While on holiday in Norway in the summer of 1903, Angus Watson had a brilliant idea. He had been observing the local fishermen landing their catch and had noticed that many of the smaller fish were discarded and thrown back into the water. He asked a local fisherman why this should be so and was told that there was no sale for such small fish. Watson did not agree. He was sure that he could import the unwanted fish and sell them in the UK.
Watson returned home to Newcastle and rented a small warehouse hardly bigger than a room. He employed one man and a youngster to help him. Angus Watson & Co was born. As Watson had anticipated, the business was a huge success. The small fish became known as Skippers sardines.
In 1921 Watson was able to open a factory to actually can the fish he had been importing. The firm continued to expand rapidly as other canned food products were added to the fish they were selling. By 1928 the number of employees had risen dramatically to 10,000.
In 1961 Angus Watson & Co Limited merged with two other fish canning companies to form John West Foods. Since 2006 John West has been owned by MW Brands.