|Owner||Premier Foods and The Gores groups
(since April 2014)
|Previous owners||Rank Hovis McDougall
'Hovis' (LTD) is a UK brand of flour and bread, owned by Premier Foods. The brand, which originated in 1886 in Macclesfield, Cheshire, ended up as part of Rank Hovis McDougall in 1962 after a succession of mergers. RHM, whose bread making division has been known as British Bakeries since 1955, also owns the Mother's Pride and Nimble bread brands. The Hovis part of the business still specialises in high wheatgerm wholemeal flour, the bread being baked independently. In April 2014, Hovis became an independent company trading as Hovis Ltd. The company is 49% owned by Premier Foods and 51% by The Gores Group.
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The brand began in 1886; the Hovis process was patented on 6 October 1887 by Richard "Stoney" Smith (1836–1900), and S. Fitton & Sons Ltd developed the brand, milling the flour and selling it along with Hovis branded baking tins to other bakers. The name was coined in 1890 by London student Herbert Grime in a national competition set by S. Fitton & Sons Ltd to find a trading name for their patent flour which was rich in wheat germ. Grime won £25 when he coined the word from the Latin phrase hominis vis – "the strength of man". The company became the Hovis Bread Flour Company Limited in 1898.
In 1915, when the London and South Western Railway inaugurated their first electric train services, they introduced alphabetical head-codes in lieu of the traditional discs used on steam locomotives so that the general public could more easily identify their train. A 1926 advertisement widely deployed on the railways showed five such trains carrying headcodes H ō V I S along with an explanation (H-Hampton Court, ō-Hounslow, V-Kingston (Thames Valley), I-Dorking North & Effingham and S-Shepperton). The fact that the "clockwise" Hounslow Loop head-code was a slightly height-reduced 'O' topped by a bar explains the unique rendering of the brand as HōVIS - a rendering that significantly outlasted the advertising campaign.
In 1973, Hovis became lodged in the public imagination through an evocative television advertisement, "Boy on Bike" (a.k.a. "Boy on the Bike" and "Bike Ride"), written by Geoff Seymour from the Collett Dickenson Pearce advertising agency and directed by Ridley Scott, who six years later would come to the public's attention when Alien was released. The advert featured the slow movement of Antonín Dvořák's Symphony No. 9 rearranged for brass. The advert has been voted Britain's favourite advertisement of all time. The ad was filmed on Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, Dorset.
This advertisement was repeated on British television for a 10-day run in May 2006 to commemorate the firm's 120th anniversary. The boy on the bike, Carl Barlow, then aged 13, became a firefighter in East Ham in 1979, and later acted in the films Alien and Gladiator.
In 2008 Hovis departed from the "boy on a bike" format by commissioning Go On Lad a retrospective advertisement documenting the 122 years of British history since the brand's launch. Go On Lad was voted "Advert of the Decade" by the British public in December 2009.
Hovis map books
Hovis Ltd. published a series of map books which included advertisements for their products. In 1899 the company produced eight books of maps, covering England and Wales, designed for cyclists. In 1920 the company published Where to Go and How to Get There: Hovis Road Map of England, Wales and Scotland, and several versions of this book were later printed.
Since 1980, Hovis have licensed Jacob's to produce a digestive biscuit, branded as Hovis. Now a United Biscuits product, they are shaped like a miniature flat copy of the traditional Hovis loaf, and like the bread have the word "HOVIS" stamped on their top surface.
- "Hovis: 120 years of Goodness" (PDF). 2006. Retrieved 2011-02-02.
- GB 189905961 Smith, Richard A New or Improved Method or Process for Treating the Germ of Wheat for Food Purposes. 1900-02-17
- Iain Sinclair (20 January 2011). "The Raging Peloton" 33 (2). London Review of Books. pp. 3–8. ISSN 0260-9592. Retrieved 2011-02-03. "Triggered by an archive clip of his maternal grandfather, Herbert Morrison, another ennobled socialist cabinet minister, Mandelson launched into a memoir of cycling around Hendon, committee room to polling station, bearing leaflets, carrying messages as proudly as the freshly baked loaves in Ridley Scott’s celebrated commercial, shot in 1973, on the picturesque slopes of Shaftesbury. Carl Barlow, the youth who featured in the advertisement, underscored by the slow movement of Dvorak’s Symphony No 9, arranged for brass, went on to become a fireman in East Ham."
- Ciar Byrne (2 May 2006). "Ridley Scott's Hovis advert is voted all-time favourite". The Independent. Retrieved 2011-02-03.
- "Back to where I was born and bread - Hovis boy recreates famous advert 40 YEARS later". Mirror, 4 December 2013
- Maurice Rickards (2000). The Encyclopedia of Ephemera: A Guide to the Fragmentary Documents of Everyday Life for the Collector, Curator, and Historian. Psychology Press. pp. 332–. ISBN 978-0-415-92648-5.
- "Hovis road map of England, Wales and Scotland". Holdings of the Roger S. Baskes Collection (Newberry Library).