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FO O D


The drink of popes and strong men


‘Bovril is Liquid Life’ From an advertisement in Abel Heywood and Son’s Infl uenza: Its cause, cure and prevention, 1902 b1019986x Wellcome Library


Bovril promotional parrots


An early proponent of celebrity ‘endorsements’, Bovril may be the only health drink ever to have been linked to the Pope. In the 1890s, Bovril issued an advertise- ment showing the Pope holding a mug of Bovril under the line ‘The two infallible powers: The Pope & Bovril’. Around the same time, explorer Henry Morton Stanley (1841–1904) lent his name to the product, which was advertised with the phrase, ‘Stanley recruits his strength with Bovril’. Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936) was also happy to praise Bovril in public, as was Eugen Sandow (1867–1925), known as the ‘Strongest Man in the World’.


‘A New Sandow Pose’ Photograph From Sandow’s Magazine of Physical Culture, 1902 Eugen Sandow b13519475 Wellcome Library


A cup winner


Bovril promotional parrots Paper Bovril, c.1930s RRa0301–2 / L0075850–1 Wellcome Images


These Amazonian parrots may be a reference to the source of much of Bovril’s beef: South America. In the Entre Rios region in Argentina, where the company once owned half a million hectares of land and 1.5 million cattle, there is still a town called Bovril.


Before the days of super-stadiums and corporate hospitality, a cup of warming Bovril was a familiar half-time treat for football fans standing on the terraces. But Bovril was also the first commercial organisation to be linked with an association football club. In 1898, an advertisement titled ‘Bovril Wins’ quoted FA Cup winners Nottingham Forest, stating ‘…we used BOVRIL very freely. We consider it was A VERY IMPORTANT FACTOR in giving our men strength and staying power.’


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