In 2022, Tridge reported that Britain imported a staggering 100.9 metric tons of baked beans, valued at approximately $99.1 million. This news may not surprise those who have visited the U.K., as Brits have an enduring love for this simple yet immensely satisfying food. Baked beans can be found on the menus of cafes and pubs all across the country. In fact, if you were to pick any random grocery store in the U.K., you'd undoubtedly discover at least a tin or two of Heinz-branded baked beans on the shelves.
The British fascination with baked beans has a long history dating all the way back to 1901 when an enterprising American named Henry Heinz brought them across the Atlantic to the British Isles. Heinz cleverly marketed baked beans as the perfect ready-made meal for busy folks. Since this was during the peak of the Industrial Era, and everyone was in a rush, these canned haricot beans in tomato sauce quickly gained popularity. Aside from being quite tasty, the beans also provided high-quality proteins, giving consumers the energy to power through the harsh working day.
The original Heinz baked beans recipe included chunks of pork, making it a more-or-less complete meal-in-a-can. However, when World War II struck and pork became rationed to support the war effort, Heinz removed the pork chunks from the recipe. Thus, the iconic canned beans that every Briton knows and loves were born.
How The Second World War Kickstarted The British Love Affair With Baked Beans
From 1941 onwards, the U.K. government introduced a nationwide food rationing program. In addition to food coupons, people were given a pink ration book that allowed them to exchange "points" for specific goods. One of the first items included in this point-based rationing system was "tinned beans." This highlights just how important beans were during that time. Baked beans played a crucial role in helping the British population cope with meat shortages by providing an alternative source of protein.
The widespread availability of canning factories made it easier to produce and distribute baked beans as convenient and emergency-ready food. So, from 1941 to 1948, baked beans were classified as an "essential food" by the Ministry of Food. Even after rationing ended and (arguably) tastier alternatives became available again, baked beans had become such a staple in the British diet that they remained popular.
Today, baked beans are widely sold and consumed throughout the country. Grocery stores stock them in pallets to make restocking easier since people buy them at a blistering pace. Interestingly, baked beans weren't just popular among common folks, but they were also favored by the Royal Family. Princess Diana's favorite breakfast food was a can of baked beans, the Duchess of Cornwall enjoys beans on toast, and Heinz, the most popular brand of baked beans, has held a Royal Warrant (a certificate issued to companies that supply goods to the Royal Court) since 1951.
Read the original article on Tasting Table.