John Lawson Johnston
John Lawson Johnston
Born28 September 1839
Roslin, Midlothian
Died24 November 1900 | Age 61


Bovril, the concentrated essence of beef that is diluted with hot water to make a drink, was invented by John Johnston.
Bovril Jar
Bovril Jar

John Johnston 1870

Johnston worked as a butcher in Edinburgh, he used surplus meat to make his own meat glaze or beef stock, by heating until it becomes dark brown and viscous, this gave it a long shelf-life. His glaze sold so well that he opened a second shop and a factory in Holyrood. In 1871, he emigrated to Canada and set up business there.

Napoleon III had a large army and in 1870 he needed one million cans of beef to feed his troops. The person best positioned to fulfill this task of providing all this beef was a Scotsman living in Canada named John Lawson Johnston.

The transportation and storage of such vast amounts of food were problematic. This led to Johnston creating a product he called 'Johnston's Fluid Beef', that was later called Bovril. He returned to Britain in 1880 where he developed the brand further. He resided in his own 'Bovril Castle' – Kingswood House in Sydenham.
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