Time was, Sunday wouldn’t be Sunday without the traditional roast at lunchtime. And the traditional roast wouldn’t be the same without Gravox. The instant gravy powder that salted, coloured, thickened and flavoured our Sunday gravies was invented by the Clements Brothers in 1917. The Clements’ company, imaginatively named Klembro Pty Ltd, had other products including something called ‘gravy salt’, cornflour and, at one point, a line of Tasmanian ‘Petit Pois’ green peas.
Based in Melbourne, they wasted no time in distributing their product up and down the eastern seaboard. In 1919, despite post-WWI shipping disruptions limiting the arrival of goods in North Queensland, the Brisbane Daily Mail reported that among wholesalers ‘ Gravox is rapidly gaining in popularity at prices ranging from 11s to 12s per dozen’. Newspaper advertising in 1920 called it ‘The Ideal Gravy Maker’ and ‘The Housewife’s Friend in Need’, but pointed out that the versatile product could be used in soups, stews, pies, pasties and even to coat fish before frying.
Some cooks became quite creative with Gravox, as with the following cold meatloaf recipe from 1933:
Take one and a half cups of any left over stock and bring to boiling point. Dissolve two teaspoons (or more) of gravox [sic] in a little water, add one cup of warm water, boil, then add to the stock. Dissolve two dessert spoons of powdered gelatine in a little warm water, add to mixture and let cool. When it begins to set add two cups of any chopped meat – beef, ham or chicken. Turn into a wet mould or piedish; stir gently. When cook remove and cut in slices.
Gravox was regularly advertised through the decades although, according to the current manufacturers, it wasn’t until World War II interrupted supplies of imported products that it became widely popular. The principal competitor was likely Bisto, which had arrived in 1910, produced in the UK by Cerebos. By 1945, the traffic was going the other way. Packets of Gravox were regularly listed among the products being donated for shipping to the UK under the post-war ‘Food for Britain‘ scheme.
In 1953, Cerebos decided to begin manufacture in Australia. They bought the Clements’ brand and manufacturing facilities and began producing both Bisto and Gravox in Richmond, Victoria. By this point, Gravox was the dominant brand. Cerebos became wholly owned by the Japanese Suntory Holdings in 2012. In 2017, Suntory sold Cerebos’ Food & Instant Coffee business in Australia and New Zealand to the Kraft Heinz Company. At that point, the Cerebos brands included Fountain, Gravox, Saxa, Foster Clark’s, Gregg’s, Bisto, Raro and Asian Home Gourmet.
Gravox continues to be the leading gravy-maker brand in Australia, with a vastly expanded product range including liquid gravies, gravy mixes. and sauce mixes.