Skipton hits the spot
Skipton’s Mutton Bags were first sold on this day in 1948. Herbert Skipton, a meat paste manufacturer from Halifax, was inspired by the arrival of tea bags from America and saw the potential for an ‘instant’ savoury beverage. After experimenting with various ingredients, he finally settled on dried mutton and Yorkshire brick-salt. The resulting drink – described by J.B. Priestly as ‘grey, greasy, and tasty as an old shoe’ – was an immediate hit, with more than ten million bags sold in the first year. Before long it was licensed across the Commonwealth, and New Zealander Edmund Hillary famously took mutton bags on his historic Everest expedition. (He subsequently appeared in an advertisement in which he brewed one in a climbing boot.)
In the 1960s sales began to fall, and Skipton’s attempts to update its image – such as the introduction of Mutton Pop, a fizzy drink aimed at children – proved unsuccessful. UK production of mutton bags ceased in 1972, although they remain popular in New Zealand, where they are known affectionately as ‘sheep dips’ or ‘dag bags’.
Trivia: ‘Pass the mutton bags, Jill!’ was the catch-phrase of Mrs Smedley in the radio comedy Mustn’t Grumble.