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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'. Since the cost of liquid Oxo remained beyond the reach of many families, the company launched a research project to develop a solid version that could be sold in cubes for a penny. After much research, the first Oxo cubes were produced in 1910 and further increased Oxo's popularity. During World War I 100 million OXO cubes were provided to the armed services, all of them individually hand-wrapped.
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. The Worksop plant produces Oxo cubes.
In South Africa, Oxo is now a brand of Mars, Incorporated. The only product marketed under the Oxo brand in South Africa was a yeast extract based spread. The product also contained a lesser portion of beef extract, giving it a slightly 'beefier' taste than other yeast extracts. At the beginning of 2015, Mars Consumer Products Africa (Pty) Ltd discontinued OXO spread in South Africa, with no prior communication to the public.
In 1908, Oxo (alongside Odol mouthwash and Indian Foot Powder) was one of the sponsors of the London Olympic Games (despite claims by Coca-Cola to being the 'first' commercial sponsor of the Games) and supplied marathon runners 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.
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.
On 11 November 2014, It was announced that a 1984 Oxo advert starring Lynda Bellingham would be screened on Christmas Day as a tribute to the actress, who had died of colon cancer the previous month. It was screened during an advert break of Coronation Street.
- The Oxo Story, Gary Pharo, Saint Ronan's School, accessed 2015-12-22
- Wildly interesting facts about London you never knew until now, ITV News, published 2015-12-04, accessed 2015-12-22
- OXO, About Us
- "Lynda Bellingham Oxo advert to be repeated at Christmas". BBC News. Retrieved 11 November 2014.
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