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…
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
At John West, we've been selling fish for over 150 years and we plan to carry on doing the same forever.
At John West, we want you to know the story behind your food. Use your can code and see exactly where your fish came from.