By 1884 Johnston was looking to return to Britain with his growing family. He sold his Canadian factory for a profitable sum and headed to London where he once more set himself up in business, striving to promote his product to the masses in Britain. He established his factory at 10 Trinity Square in Tower Hill with his staff, comprising “one man and a girl”, and set to work developing, improving and re-branding his fluid beef brew.
Johnston was asked many times how he had derived the name ‘Bovril’, to which his simple answer was that, “It was just one of those things that occur to one over a cigar”. He explained that ‘Bos’ was taken from the Latin word for Ox, while ‘Vril’ was the name given to the ‘life force’ in the novel entitled ‘The Coming Race’ written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, published in 1871. “So there it was”, Johnston would say, “Bo-vril, and I hesitated no longer”.
To further promote Bovril, Johnston took part in the 1887 Exhibition held in South Kensington, London, where he had a replica of the Montreal Ice Palace built out of frosted glass; hot Bovril was served to passing visitors through two windows of the ‘palace’. Its popularity with the Exhibition visitors prompted Messrs. Spiers and Pond, the official caterers of the event, to sell Bovril in their many bars, after negotiating a contract with Johnston. Thus, the purchase and consumption of Bovril in public houses, served to open up the domestic, household market in Britain to Johnston and his product.