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Hovis Ltd is a British company that produces flour and bread. The brand originated in Macclesfield, Cheshire, in 1886, and became part of Rank Hovis McDougall (RHM) in 1962 after a succession of mergers. RHM, with its brands including Hovis and Mother's Pride, was acquired by Premier Foods in 2007.

Hovis Ltd
Limited company
FoundedMacclesfield, Cheshire, United Kingdom (1886)
HeadquartersHigh Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
Key people
Nish Kankiwala, Chairman[1]
ProductsBread, flour
OwnerThe Gores Group (51%)
Premier Foods (49%)

Hovis became a limited company in April 2014, after Premier Foods sold a 51% stake in the business to The Gores Group to form a joint venture between the two companies.[2]

Hovis specialises in high wheatgerm wholemeal flour, the bread being baked independently. It also produces the Nimble brand reduced-calorie bread.[3]


Grave of Richard "Stoney" Smith in Highgate Cemetery. The inscription details his discovery of the "Hovis" process.
Hovis's Managing Director giving a pep talk to staff in 1935

The brand began in 1886;[4] the Hovis process was patented on 6 October 1887[5] by Richard "Stoney" Smith (1836–1900), and S. Fitton & Sons Ltd developed the brand, milling the flour and selling it along with Hovis branded baking tins to other bakers. The name was coined in 1890 by London student Herbert Grime in a national competition set by S. Fitton & Sons Ltd to find a trading name for their patent flour which was rich in wheat germ. Grime won £25 when he coined the word from the Latin phrase hominis vis – "the strength of man".[4] The company became the Hovis Bread Flour Company Limited in 1898.[4]

When the abundance of certain B vitamins in wheatgerm was reported in 1924, Hovis increased in popularity.[4]


In 1915, when the London and South Western Railway inaugurated their first electric train services, they introduced alphabetical head-codes in lieu of the traditional discs used on steam locomotives so that the general public could more easily identify their train. A 1926 advertisement widely deployed on the railways showed five such trains carrying headcodes H ō V I S along with an explanation (H-Hampton Court, ō-Hounslow, V-Kingston (Thames Valley), I-Dorking North & Effingham and S-Shepperton). The fact that the "clockwise" Hounslow Loop head-code was a slightly height-reduced 'O' topped by a bar led to the rendering of the brand as HōVIS - a rendering that significantly outlasted the advertising campaign.

Gold Hill, Shaftesbury where Ridley Scott filmed the 1973 Hovis commercial

In 1973, Hovis ran a television advertisement, "Boy on the Bike",[4] written by advertising agency Collett Dickenson Pearce and directed by Ridley Scott, who later directed Alien. The advert featured the slow movement of Antonín Dvořák's Symphony No. 9 rearranged for brass.[6] Filmed on Gold Hill in Shaftesbury, Dorset, Scott's advert has been voted Britain's favourite advertisement of all time.[7][8]

This advertisement was repeated on British television for a 10-day run in May 2006 to commemorate the firm's 120th anniversary. The boy on the bike, Carl Barlow, then aged 13, left acting and eventually became a firefighter in East Ham in 1979.[7][9]

In 2008 Hovis departed from the "boy on a bike" format by commissioning Go On Lad, a retrospective advertisement documenting the 122 years of British history since the brand's launch. Go On Lad was voted "Advert of the Decade" by the British public in December 2009. Hovis included a number of its employees in the advert. In the opening scene a boy can be seen taking a loaf of bread from a baker dressed in white who says to him, "there ya go lad". This baker was actually an employee of Hovis who had worked in the Wigan bakery since 1978.[citation needed]

Hovis map booksEdit

Hovis bread monument at Gold Hill

Hovis Ltd. published a series of map books which included advertisements for their products. In 1899 the company produced eight books of maps, covering England and Wales, designed for cyclists.[10] In 1920 the company published Where to Go and How to Get There: Hovis Road Map of England, Wales and Scotland, and several versions of this book were later printed.[11]

Hovis biscuitEdit

Since 1980, Hovis have licensed Jacob's to produce a digestive biscuit, branded as Hovis.[4] Now a United Biscuits product, they are shaped like a miniature flat copy of the traditional Hovis loaf, and like the bread have the word "HOVIS" stamped on their top surface.

The Bread Bag Recycling ProgrammeEdit

In a bid to help the environment and sustainability, Hovis collaborated with TerraCycle in The Bread Bag Recycling Programme. The objective of the programme is to drop-off your bread bags at public drop-off locations across the UK, or simply mail them to delivery services like those provided by UPS. These are all listed on an interactive map. After that the bags are recycled in a specialist plant. Those who take part in the programme are able to get TerraCycle points. These can be redeemed for a variety of charitable gifts or a payment to the non-profit organization.[12][13]


  1. ^ Bamford, Vince (20 May 2014). "Hovis names former Burger King boss Nish Kankiwala chairman". The Grocer. Retrieved 25 November 2014.
  2. ^ Brownsell, Alex (27 January 2014). "Premier Foods sells controlling stake in Hovis". Marketing Magazine. Retrieved 25 November 2014.
  3. ^ "Nimble". Hovis. 2014. Retrieved 25 November 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Robert Opie (2006). Ifan Jenkins (ed.). "Hovis: 120 years of Goodness" (PDF). RHM. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 December 2014. Retrieved 2 February 2011.
  5. ^ GB 189905961  Smith, Richard A New or Improved Method or Process for Treating the Germ of Wheat for Food Purposes. 1900-02-17
  6. ^ Iain Sinclair (20 January 2011). "The Raging Peloton". London Review of Books. Vol. 33 no. 2. pp. 3–8. ISSN 0260-9592. Retrieved 3 February 2011. Triggered by an archive clip of his maternal grandfather, Herbert Morrison, another ennobled socialist cabinet minister, Mandelson launched into a memoir of cycling around Hendon, committee room to polling station, bearing leaflets, carrying messages as proudly as the freshly baked loaves in Ridley Scott’s celebrated commercial, shot in 1973, on the picturesque slopes of Shaftesbury. Carl Barlow, the youth who featured in the advertisement, underscored by the slow movement of Dvorak’s Symphony No 9, arranged for brass, went on to become a fireman in East Ham.
  7. ^ a b Ciar Byrne (2 May 2006). "Ridley Scott's Hovis advert is voted all-time favourite". The Independent. Retrieved 3 February 2011.
  8. ^ Sam Delaney (23 August 2007). "Jets, jeans and Hovis". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  9. ^ Euan Stretch (4 December 2013). "Back to where I was born and bread - Hovis boy recreates famous advert 40 YEARS later". Mirror. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  10. ^ Maurice Rickards (2000). The Encyclopedia of Ephemera: A Guide to the Fragmentary Documents of Everyday Life for the Collector, Curator, and Historian. Psychology Press. pp. 332–. ISBN 978-0-415-92648-5.
  11. ^ "Hovis road map of England, Wales and Scotland". Holdings of the Roger S. Baskes Collection (Newberry Library).
  12. ^ "The Bread Bag Recycling Programme". TerraCycle. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  13. ^ "Home Hovis® Launches UK-wide Bread Bag Recycling Initiative in Partnership with TerraCycle". Packaging Europe. 21 February 2019.

External linksEdit