UK baffled by the origins of their favourite brands

Many UK adults find identifying ‘British’ brands confusing and difficult, according to new research.

Consumers are baffled by the origins of their favourite ‘British’ brands, half (50 per cent) of adults are unaware Tetley Tea is owned by a foreign company.

The poll of 1,000 adults, conducted by Spread Co, reveals that many members of the public struggle to identify British businesses.

Respondents incorrectly thought that many of our store cupboard favourites, such as Tetley Tea (50 per cent), Branston Pickle (42 per cent), HP Sauce (37 per cent) and Heinz (27 per cent), were British when they are actually Indian, Japanese and American.

Companies with less traditionally British sounding names such as Hikma Pharmaceuticals, Schroders and Antofagasta were also incorrectly identified. Less than 10 per cent (5 per cent, 7 per cent and 3 per cent respectively) of the public thought they were British, when they are actually all based in Britain.

When asked about businesses in the FTSE 100, the research finds 95 per cent of UK adults have heard of the five biggest companies, but thought high street names were bigger players in the market than they actually are.

Almost one in five (19 per cent) thought Tesco was the biggest company in Britain, even though it only represents 0.84 per cent of the market share. This compares to HSBC, the actual first place, that represents 5.47 per cent.

Research also shows that one in four (25 per cent) don’t know what a PLC is. A PLC is a company whose shares can be sold to the public.

More than half (61 per cent) think that Jet2 Holidays and over a quarter (26 per cent) think that Tesco are part of wider PLCs, when in fact they are PLCs in their own right.

The beauty industry seemed to be a major cause for confusion, as more people think Lush is part of a wider PLC (52 per cent) than The Body Shop (39 per cent), when in fact The Body Shop, once a PLC in its own right, became part of L’oreal in March 2006.

Shameer Sachdev, head of marketing and sales at Spread Co, says, ‘The research shows that people are very much influenced by the physical presence of companies when it comes to estimating their size and origins.

‘Sometimes clever branding from parent companies can disguise our favourite brands as British, so they become part of our culture. Many of these brands started off as local independent companies, and later became part of a wider PLC based overseas such as Cadbury, Walker Crisps and Newcastle Brown Ale. However, their British heritage is still enough to convince the UK population that they’re investing their money with a domestic company.’

Further reading on brands

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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