Only three people—the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales—can actually grant the royal warrants.
Queen Elizabeth II
Credit: Yui Mok - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

If the words "royal warrant" sound fancy and official, it's because they are—not the words themselves, of course, but what they signify: that a business has supplied a good or service to the royal family, and they loved it enough to formally recognize it.

There are only 800 royal warrant holders in the world. Some you might recognize: condiment giant Heinz holds one, for example. But so do boutique companies such as Aubrey Allen, a butcher supplying meats to some of the finest chefs in the U.K.

And when it comes to the food and beverage category, just 107 companies hold them.

With so few royal warrants floating around, it begs the question: What does it take to get one? For the answer, we turned to Alexandra Messervy, chief executive of The English Manner and former employee of the royal family's Master of the Household, where, among other duties, she oversaw food and drinks supply for private events.

The organization behind royal warrants is the Royal Warrant Holders Association, a group that oversees the application process and issuance of each warrant. But while the association oversees the application process, only three people—the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, and the Prince of Wales—can actually grant the royal warrants.

According to its website, applications for royal grants can only be submitted to the association from the beginning of May through the end of June each year. And the instructions for how to apply are only available during that period, making the process very hush-hush. But we do know a few things. Some businesses need not apply: professional service vendors, such as bankers, and media companies are not eligible for royal warrants because they don't supply goods or services as deemed by the association. Those that do supply goods or services must have done so for at least five out of the last seven years to the royal family itself to even be eligible.

Based on the applications, the Royal Household Warrants Committee—made up of the Lord Chamberlain and Master of the Household, among its other members—decides which to present to the royal family, says Messervy. While to Messervy's knowledge, the royal family has never granted a royal warrant to a company that has not applied, there have been "occasions where a company will supply goods new to the market or new to the households that are then used and loved," and they are then encouraged to continue serving the royal family for the requisite five years, "so that they can be granted a royal warrant as a result," Messervy says. Apple juice company Copella is an example of one such company: it supplied juice for a royal private event, then became a regular supplier—and is now a royal-warrant holder.

"It is absolutely about goods that have been used, purchased, and loved by the royal households for several years, denoting their popularity," Messervy reiterates. Royal warrants are issued for five-year periods, after which time they come under review.

Holding a royal warrant comes with a few perks beyond a sense of prestige: holders can use the words "by appointment" and display the Royal Coat of Arms alongside their own branding, products, packaging, stationery, and even in advertisements.

However, Messervy warns, "Those who chatter about their warrants invariably do not receive renewal as it is not a proper thing to boast and brag about such things."