Hensons is a local, independent company trading from the heart of the capital. Founded in the 19th Century in Smithfield market, Hensons has a long and rich history in and around the meat industry in London. Up until the early 1970s J L Henson Ltd was one of the capital’s main tripe rendering plants. As unsavoury as that sounds to us today, tripe was an important source of cheap protein, particularly during years of war and rationing. The other product Hensons was known for was salt beef. In those days this meant taking the cheapest cuts of meat and soaking it in barrels of brine for days on end. This was then sold to the numerous salt beef bars across the capital.
The post war years saw significant, sustained increases in the standard of living for most Londoners, and inevitably, tripe and salt beef declined in sales, in favour of other cuts of meat.
Eventually tripe production was stopped, and Hensons decided to concentrate on salt beef, developing a commercial production technique that turned salt beef into a premium product. Out went the cheap cuts of meat and the barrels of brine, and in their place prime, grass fed brisket and a carefully developed low salt cure. Over the years, the popularity of salt beef returned and is now big business in restaurants and salt beef bars, taking its rightful place as traditional London fayre.
Of course, Hensons has developed a lot since those days. The company now also offers a full catering butchery services to formal as well as informal dining establishments. Five years ago it acquired a specialist cheese seller, adding a complimentary range of British and Continental cheese to its portfolio.
Hensons also has probably the largest cold store in central London, stocking frozen ingredients for chefs as well as prepared dishes for caterers.
All products are distributed to customers throughout London and the South East on dual-compartment vehicles, so chilled, frozen and ambient products are delivered at the same time. This one-stop service offers saves valuable time for clients, and cuts significantly the environmental impact of distribution.
Hensons is a member of Fairway Foodservice plc, a group of 22 independent distributors covering the whole of the UK and Ireland, and now with a member in Spain serving the ex-pat population. Together these companies purchase frozen and ambient products. This pooling of resources means that whilst each company retains its independent character and the service associated with smaller organisations, purchasing power, technical issues and product development are a match for the international foodservice groups.
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