A British food icon, PG Tips hasn't only given us a tasty yet affordable cuppa over the years, it has also made the nation smile through the rather amusing affairs of a group of talking chimps and, of course, introduced the self-proclaimed 'the eighth wonder of the world': the pyramid tea bag. What more could you want.
History (as per the Wikipedia entry):
In the 1930s Arthur Brooke of Brooke Bond launched PG Tips in the UK tea market under the name of Pre-Gest-Tee. The name implied that the tea could be drunk prior to food being digested. Grocers abbreviated it to PG.
After the Second World War, labelling regulations ruled out describing tea as aiding digestion—a property previously attributed to tea—and by 1950/1 the PG name was officially 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.
Products 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 Manchester.
PG Tags, tea bags with a string, were launched in 1985, and pyramid-shaped (tetrahedron) tea bags in 1996 (PG Tips Pyramid ® Bags is a registered trademark). The pyramid-shaped bag was specifically designed to help the tea leaves move more freely, as loose tea moves in a teapot, and create a better infusion. The Brooke Bond name has now been dropped from all packaging, and the product is now known as PG Tips.
In Scotland, Unilever sells a specially developed blend of PG. It is called Scottish Blend.
In the Republic of Ireland, Unilever sells tea under the Lyons brand.
PG tips, Scottish Blend and Lyons teas are exported by Unilever UK & Ireland Export, based in Unilever UK & Ireland's Head Office Leatherhead, through a worldwide network of food distributors.
The Tipps Family
In 1956 PG Tips began using anthropomorphic chimpanzees in their TV advertisements. These were dressed in human clothes 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 advetisements were stopped in the 1970s after complaints by animal rights organisations. However sales dropped and the chimps were bought back 18 months later. The last 'Tipps family' advert was broadcast in 2002. The PG Tips chimps spawned a spin-off in memorabilia, including trading cards and figurines.
The 'Tipps family' were replaced with a house sharing group of claymation birds called the T-Birds, animated by Aardman, the company behind Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run. In Ireland these commercials were still airing in late 2006, though advertising Lyons Tea (another Unilever brand).
Wallace & Gromit
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 this "Gromit" mug promotion, PG tips sales increased 600 percent. Wallace and Gromit also appeared in an advert with Lady Tottington (another character from the film) around the same time.
Monkey & Al
In 2007, PG tips reunited Johnny Vegas and the popular ITV Digital Monkey character puppeteered by Nigel Plaskitt and Susan Beattie and voiced by Ben Miller, following a holiday TV special about famously bad decisions (ITV Digital's launch) where they featured briefly. Johnny's notably cleaner and soberer than he often plays, and the Monkey character pointedly explains he's not a chimpanzee, he's a monkey, a nod to PG tips' chimpanzee family. In the first advert shown during Coronation Street on 8 January 2007, Monkey returns drenched and dishevelled after 5 years away because of the demise of ITV Digital and drops by unannounced at the house of Johnny Vegas' character "Al". After a short catch-up conversation, a boil wash and a cup of PG tips, Al says Monkey can stay with him again even though he' s rented the big room to Carol Decker from the popular British 1980s band T'Pau. On the official website, Monkey is wearing a T-shirt saying "Mr Shifter?", a reference to the "Tipps family" advert.
The second Monkey advert was first seen before Coronation Street on 15 January 2007 at around 8.30pm. It shows Monkey explaining to Al that PG tips is a natural blend of tea leaves, water and nothing else. But Al keeps discovering more things in his cup (milk, 5 sugars, the remains of a macaroon and a red plastic seahorse) leading Monkey to frustratingly declare, 'Oh why do I bother?!'
The third Monkey advert was first aired on 22 January 2007 during GMTV. It shows Monkey and Al dressed in Home Guard uniforms reminiscent of the classic British TV comedy Dad's Army. Monkey explains that at 15.00 hours they will drink a cup of PG tips with naturally occurring theanine to help Al build a flat packed chest of drawers. Al completes the task but Monkey ends up with his head in the bottom drawer and his legs upside down in the middle drawer leading Monkey to quote "Stupid boy", a reference to Private Pike.
The fourth Monkey advert was first aired on 29 January 2007 during GMTV. It shows Monkey and Al dressed as carnival folk. Monkey is wearing a ballerina's tutu and is tied to a rotating wheel while Al throws teaspoons, instead of the expected knives, at the rotating Monkey who pleads with Al to "stop this madness". Al tells Monkey not to fear because he's in the zone because of the naturally occurring theanine in PG tips. Once Al runs out of spoons, he reaches for other kitchen tools (egg whisk, spatula, etc.) and asks Monkey if he'd prefer a blindfold. Monkey agrees but then Al wears the blindfold instead leading Monkey to cry "No idiot, for me. Put the blindfold on me!" The now blindfolded Al says "Who says that?" and walks into the kitchen table.
The fifth monkey advert was first aired on 5 February 2007. It advertises a free Monkey in special packs of PG Tips.
More adverts were screened between March–November 2008, including Monkey's disgraceful Christmas message.
On 25 December 2008 another advert was released, with Al and monkey making tea in tribute to the Morecambe and Wise 'Breakfast Sketch'. This involved the pair making tea to the same music as used in the Sketch.
The next advert was shown in February 2009, when Monkey proves to Al about pyramid tea bags and that September another advert was shown when Al remembered the day he discovered pyramid tea bags. The most recent PG Tips advert was shown on 3 November 2009 when Monkey shouts out at a match.
Another advert shows Monkey and Al under the kitchen table, hiding from a Mexican-looking man with several sacks of tea leaves. Monkey asks Al why he ordered tea directly from Mexicans, when PG Tips already supports Rainforest Alliance for sustainability. Monkey then peeks out, looks horrified, and asks Al how many tea bags he had bought. Al says "The usual, 80 bags.", whereas the Mexican understood "bags" as "sacks", bringing 80 sacks of tea leaves. Al then foolishly shouts "We are not here!" to deter the Mexican, the Mexican obviously finds them, and the ad closes with Monkey nervously saying "Buenos dias, Senoridas?".
The latest advert is 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 in the 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.
Website (2011 screenshots)
PG Tips Timeline
This is a good looking website with a good layout and some quick and easy navigation. There is enough information to cover such things as brand heritage and current range without overloading the reader. Whilst, 'The 'Playtime at PG Tips' page is entertaining one with a few fun games to balance out the more information based aspects of the site. Also of note is the beautiful hand-drawn look to the monkey graphics featured throughout the site which, other than being very charming, are proving quite distinctive amongst the computer-esque output of many manufacturers today.
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