A letter to Branston


Dear Sirs

As a keen cook, I regularly make batches of caramelised onions. My friends like it so much they use my recipe to cook it for their families. It is delicious, keeps well and requires for sweetening only a small slug of balsamic vinegar, since the natural sweetness of the onions provide all the sugars required.

Imagine then my feeling when at a recent BBQ a family member brought a jar of your caramelised onion chutney, which we all ate for comparison with my homemade – though with a sense of foreboding given that you print on the label “with sugar and sweeteners.” The initial flavour was unmistakeable: any flavour of onions was totally overpowered by a cloying and unpleasant sweetness. Unanimously we agreed that this was a “horrible” product, so it was consigned to the bin.

A closer look at the label tells me that the product is 38% onions (compared to about 90% for mine), and the next biggest ingredient is sugar, quite apart from the other sweeteners. In view of government legislation to tax fizzy drinks overladen with sugar, I am amazed they did not propose the same legislation to apply to processed food products such as your own. Not only is that degree of sweetness totally unnecessary and counterproductive for a good flavour, it is distinctly unhealthy – this is a net contributor to the obesity epidemic!

As a manufacturer you have a duty of care to your customers, part of which must be to provide products that are tasty and nutritious, but also that are not damaging to health. There is no justification whatever for this sweetening, whatever your focus groups might tell you – though I suspect if you offered them a homemade alternative your product would get nul points anyway. Can you please either remove them from the market entirely or reduce the sweetening to the point where the product can be ingested without making the diner feel physically ill?

By the way, I shall be publishing this letter on my website, and would welcome your passing these sentiments to everybody who will listen.

Kind regards

Andy Millward

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