Liebig's Extract of Meat Co. Ltd. was founded in London in 1856, with a share capital of Â£480,000. During the next century there were several changes of name, and in 1971 the Company was acquired by Brooke Bond's, and is now known as Brooke Bond (Liebig) Ltd. Baron Justus von Liebig, a chemist, produced a meat extract which was energetically marketed in jars, tubes and packets under a variety of names, such as Liebig, Sapis and Oxo. The extract was so popular that many rivals attempted to pass off their products as those of Liebig; several legal cases followed, and after this time the celebrated signature in blue of the founder appeared on packets and cards. The company prospered to the extent that it had branches and subsidiaries in many countries, such as Italy, Germany, France, South Africa and the United States; at one stage they claimed to own supply branches in Africa and South America totalling nearly 10,000 square miles, and containing 500,000 cattle.
At a very early stage the company discovered the value of advertising and began to issue series of cards in 1872; these continued, with two short breaks during the World Wars, until 1974. The first series were probably handed out to customers by retailers, and were confined to France; this followed the pattern of most early French 'trade cards', which were produced en masse by printers, and then sold to shops and manufacturers who then had their own names and advertising printed on the backs and fronts --hence many of the early Liebig series of cards, which may well have assisted in the continued expansion of the company. The method of distribution also changed, and customers were able to obtain complete sets of cards in exchange for coupons which appeared in, or on, the packets. Sets were soon prepared for distribution in several countries, and many occur in six or more different languages, including English, Russian and Swedish. In addition, the Liebig Company was responsible for a wide variety of other card types. Of these, the best known are the menu cards, table cards and calendars, but they also issued such varied items as playing cards, postcards, cookery books and wallets.