Wednesday, 23 January 2008

an open letter to Branston

it may be long, but it's an important issue that must be addressed

Dear Sir/Madam,

I have recently switched from HP brown sauce (squeezy) to Branston's (squeezy). The reason for my change was due to the planned, and now finalised move of HP sauce production from Birmingham to The Netherlands, which has made me quite furious. As a consumer, I have the power to choose brands and I chose to ditch the Heinz owned HP and move to Branston.

You'll be pleased to know that the move has gone smoothly and everything is looking bright for the future. There are the expected teething problems, most of which I can address on my own (the sauce bottle doesn't fit so well in the usual 'brown sauce spot' in my fridge, but this has been overcome by creating a new home for it and moving my salad cream to the vacated spot - sorted). Taste wise I am very impressed. It took a little while to get used to the difference, not that it is an inferior taste, just that it is different and I like to avoid change where possible - I like things to be as I expect them.

A week into the switch and I (and my taste buds) had forgotten all about HP. I am still in the 'trial period', which I like to set at 3-5 weeks depending on the scale of change, but fingers-crossed I think there wont be any long-term problems with this move (not like 2006's baked bean switch). The only issue I do have that I can not deal with myself is the speed at which the sauce leaves the bottle. Maybe I am not yet used to the sensitivity of the bottle, but I am concerned that it will remain this way until the end of the trial and I will then have a very difficult decision to make. I had used HP for many years and was very familiar, and dare I say adept, at dispensing the right amount of sauce for my requirements through squeezing. I find the Branston squeezy bottle takes more concentration and to a certain extent, luck.

With the sauce bottle top flipped open and the bottle held vertically (upturned) I squeeze the middle of the bottle (I note there are no directions on either the bottle or your web site) with slowly increasing force waiting for the sauce to exit. At the point it does leave the bottle, it does so at such speed and force that by the time I release my pressure I usually have more sauce than I require. This means either sucking the excess sauce back up in to the bottle (with a little trick I learnt in my HP days after the switch from glass to plastic squeezy bottle) or instead scraping the sauce into the sink, and I hate to be wasteful.

I could, if I must, put aside the waste issue or maybe get by with having more sauce than I really want, though I don't think this is the right approach, however lets assume I could. Well, I still have a problem. Too much brown sauce causes me to suffer earache. Mild in most cases, but nonetheless uncomfortable and a surely unnecessary side-effect from having a bacon sandwich. This problem arose when I made the troublesome switch to the plastic squeezy bottle some years ago. On the whole the squeezy bottle is certainly a better method of dispensing sauce and the pros certainly outweigh the cons, but it was in this transition period that I discovered my condition.

I was able to overcome the problem after a number of weeks when I perfected my squeezing technique and I didn't experience this problem again (apart from on one recent trip to Cornwall where I stayed in a Bed and Breakfast that had only glass bottles of brown sauce, which of course meant relearning the technique for dispensing sauce from this now antiquated vessel. Needless to say I had lost my touch with the glass bottle and produced too much sauce with nowhere to scrape it and so suffered from earache for the rest of the morning).

To return to my point of writing, I would like to ask Branston to consider improving the sauce control of your plastic squeezy bottles. Be this by changing the current bottle or offering a new 'sensitive' bottle for people who like to have that extra bit of control over the amount of sauce they dispense at the dinner table. This may sound trivial and I dare say I am unique with my problem with brown sauce related earache, however I really can't believe that I am the only one to have contacted you about this issue, especially given the number of people that I am sure will be switching in light of the HP abomination.

Please don't take this as a threat that I will have to move on to another non-HP brown sauce if I don't get what I want, not at all. The sauce's trial period still has some time to go, but I do like to address problems as soon as they arise and then put things right. If my suggestions are totally impractical then I would like to know this and then I can concentrate on perfecting my technique whilst we are in this trial period. Indeed, if you do have any documentation on how to best dispense the sauce then that too would be gratefully received.

I know change takes time and I don't expect to walk in to my supermarket next week and find my concerns addressed, however I would like to know that my thoughts have been taken on-board and that maybe, just maybe I have sparked some 'food for thought'.

I hope to hear back from you soon, be it good news or bad!

this has now been emailed to the makers of Branston's Brown Sauce who have forwarded it to their marketing department for consideration.

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