Sometimes a secret is just too good to keep to yourself – that is how proud Sheffielders have come to feel about Henderson’s Relish.
Originally manufactured at 35 Broad Lane in Sheffield city centre in the late 19th century, the spicy table sauce with a warm velvety kick has been in uninterrupted production within just a few miles of the site ever since. Its distribution, however, has spread somewhat further.
Today, the family-run business produces half-a-million bottles every year. They are stocked by big supermarket chains, as well as numerous independent establishments, across Sheffield and beyond.
In fact ‘Hendo’s’, as it’s affectionately known to its Sheffield fans, has just experienced one of its most successful years to date, with the bottle bearing the bright orange label continuing to grow in popularity.
So what is it about our humble Hendo’s that foodies far and wide are lapping up?
Patrick Byrne, general manager at the firm, says: “People love Henderson’s – it’s more than a sauce to them, it’s part of the city’s heritage.
“Originally it was spread by word of mouth – people talking over garden fences and down the local pub. This is still the case today, only with social media it’s reaching more people.
“It’s spread to Barnsley, Doncaster and Rotherham and now it’s seeping ointo areas such as Lincolnshire, north Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.
“It’s also requested by businesses across the UK and people take it overseas with them – we know a shop in the Falkland Islands sells it.”
They say any press is good press, and this was certainly true when MP Jim Dowd helped Hendo’s off to a great start in 2014. The politician suggested Sheffield’s favourite sauce was a ‘copy’ of Lea & Perrins’ Worcestershire Sauce – concluding with: ‘It’s called Henderson’s, whoever they are’.
Almost immediately, scores of angry Hendo’s fanatics leapt to the defence of the city’s much-loved institution – including Deputy Prime Minister and Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg – which attracted national coverage and forced an embarrassed Dowd to eat his words.
Patrick says: “If he would like to complain about us every month of the year, that would be fine. It certainly boosted our profile.
“He did later apologise and there is now a bottle signed by him in our cabinet.”
Henderson’s recently moved from its iconic building on Leavygreave Road in the city centre to a business park just off Sheffield Parkway.
A team of just five keep the well-oiled Hendo’s factory running smoothly and are responsible for the bottling, distribution and marketing of the famous sauce. When it comes making the relish, this duty is reserved for three members of the Freeman family – the only people who know the right consistencies of the ingredients required to produce that distinctive Hendo’s taste.
While little about the sauce has changed over the years, one noticeable difference is its bottle size. It’s grown from a modest 30ml to a substantial 284ml measure.
Its instantly recognisable orange label has also been known to change – although only on very special occasions.
Patrick says: “We like to have a bit of fun and our limited edition bottles are one way of doing this,” says Patrick.
Some of Hendo’s most memorable limited labels include a gold edition to celebrate Sheffield’s Jess Ennis-Hill winning gold at the London 2012 Olympics, bottles in the colours of both the city’s Football League teams, Sheffield United and Wednesday, fundraising bottles for the city’s St Luke’s Hospice’s pie and peas campaign, and yellow labels to celebrate the Tour De France passing through Sheffield.
Other recent highlights for the company include expanding their merchandise line and releasing a Henderson’s Relish Cook Book, featuring recipes from hard-core fans of the relish, including some famous faces.
Patrick says: “We’ve been taking Hendo’s to the people more by going to events in areas, such as Derbyshire, and doing tastings for people that haven’t sampled it before.
“Our plan is to share a part of Sheffield with the north, though we must be careful not to lose the fun along the way.”