TV cameras follow journey of the baked bean through iconic Wigan food plant

Gregg Wallace and Cherry Healey at Heinz, Kitt Green
Gregg Wallace and Cherry Healey at Heinz, Kitt Green

The journey of the baked bean is to be followed through an iconic Wigan food plant in a new TV documentary.

Months ago presenters Cherry Healey and Gregg Wallace spent several days filming at the Heinz Kitt Green complex.

HJ Heinz at Kitt Green

HJ Heinz at Kitt Green

And next month millions of viewers will be able to see the results during the latest series of Inside the Factory.

Today in the UK we get through more than two million cans of baked beans every day with the average UK household consuming 10 tins of canned food a week.

In the third episode of Inside the Factory, Masterchef presenter Gregg helps to unload 27 tonnes of dried haricot beans from North America and follows them on a one-and-a-half-mile journey through the Wigan Heinz factory. It still holds the proud boast of being the largest baked bean factory in the world, making more than three million cans of beans every 24 hours.

He will discover how a laser scrutinizes every single bean; how the spice recipe for the sauce is a classified secret known only by two people; and, most surprisingly, how the beans are not baked at all!

Meanwhile Cherry Healey follows the journey of her discarded baked bean can through a recycling centre and on to the largest steelworks in the UK where she watches a dramatic, fiery process that produces 320 tonnes of molten steel; enough to make eight million cans. She also takes a can that is 14 months after its “Best Before” date to a laboratory at the University of Coventry and is amazed when tests reveal it has the same Vitamin C levels compared to fresh tomatoes.

The lab also proves that a 45-year-old tin of Skippers is still fit to eat.

And historian Ruth Goodman looks at how tinned food was invented to improve the nutrition of sailors to prevent them developing scurvy on their long voyages at sea. She will also relate how Henry Heinz first marketed baked beans in the UK, in the early 1900s making them a family favourite.

Heinz is an American company but has had a major presence in the Wigan borough for decades, firstly being based in Standish and then, for the last half century or more, being based at Kitt Green.

The golden anniversary of its residency there was marked with a visit by the Queen.

The Heinz episode of Inside the Factory goes out on Tuesday August 9 at 8pm on BBC Two and will also be available for catch-up on iPlayer.