressive debt reduction strategy, Premier foods would be selling the Branston Brand to Japanese food manufacturer Mizkan Group for £92.5m, joining Sarson's Vinegar and Hayward's Pickled Onions as recent Premier Foods to Mizkan brand acquisitions. It is expected that the Bury St. Edmunds plant will continue to manufacture Branston products and staff will transfer to Mizkan.
Availability outside the UK
Branston Pickle is available in Ireland, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore (Cold Storage and Market Place), Germany (REWE and Globus Warenhaus), Turkey (Tesco Kipa), the Netherlands, and China (Taste in Hong Kong).