RHM is celebrating the 120th anniversary of its ‘nourishing and nice’ Hovis brand this month, with a £1m advertising campaign.

Hovis bread, which launched in 1886, has picked up many fans, including Queen Victoria, over the decades. It is still made using a patented wheatgerm flour, but was relaunched and reformulated last year as “healthiest ever Hovis”, with reduced salt.

Colin Lomax, technical sales manager, is the longest serving employee in the Hovis division of what is now the RHM business. He started out at the Macclesfield “home of Hovis” 32 years ago and is well placed to comment on the illustrious history of the brand.

He is at pains to emphasise that Hovis has always been about health – from its earliest adverts in the 1890s, which flagged up the curious fact that a pound and a half of Hovis was more digestible than a pound of white bread and half a pound of steak.

Hovis, which 120 years ago brought you bread with wheatgerm, has never used artificial preservatives or flavourings, he tells British Baker.

It has always combined innovation and the desire to move forward, embracing new technology, with an emphasis on quality and tradition.

Mr Lomax says the strategy is working, as Hovis’ market share has never been larger, thanks in part to the hugely successful launch of Invisible Crust loaves last year. But we can only imagine what Queen Victoria would have made of that piece of new product development.

Here are some of the highlights in 120 years of Hovis’ history.

1886: Smith’s Patent Germ Bread is developed by flour miller Richard ‘Stoney’ Smith from Staffordshire. He developed a method of steam cooking that preserved the wheatgerm in bread.

A national competition was launched to find a name for the bread. Herbert Grime came up with the winning name, Hovis, short for hominis vis (strength of man in Latin). Yum Yum was in second place.

1895: Hovis becomes an established household name, selling over one million loaves a week and marketed as a healthy product. It is sold in 1lb and 2lb loaves, as well as ‘junior’ 8oz loaves and ‘mini’ Hovis penny loaves.

1925: The “Don’t say Brown, say Hovis” advertising slogan is born.

1939-1945: Slogans including “Make Hovis your Ration” and “Thin Slices make Hovis go Further” were used during the Second World War.

1940: Hovis Granary is introduced alongside Hovis Wheatgerm.

1955: With the launch of commercial TV the “Don’t say Brown, say Hovis” slogan became even more famous.

1957: Bakery manufacturer Hovis and flour business McDougall merge as Hovis McDougall.

1962: Rank Hovis McDougall is formed through the merger of Hovis McDougall and flour miller Joseph Rank.

1973: The Hovis ‘boy and his bike’ advert, produced by film director Ridley Scott, is aired for the first time. It showed a delivery boy struggling up a hill.

1994: TV adverts used the slogan “Raised the Hovis Way” to emphasise Hovis’ traditional family values.

2001: British Bakeries launches opaque packaging featuring baked beans, cucumbers and tomatoes on Hovis loaves.

2005: Hovis is relaunched as “Healthiest Ever Hovis” with new packaging, a new logo, and a new recipe with 10% reduced salt. The Invisible Crust crust-free loaf is launched.

2006: Hovis celebrates its 120th anniversary with limited edition packaging on Hovis Original Wheatgerm loaves featuring the ‘boy and the bike’ delivery boy image from the 1973 Hovis commercial.

The birthday campaign will also include the return of the ‘boy and his bike’ television advert and new radio advertising. The advert will be re-aired for 10 days to May 20.