Cost of Living

From HP sauce to Burberry, the future of the Queen's endorsements is up in the air

HP Sauce is just one of the late Queen Elizabeth's favourite brands — and they are among hundreds of products that hold royal warrants. Here's what happens to the branding advantage gained from her seal of approval now that Her Majesty has died.

Royal seals of approval aren't automatically carried over to new monarch

Royal Warrant
Burberry is one of the many brands that held a royal warrant from Queen Elizabeth. After her death, that endorsement and any other granted by the Queen does not automatically transfer to King Charles. (FPCOLRWarrant)

Around the world, the kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms of the population have something in common with many of the United Kingdom's royal palaces.

They are often stocked with the same items personally selected by Her Majesty The Queen and other members of the Royal Family, marked by what's known as a royal warrant.

Popular products such as HP Sauce, Kellogg's Corn Flakes, Burberry clothing, Clarins skin care or Elizabeth Arden cosmetics can all display a royal coat of arms, marking them as a product chosen by Her Majesty.

But those seals of approval may evaporate following the Queen's death this month, leaving some brands wondering if they'll continue to enjoy the favour of royal households as His Majesty King Charles takes the throne.

HP Sauce, through its parent company Heinz, holds a royal warrant, though it's not visible on these bottles. Heinz was officially the 'Purveyors of Heinz Products' to HM The Queen, a role that could admittedly be difficult for another company to fill. (Sang Tan/Associated Press)

"There is incredible loyalty associated with with the royal coat of arms," said Feizal Chatur, CEO of Araam Inc. in Edmonton.

Chatur's company is the Canadian manufacturer of Hypnos mattresses, one of more than 700 brands that currently hold a royal warrant.

That means the brand carries the stamp of approval from Queen Elizabeth, and the company can display signage indicating that "By Appointment to HM The Queen," Hypnos products are official royal bedding and upholstery manufacturers.

Hypnos Ltd. held the royal warrant for the Queen's mattresses; Edmonton-based company Araam is the sole Canadian manufacturer. (Royal Warrant Holders Association)

Essentially, it's the mattress of choice for generations of Royals at many of their palaces, including Buckingham and Kensington Palaces, as well as Windsor and Balmoral Castles.

The implied endorsement the royal warrant provides means significant prestige, according to the Canadian branch of the mattress company.

Feizal Chatur, CEO of Araam Inc., is pictured with a royal coat of arms behind him at his company's offices in Edmonton. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)

"If it's good enough for the late Queen, then it's definitely good enough for a consumer," said Chatur in an interview with CBC Radio's The Cost of Living. Both Queen Elizabeth and the Queen Mother issued royal warrants for Hypnos mattresses, according to Chatur.

Influencers before the internet

Royal warrants have been granted by the Royal Family since the 15th century, with royal coats of arms being displayed by businesses since the 18th. 

It's a history that makes the British Royals, by some measure, the original influencers before there were telephones, let alone the internet and Instagram.

"Over the years, the royal warrants have become, if you like, a … mark for quality of service and product," said Paul Alger, director of international affairs at the U.K. Fashion and Textile Association.

It keeps you on your toes in terms of quality and upholding the prestige.- Feizal Chatur, CEO of Araam Inc. in Edmonton, Alberta

"It's a recognition factor that the Royal Family is bestowing on these great British brands."

While it's difficult to attach a dollar (or pound) figure to the brand equity granted by royal warrants, the mark of quality is still important for many consumers. For instance, gloves endorsed by the Queen would obviously pass muster, said Alger, as Her Majesty would be shaking hundreds of hands a day in them.

Global consumers also value seeing the royal coat of arms, according to the trade expert.

"When we look at key international markets, Japan, China, Korea, for example, those markets are absolutely fascinated by the royal warrant and any connection to the Royal Family … the Chinese in particular are really, really passionate fans of royal warrant products," said Alger.

What happens with a new sovereign?

With Charles now in charge, it could mean many of HM The Queen's royal warrants will go away.

According to the Royal Warrant Holders Association, when the person sitting on the throne changes, existing businesses may continue to display a royal coat of arms for up to two years. But the royal warrant itself, if it was issued by the late Queen, becomes void.

The Royal household will now have to review who was granted the seal of approval, said the Royal Warrant Holders Association in an email to CBC Radio.

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This could mean, for example, the Queen's umbrellas of choice — Fulton Umbrellas — may be looking for a new endorsement in the coming years. Her love of Cadbury chocolate, and its status as chocolate manufacturer to HM The Queen may need to be reviewed by Charles.

Gordon's gin, holder of a royal warrant as official gin distiller to HM The Queen, may no longer be as favoured as her Royal household is, technically, defunct and replaced with a new monarch's. 

Warrants issued by the now-former Prince of Wales stay valid, however, despite Charles's elevation in status because the now-former Prince of Wales' household is still considered to exist.

Hence, London & Scottish International, manufacturer of Juniper Green Organic Gin, can continue to enjoy its royal warrant as "supplier of organic spirits" to Charles, even though he has exchanged HRH for HM.

King Charles and Camilla, Queen Consort may or may not renew the royal warrants issued by Queen Elizabeth, or they may choose new companies to patronize. (Niall Carson/AFP/Getty Images)

Can any old Royal give them out?

Royal warrants could be only granted by the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales in recent years.

Companies or businesspeople who hold a Warrant do not provide their products for free, according to the Holders Association, and do not pay for the royal warrant itself.

The main, if not only tangible benefit is the right to display a coat of arms on their product or premises.


Hear from Paul Alger of the UK Fashion & Textile Association on Royal Warrants: 

They also are not the exclusive providers of products to the Royal household; a member of the Royal Family can purchase from anyone with or without the official seal of approval.

However as Charles's household takes over at Buckingham Palace, consumers may start to see the new monarch's own preferences appear on the Royal Warrant lists.

"I think there is every likelihood that we will start to see ethical and sustainable causes coming through," said Paul Alger in conversation with CBC Radio's Paul Haavardsrud on The Cost of Living.

"Those causes are interesting because … His Majesty was talking about sustainability and looking after the planet 30 years ago, long before it was fashionable to start talking about these things."

As for Edmonton's mattress manufacturer, the CEO of Araam is hopeful the Royal households continue to use the Hypnos mattress after generations of kings, queens, princes and princesses sleeping on the product since 1929. 

Will Charles III enjoy the same mattresses as Elizabeth II? Hypnos Ltd. has two years to find out before it has to stop displaying royal iconography. (Hannah McKay/The Associated Press)

But Feizal Chatur admits it's possible that King Charles and Queen Consort Camilla may have different preferences than Queen Elizabeth — and that drives his company to keep standards high.

"That's the beauty of the of the warrant in in my opinion, because it it renews every five years or on the passing of the late Queen. So it keeps you on your toes in terms of quality and upholding the prestige the warrant provides manufacturers."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Anis Heydari

Producer

Anis Robert Heydari has worked in jobs ranging from cleaning up oil spills to fixing phone lines, but somehow ended up a jack-of-all-trades at the CBC. He hasn't won any awards, other than a 1996 award for violin at a small town Alberta music festival. He's now working at CBC Radio's The Cost of Living covering business and economics. Reach him at anis@cbc.ca.

With files from Danielle Nerman

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