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Oxo is a brand of food products, including stock cubes, herbs and spices, dried gravy, and yeast extract. The original product was the beef stock cube, but Oxo now also markets chicken and other flavour cubes, e.g. Chinese Recipe and Indian Recipe. The cubes are broken up and used as flavouring in meals or gravy or dissolved into boiling water.
Concentrated meat extract was invented by Justus von Liebig around 1840 and commercialized by Liebig's Extract of Meat Company (Lemco) starting in 1866. The original product was a viscous liquid containing only meat extract and 4% salt. In 1899, the company introduced the trademark Oxo for a cheaper version; the origin of the name is unknown, but presumably comes from the word 'ox'. The first Oxo cubes were produced in 1910 and further increased Oxo's popularity, as the cubes were cheaper than the liquid.
Lemco was acquired by the Vestey Group in 1924 and the factory was renamed El Anglo. Vestey merged with Brooke Bond in 1968, which was in turn acquired by Unilever in 1984. The Oxo brand was sold by Unilever to the Campbell Soup Company in 2001. Campbell's UK operation was sold to Premier Foods in 2006. This included sites at both Worksop and Kings Lynn. It is the Worksop plant that produces Oxo cubes.
In South Africa, Oxo is now a brand of Mars, Incorporated. However, the only product marketed under the Oxo brand in South Africa is a yeast extract based spread. The product also contains a lesser portion of beef extract, giving it a slightly 'beefier' taste than other yeast extracts.
In 1908, Oxo sponsored the London Olympic Games (despite claims by Coca-Cola to being the 'first' commercial sponsor of the Games) and supplied athletes with Oxo drinks to fortify them. During the first half of the 20th century, Oxo was promoted through issues of recipes, gifts and sponsorships before fading into the background as a part of the fabric of English life in the latter parts of the century. For the beginning of the 21st century a new image was promoted with modern television advertising and sensibilities. In 1966, Oxo had a sponsored show on the offshore radio station Wonderful Radio London. The show was presented by Tony Windsor and his assistant was a woman called Katie. In this show they had a daily recipe.
One of Oxo's advertising campaigns was launched in the UK in 1983, when a second "Oxo Family" debuted on commercial television. The father was played by Michael Redfern, the mother was played by Lynda Bellingham, while the children were played by Blair MacKichan, Colin McCoy and Alison Reynolds. The adverts typically featured the family sitting down to a meal at which Oxo gravy would be served. The product was not always mentioned by name, occasionally appearing only as a logo in the corner of the screen at the end of the commercial. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the family were seen to grow older, and when the campaign was retired in 1999 the family moved out of the house.
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