John West UK

The history of John West

The Story So Far

John West brought the great taste of Pacific Salmon to the UK in 1857 , and since then, we’ve made a name for ourselves when it comes to fish. Today, we sell everything from Easy Peel Mackerel to No Drain Tuna in fridge friendly pots, but we like to remember our rich and unique heritage. None of this would be possible were it not for one man and his big ideas.

1809: Humble Beginnings

John West is born in Linlithgow, Scotland. A younger son, he’s not entitled to an inheritance, so will have to make his own wealth. As it turns out, this bad luck will be our good fortune…

John West UK

1832: Setting Sail

Like many young men of his time, John sets out for the Americas to make his fortune. He lands in Canada and marries his wife, Mary, before training as a millwright. By 1848, the Californian gold rush is in full-fever. John responds to its call.

John West UK

1850s: Settling Down 

John’s hunt for gold is unfruitful, but like any great entrepreneur, he doesn’t give up. The US government offers free land in Oregon for lumberjacks, and by 1851, John’s secured 640 acres. He clears mighty redwoods with just a saw and axe. In their place, he erects his own sawmills.

John West UK

1857: Building a Business 

Despite two sawmills to run and a family of eight to look after, John opts for a new challenge. He sets up a salmon salterie, packing salted, wild salmon into wooden barrels. They’re shipped as far as England, and the John West name becomes synonymous with quality fish.

John West UK

1868: Can-do Attitude

John West salmon is in high demand, and John, to house, educate and satisfy his growing workforce, casually builds an entire town (Westport, Oregon). Despite being trained to work with wood, he also created an automated can-filling machine. Is there anything he can’t do?

John West UK

1874: Famous for Quality

John’s attention to quality and detail pays off, and he’s awarded the Gold Medal for quality by the Oregon State Agricultural Society. Hard work, inventiveness and not accepting anything less than best: they’re still our guiding principles today.

John West UK

1952: Tuna Takes Over

Almost a century after our founder set up his salmon salterie, John West (the company) introduce quality canned tuna to the mix. Salads, sarnies and supermarket shelves will never be the same again.

John West UK

1960s: Age of Advertising

Our success was built on our reputation, so it’s hardly surprising that John West take to television to promote our products. Our catchy jingles and the line: ‘It’s the fish that John West rejects that makes John West the best,’ dominate in this era.

John West UK

1986: Fish Fever

By the mid-80s, Britain is ready to swap meat-and-two-veg for something a little more worldly. People were looking for quality, nutritious food without the hassle of cooking for hours every night. With its fresh flavour and ring-pull convenience, canned tuna fits the bill perfectly.

John West UK

1993: Dolphin Friendly

On January 11th, 1993, John West starts to display the Dolphin Safe symbol on our products. this label is governed by the Earth Island Institute.

John West UK

2000: Bear vs Fisherman

John West release the infamous ‘bear fight’ advert, demonstrating the lengths we go to in our pursuit of quality fish. The video goes as ‘viral’ as possible in a pre-YouTube era, and yes, we still get asked about it all the time.

John West UK

2009: No-Drain tuna is invented

What could be more convenient than canned tuna? Canned tuna you don’t even have to drain, of course. John West’s No-Drain Tuna becomes the latest in a legacy of inventions, proving yet again that nutritious food can also be convenient.

John West UK

2010: Big New Venture

John West join Thai Union, the largest seafood producer in the world. A prestigious move for a company that started off as just one man from Linlithgow.

John West UK

2011: The Story behind the Can

As shoppers start to ask more questions about where the  fish in the can is from, John West introduces an innovative tool to trace the origins of a can. By typing in the code from their can, customers can find out where their fish came from.

John West UK

2012: Decade of Innovation

The 2010s saw John West launch one product after another, with Steam Pots, Infusions, Lunch on the Go and Creations invented in the John West kitchen. Now our nutritious fish can be eaten on-the-go…

John West UK

2018: Our Favourites Get A New Look

Ever the perfectionists, John West give a few of our best-selling products a little extra love. Our canned Mackerel gets an easy-peel lid, and No Drain Tuna is upgraded to a fridge-friendly pot.

John West UK

2020: Looking Ahead

Over 150 years later, it’s fair to say that we’re known for much more than wild salmon. As we enter a new decade, our relentless quest for the best continues with new flavours, techniques and even more delicious new ways to enjoy fish.

John West UK

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