|Country||Greater Manchester, England, UK|
|Previous owners||Brooke Bond Procter & Gamble|
In the 1930s, Brooke Bond launched PG Tips in the tea market in the United Kingdom under the name Pre-Gestee - a variant of the original name 'Digestive Tea'. The name implied that it could be drunk prior to eating food, as a digestive aid. Grocers and salesmen abbreviated it to PG.
After the Second World War, labelling regulations ruled out describing tea as aiding digestion—a property that had been attributed to tea—and by 1950/1 the PG name was adopted. The company added "Tips" referring to the fact that only the tips (the top two leaves and bud) of the tea plants are used in the blend.
The Brooke Bond name has now been dropped from all packaging, and the product is now known as PG Tips. PG Tips is available as loose tea, tea bags, and in vending formats. A "Special Blend" tea, which is the same as the tea blended for the brand's 75th anniversary, is available in tea bag form only. The tea used in PG Tips is imported in bulk as single estate teas from around the world and blended in precise proportions set by the tea tasters to make blend 777, which can contain between 12 and 35 single estate teas at any one time (depending on season, etc.) at the Trafford Park factory in the Metropolitan Borough of Trafford, Greater Manchester.
PG Tags, tea bags with a string, were launched in 1985, and tetrahedron-shaped tea bags in 1996 (branded as Pyramid Bags). The tetrahedral bag was designed to help the tea leaves move more freely, as loose tea moves in a teapot, and supposedly create a better infusion. One 2011 version of the product packaging makes the claim: "The PG Tips pyramid tea bag gives the tea leaves 50% more room to move around than a flat conventional tea bag. So the tea bag works more like a miniature tea pot. This allows for all the freshness to be released for the best tasting cup of PG." During the T-Birds era, the tetrahedral tea bags were remade with a "freeflow" material, to allow further infusion of the tea.
In Scotland, Unilever sells a specially developed blend of PG called Scottish Blend. Scottish Blend is a version of PG Tips marketed in Scotland, as being specially blended to optimise taste in the soft waters of Scotland.
PG Tips, Scottish Blend and Lyons teas are exported by Unilever International, based in Leatherhead, United Kingdom, and Singapore, through a worldwide network of food distributors. Unilever North America manage PG Tips in the United States since 2011. In Ireland, Unilever sells tea under the Lyons brand.
As of 2011, a "Special Moments" range was released, initially as the "New Ones". These teas were made by pressing the leaves at different stages. In 2014, Unilever have introduced a new range of fruit, herbal and green teas under the PG Tips brand.
Unlike the blended teas many companies were producing, Brooke’s teas were pure, high quality teas from India and China. Brooke realised the importance of advertising early on, introducing the slogan, "Good tea unites good company, exhilarates the spirits, banishes restraint from conversation and promotes the happiest purposes of social intercourse."
The Tipps family
In 1956, PG Tips began using anthropomorphic chimpanzees in their television advertisements. These were dressed in human clothes in the fashion of Chimpanzees' tea party and were known as the "Tipps family". Their voices were often provided by celebrities, such as Peter Sellers and Bob Monkhouse. By 1958, PG Tips had risen from fourth to first place in the British tea market. The chimpanzees were from Twycross Zoo in Leicestershire.
These advertisements were stopped in the 1970s, after complaints by animal rights organisations. However, sales dropped, and the chimps were brought back 18 months later. The last 'Tipps family' advert was broadcast in January 2002. The PG Tips chimps spawned a spinoff in memorabilia, including trading cards and figurines.
The T-Birds (2002-2005)
The "Tipps family" were replaced in January 2002, with a house-sharing group of claymation birds called the T-Birds (which consisted of Tom the owl, Maggie the pigeon, Pete the starling and Holly the blue tit), animated by Aardman, the company behind Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run. In Ireland, these commercials were still airing by the end of 2006, though advertising Lyons Tea (another Unilever brand).
This led to PG Tips becoming a major partner with Wallace and Gromit's first film The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, launched in October 2005. PG offered Gromit mugs on pack in the supermarket. According to The Grocer magazine, Unilever reported that during the Gromit mug promotion, PG Tips sales increased 600%. Wallace and Gromit also appeared in an advert with Lady Tottington (another character from the film) around the same time.
PG Tips also produced a long-running series of trade cards as giveaways. These cards ceased production in 1999, after a survey of customers showed that they were not contributing to developing the business.
In 2005, PG Tips celebrated its 75th anniversary with special packs, including a limited-edition Golden pack, and a one-off Diamond tea bag. The Diamond tea bag cost £7,500, and was made by Boodles jewelers and used Makaibari Silver Tips (Imperial).
In 2007, PG Tips reunited Johnny Vegas as Al and the ITV Digital Monkey character puppeteered by Nigel Plaskitt and Susan Beattie, voiced by Ben Miller and made by Paul Jomain, following a holiday TV special about bad decisions (ITV Digital's launch) where they featured briefly, on which low audience figures, piracy issues and an ultimately unaffordable multimillion-pound deal with the Football League led to the broadcaster suffering massive losses, forcing it to enter administration in March 2002. The Monkey character pointedly explains he's not a chimpanzee, he's a monkey, a nod to PG Tips' chimpanzee family.
One of the adverts was a spoof of the "deli scene" from the movie When Harry Met Sally...; in the advert Monkey describes the taste of PG Tips by saying "Oh Yes" repeatedly like in the movie, finishing with a woman at a table nearby asking the waiter "I'll have whatever he's having". The ad ends with the tagline "How would you describe the taste?" It was first shown on 3 February 2010.
When PG Tips released the "Special Moments" range (initially "The New Ones"), another advert was released to advertise the "Fresh" one. It featured Monkey and Al out rambling. Monkey says to Al that they need a cup of the "Fresh" one. Al takes so long to decide how the tea tastes that before he can come to a conclusion, Monkey has been swept away by an eagle. This advert was later modified showing Monkey being dropped off in the eagle's nest with the four flavours of the Special Moments range, as well as two eagle chicks next to him. After the US federal decision in support of same-sex marriage in 2015, PG Tips depicted its Monkey character under the rainbow flag in a message of support for gay marriage, which received some criticism for being a political statement..
In 2017, PG tips, Unilever, and ubisend worked together to bring the Monkey persona to life, through a Facebook Messenger chatbot for the Red Nose Day charity. For over three weeks leading up to Red Nose Day, Messenger users could message Monkey and interact with him through his chatbot. Monkey also delivered one daily joke to each of his chatbot users at tea time, with the goal of raising One Million Laughs for Comic Relief.
A Tale of Two Continents
|A Tale of Two Continents|
|21 March 2008 (cinema)|
|9 minutes (extended DVD run) 5 (cinema run)|
A short film entitled A Tale of Two Continents was released in March 2008. It is an adventure film parody, starring Monkey "wanting to change the world one tea at a time". It was shown in cinemas from 21 March 2008 until 10 April, before the showings of family films such as The Spiderwick Chronicles and Horton Hears a Who!.
It was also given free in special limited edition versions of PG Tips in early 2008 as an EcoDisc, a type of DVD that is thinner and more flexible due to it being made of a single layer of polycarbonate, instead of two layers. The limited edition package also featured a teatowel of the EcoDisc cover, described as the "official merchandise" of the film.
Al didn’t appear in the film because it’s still not allowed.
PG Tips and sustainability
In May 2007, Unilever became the first company to commit to sourcing all its tea in a sustainable manner. To that end, the company asked the Rainforest Alliance, an international environmental NGO to start certifying tea estates in East Africa. Since April 2012 all of the tea used in PG Tips has been Rainforest Alliance certified.
- "Keep it tea" (Monkey)
- "How would you describe the taste?" (Al and Monkey)
- "Do your bit, put the kettle on" (Al and Monkey)
- "We All Need a PG Moment" (used during the T-Birds era)
- "There's no other tea to beat PG" (later chimp ads), followed by "It's the taste!" spoken by a chimp
- "Dad, do you know the piano's on my foot?" Mr Shifter: You hum it son, I'll play it!
- "Avez-vous un cuppa?" (Tour De France)
- "It's the Tea you can really Taste" (Earlier chimp ads)
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- Foley, Stephen (3 February 2011). The Independent. London https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/news/pg-tips-maker-agrees-to-halt-animal-tests-on-its-tea-2202615.html. Retrieved 19 September 2017. Missing or empty