Brands that have died in Britain live on elsewhere

British brands abroad

Going native

Brands that have died in Britain live on elsewhere

Mar 23rd 2013 |From the print edition


BRITONS were fond of A.1. sauce until the 1950s, when it stopped being widely sold in the country that created it. But like other products the natives have wearied of, A.1. is still avidly consumed elsewhere. American omnivores prize it as a complement to steak.

There are many such commercial expatriates, brands born in Britain but now more at home abroad. Rinso is the top detergent in Indonesia. Italian bambini grow up on Mellin, the distant descendant of a Victorian producer of concentrated milk. Peardrax and Cydrax, fruit-based fizzy drinks sold in Britain until the 1980s, are still popular in Trinidad & Tobago.

The ultimate expatriate power brand is Lifebuoy. William Lever concocted the soap in 1894 and sold it as a means to combat cholera. By the 1930s Lifebuoy marketers had turned their guns on British body odour. It “knocks out B.O.”, the packages promised. Lifebuoy eventually lost its allure in Britain, perhaps because buying it came to be seen as an admission of smelliness. Now Unilever, Lever’s corporate heir, uses it to fight diarrhoea, a menace that kills 1.5m children a year. Hand-washing can cut that toll (and move a lot of soap), the multinational reckons. At this year’s Kumbh Mela, a triennial gathering of tens of millions of Hindus, Lifebuoy seared its hand-washing slogan into unleavened rotis, the pilgrims’ staple.

Empire gave brands “the ability to get global quickly”, notes Robert Opie, a consumer historian whose collection forms the basis of the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising. Some stayed after the sahibs went home. Peek, Frean started baking biscuits in Britain in 1857 and in India in 1924. The Bermondsey factory closed in 1989 but Peek Freans (now comma-less) still take a big bite of the market in Pakistan, where they are baked by the nostalgically named English Biscuit Manufacturers. Mondelez, a food giant, continues to sell them in Canada.Like orphaned Victorian children, vintage British labels have been shuffled from owner to owner; some are hired out. They seem to fare well in places that are protected from the full force of globalisation. Royal Enfield, pushed out of Britain by Japanese motorbikes, has held on in India, where it has equipped the army since 1955. Now Indian-owned but still extolling its British origins, Royal Enfield hopes to zoom back in its home country. So do Huntley & Palmers biscuits, which sustained Henry Stanley on his search for David Livingstone. The empire strikes back.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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