Category Archives: Local food
As a company focused on servicing and maintaining Rational ovens for all sorts of catering businesses; it’s not surprising we’re also interested in food sourcing and safeguarding the future. For many of our clients the choice of ingredients and being different is important. This is why the first UN study of biodiversity set our alarm bells ringing.
This warns of “humanity’s failure to protect biodiversity”. The Food and Agriculture Organisation issued the report and the findings are pretty stark. Over the past 20 years, around 20% of the vegetated surface of the earth has become less productive. In other words, our global capacity to produce food is weakening.
What do we mean by biodiversity ? According to definition it is the “variability among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part…diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems.” On the David Attenborough scale of climate-changing significance, it is way up there.
The Decline of Natural Assets
Scientists involved in the report found evidence the natural support systems underpinning the human diet are deteriorating around the world. Factories, farms and urban infrastructure in particular, are capturing land and pumping out chemicals. This is leading to a debilitating loss in natural assets. These include forests, coral reefs, soil biodiversity, grasslands, and genetic diversity in crop and livestock species.
There is a reduction in the amount of species indirectly involved in food production. Examples of these are crop-pest eating birds and water-purifying mangrove trees. Pollinators are at risk, and they provide essential services to three-quarters of the world’s crops.
But if we are producing more food than ever before, as we are, how is this possible? The sobering reality is that we are relying on ever-expanding monocultures. Incredibly, two-thirds of crop production comes from just nine species. These are maize, sugar cane, wheat, potatoes, rice, soybeans, oil-palm fruit, cassava and sugar beet.
There are at least 6,000 cultivated plant species categorised as being in decline. At the same time wild food sources are becoming harder to find. Agriculture and urbanisation are taking much of the blame with habitat loss, pesticides, pollution, invasive species, pathogens and climate change.
Are We In Danger?
Is this overdependence on a handful of products a problem? Seemingly so, as the report cited the potato famine in Ireland in the 1840s; the 20th century cereal crop failures in the US; and more recently the losses of taro production in Samoa in the 1990s as examples of when overdependence can have a brutal impact on humans.
Even the Lancett has joined the crusade, stating that “our diets are the largest cause of climate change and biodiversity loss is now overwhelming”. The global food system is responsible for around 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions, with the livestock sector on its own accounting for about 14.5% of that figure. Its solution? Halve global meat consumption, and more than double the volume of whole grains, pulses, nuts, fruit and vegetables.
If that’s too radical, in 2016, another report suggested an alternative solution. “Possible policy options include better protection of natural environments and ecosystems, limiting the scope of intensive agriculture, and finding alternatives to pesticides.”
Last word goes to Michael Higgins, Ireland’s president. “Around the world, the library of life that has evolved over billions of years – our biodiversity – is being destroyed, poisoned, polluted, invaded, fragmented, plundered, drained and burned at a rate not seen in human history. If we were coal miners we’d be up to our waists in dead canaries.”
Food is seasonal and spring is the time for new crops to be harvested. There is an abundance of all-year round produce which we enjoy as part of our staple diets, such as potatoes, onions, beef, bananas, chicken and cabbage.
But some food sparks great anticipation. Not least in this category is asparagus which is coming in to fruition as we speak.
Around the world, we herald the arrival of this humble vegetable with excitement and even festivals. The British Asparagus Festival, celebrates the start of the asparagus season where a fleet of vintage cars takes the crop to its final destination from the Vale of Evesham.
From Asparagus to Lamb
Asparagus is the young shoots of a cultivated lily plant. It is one of the delicacies of the vegetable world although it is notoriously labour intensive to grow. French asparagus is purple, the British and American varieties are green whereas in Spain and Holland, asparagus is white. And as far as nutrition goes, all types have high levels of vitamins A and C, potassium, iron and calcium.
Other food coming in May includes strawberries, gooseberries, carrots and tomatoes. At their very best are spring greens, sorrel, peas, new potatoes, halibut, crab, rhubarb and of course, spring lamb. Spring lamb, also called early or summer lamb, is three to five months old.
Also keep an eye out for aubergines, the fruit that thinks it’s a vegetable and which has gained new interest with the vegan and vegetarian options now readily available. Although it is native to South-East Asia, it now grows all over the world with a huge range of varieties from the bulbous, glossy, deep purple zeppelin-shaped version to the scarcely-bigger-than-a-pea variety.
Fruit Picker Shortage?
Last summer, the great British farming community began to raise concern about fruit pickers. The majority of pickers come from abroad on a seasonal basis. In fact, according to the National Farmers Union, only 1% of the annual 60,000 seasonal farm workers are British. The industry relies on overseas labour which they worry will be deeply affected by Brexit. The vast majority come from Eastern Europe, particularly Bulgaria and Romania. With a stay of execution until Halloween, the farmers might breathe a sigh of relief for this year, but the problem still looms.
Last year, labour shortages driven by economic shifts affected strawberry crops in particular; with produce left rotting in the fields and hydroponic poly-tunnels. At the time, there was also a reported 30 to 40% shortfall in labour.
Some are campaigning for a seasonal agricultural workers scheme that could include countries outside of the EU. This would allow pickers to come and work for a defined and limited period of time as a solution. Or some maintain that the best way to avoid a crisis is to entice more Brits to work the field. The early hours, long days, physical toll and seasonality are offset by the joy of working in the open air and earning as much as you can pick.
Yet again, the NEC surpassed all expectations with its five-in-one show, the Farm Shop and Deli Show 2019, incorporating Foodex, Food and Drink Expo, The Ingredients Show and the National Convenience Show. The event took place from 8 to 10 April. It returned for its ninth year as the sector’s leading event for delicatessens, garden centres, farm shops, restaurants, food halls, bakeries and butcheries.
This year saw more than 450 suppliers exhibiting. These encompassed all core food categories and contemporary trend categories; including candles, stationery, furniture and home goods, together with equipment, labelling and packaging.
2019 placed heavy emphasis on healthy and natural produce with exhibitors showcasing their products in the ‘Healthy & Natural’ area. There were plenty of natural, vegan-friendly snacks on display for this year’s hot trend.
Back by popular demand, the Show featured the British Baker’s Britain’s Best Loaf 2019. Over 150 bakers entered in a range of categories, including Best Sourdough, Best Wholegrain and Best Gluten Free Loaf. The overall winner was a wholemeal sourdough created by East Sussex’s Poppyseed Bakery.
The Dragon’s Pantry slot saw competitors presenting their best new product ideas in a 15-minute pitch in. The reward for successful pitchers was winning professional advice on the best route to market.
Of course, the renowned Farm Shop & Deli Awards were eagerly awaited. Back for their sixth year, they recognise the very best independent retailers. There were 12 category winners: baker, butcher, cheesemonger, delicatessen, farm shop large retailer of the year, farm shop small retailer of the year, fishmonger, food hall, greengrocer, local shop or village store, newcomer of the year and online business of the year. Overall winner was Cannon Hall Farm Shop from Barnsley.
The Farm Shop & Deli Show 2019 Live stage witnessed a host of industry leaders sharing their thoughts and experience. These ranged from ethical eating, the rise of gin and tapping into the healthy appetite for the wellness market. Top of the bill was the ‘Plastic to palm oil’ discussion addressing consumers’ current eco-worries. The ‘Healthier beer’ discussion was another popular talk. This gave insight into the importance of burgeoning brews from gluten free to zero alcohol.
At the National Convenience Show, the Retailer Hub hosted a number of sessions including a discussion on ‘Success after Brexit: What’s next for food and grocery’. This highlighted the risks posed to the sector in a post-Brexit reality.
Farm Shop & Deli Show 2019 Commercial Director Mat Rose said: “The ongoing trend for artisan produce, provenance and entrepreneurial innovation has not slowed down in recent years and we are delighted to bring the Farm Shop & Deli Show back in 2019 to provide a platform for all the exciting companies and retailers who have devoted their careers to this sector.
Next year’s show is already recruiting; so if you want to exhibit or book tickets for the event, register your interest here.
The weather is changing and the nights are getting lighter, which can only mean one thing…summer. And with summer comes festivals, in particular food festivals, and we have gathered some of the best to consider.
Music or Not?
The Big Feastival is taking place on Alex James’ Farm in the Cotswolds from Friday 23 August to Monday 26. It will welcome some of the world’s top chefs. They will demonstrate their expertise in cooking skills live on The NEFF Big Kitchen stage. Raymond Blanc and Tom Brown are just two of the names who will headline, together with a host of music acts including the Zutons, Elbow and the Fun Lovin Criminals. Look out for the Collaboration Kitchen. Here special edition dishes will be served up with all proceeds going to Charity Partner, Action Against Hunger.
The Food Rocks festival will take place on 7-8 September 2019 in Lyme Regis. This presents some of the best food, producers and suppliers that Dorset and the South West has to offer. The festival brings together top chefs, exhibitors, locals. The main stage will showcase a diverse mix of interactive cookery demonstrations, talks and tastings across the weekend. Highlights include the Glenarm Estate beef supper club and the crab and mackerel supper club
Venue-based Food Festivals
Smoked & Uncut at THE PIG near Bath on 15 June features a line-up of handpicked classic and contemporary artists, including Imelda May and the Kaiser Chiefs, home-made festi-food, local ales and cocktails. Family style feasts will feature heavily with the focus on alfresco dining under canvas. While Mark’s ‘Ruby Murray House’ which will be dishing up indulgent home-style Indian curry.
24 and 25 August sees The River Cottage Festival taking place at River Cottage HQ, Axminster with food, music, talks, master-classes and a host of children’s activities. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten free food will be available and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall himself will be in attendance.
Coming Together Locally in May
Moving across the border, the Caernarfon Food Festival is on May 11 2019. It promises to be “perfect for foodies to explore the food and drink producers from the local area.” The event will feature market stalls of food and drink, live cooking demonstrations and freshly cooked street food, celebrating local food and drink produce. There will also be live music from local bands, artists and choirs.
Also in May (18-19) is the Spring Tide Food Festival on Hive Beach near Bridport. This is a food festival jam-packed full of activities and things to eat and drink. The aim of the festival is to combine the network of artisan food and drink producers from Somerset, East Devon and Dorset to “welcome in the new season of food and ingredients in style, to celebrate the pleasure that can be had in the growing and cultivation, the production and cooking and consumption of tasty food and drink.”
Any Reason to Hold a Festival?
Finally, there must be a mention of the Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling on May 27, 2019 when a 4kg cheese is thrown off a terrifyingly steep hill chased by people in Brockworth, Gloucester. In theory, the aim of cheese-rolling is to be the first person to catch the wheel of cheese; but nowadays, the majority of people participate in the event to raise money for local charities and other good causes.
Lots of food festivals this summer in the South West of England and South Wales. So if you’re a catering business, think what food festival could you hold this summer to boost trade? Or where you might go as a mobile caterer?
Sad news for all sweetie lovers as the demise of the Tootie Fruitie sweet was announced by Nestle. It will take its place alongside Spangles, Toffo and Cadbury Fry’s Five Centres as a defunct and sadly missed treat. But in other news, it’s been a good week for Wales . An additional £22 million has been promised to boost the Welsh food and drink industry.
The Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths announced that the new investment will span the sector “offering new support to realise business growth opportunities and ambitions and to propel innovation forward. It will directly support the foundation sector in Wales respond to the challenges and opportunities of Brexit.”
The Welsh food and drink sector has shown significant growth recently. The Food and Farming sector was worth £6.8 billion in 2018. Welsh food and drink exports were worth £539 million over the same timescale. This is up £10 million on the previous year.
Moving away from Wales to the sunny Devon coast, a new vegan street food cafe is opening up in Teignmouth. Nourish Plant Based Cafe is being opened by Liz Perry. She will be bringing a selection of vegan street food as a cafe and takeaway that will serve pizzas, wraps, falafel and cakes. “Opening up my own cafe serving plant-based food is something I have always wanted to do,” Liz said. “So many people choose to be vegetarian or vegan now so I think there’s definitely a gap in the market for something like this in Teignmouth.
Another event to be held locally is Exeter’s huge food and drinks festival. This is heading back to the city in May with a new line-up of celebrity chefs including Mitch Tonks, Michael Caines, Gareth Howarth and Josh Eggleton. The food festival is to be held at Exeter Castle and Northernhay Gardens between 4 May and 6 May.
The event is supported by Visit Exeter and celebrates the start of the May season. Visitors will experience artisan produce, live music, chef demonstrations together with real ales and ciders. There will be two food and drink marquees and the Fresh at the Festival initiative will be launched, a new venture created to champion those who have been in business fewer than three years.
Finally, if you are veggie or vegan, then Bristol is the place to be. The UK city was found to have the most Google searches related to the vegan movement than anywhere else in the entire world! Bristol came first, followed by Portland, Edinburgh, Vancouver and Seattle according to research from Chef’s Pencil. They used data from Google Trends to look up the number of vegan-related searches made in any language. Globally, Australia was found to be the most vegan country, with the UK coming a close second.
September 2018 saw the opening of the first fully plant-based restaurant in Bristol, Suncraft, and a vegan food market, House of Veg opened earlier this year. A spokesperson for Chef’s Pencil said “Bristol’s concentration of vegan-related searches on Google surpassed every other city in the world. There are lots of vegan restaurants, cafes, vegan hair and beauty salons and even an active Bristol vegan community.”
So catering businesses in AC Services Southern’s region seem to be right on trend this month with a range of vegan news.
Oxfordshire is seen as a county of spires and students. But behind the iconic university are many excellent Oxfordshire food service companies supplying clients far and wide.
Philip Dennis, is a family-owned regional wholesaler, with clients from the Midlands to the South West. Fresh meat and fish are readily available. The company is proud to support caterers and business owners of all types and sizes to achieve their highest ambitions.
The business has been active for over a century, supplying thousands of pubs, schools, restaurants and hotels. It has gained a reputation for quality and excellence, boasting state-of-the-art facilities. The company is well-known as dedicated fish and butchery specialists.
Philip Dennis also advises on new trends, such as the current interest in cakes and biscuits. “We’re going to continue to see a rise in complex or eye-catching cake designs as consumers want cakes that look as good as they taste. This feeds into the need for ‘Instagram worthy’ desserts that will help cafes, coffee shops and restaurants to entice people in,” reads the company blog.
Bidfood is another food service company dedicated to the customers’ requirements with an Oxfordshire base. Its business philosophy is summed up by “the food and drinks trends of 2019 represent not just how and what consumers are wanting to eat and drink, but the context in which they consider the production, purchase and consumption of food and drink products.” So they supply the customer with the right ingredients so that caterers can create the ideal menu.
Bidfood provides a range of vegan food such as Kara’s vegan brioche style bun that does not contain dairy. This complements the Heck vegan burgers which are plant based and free from soya, wheat and gluten.
Local Oxfordshire Food Sources
Witney’s Evenlode Foods Limited was founded in 2005 as a specialist food ingredients supplier. It particularly emphasises powder forms of vegetable oils and fats, emulsifiers, dairy ingredients and cocoa products. The company also makes bespoke blends and finished products based on those ingredientswe sell. According to a spokesperson, “our vegetable fat powders, non dairy creamers, toppings, foamers and nutritional oils are used in bakery, soups, sports nutrition, beverages and savoury mixes.”
Finally, there is Carterton’s Jolly Foods, delivering high quality foods to Oxfordshire and the Cotswolds. Locally-sourced meats, cheeses, fresh fish and deli items are all on offer from this “bespoke and friendly Oxfordshire company.”
Poultry, game, lamb, beef and pork are all locally farmed and complement the range of finest fish and frozen products. Jolly offers the finest branded beef as Windrush Meade. The free-range poultry offering is sourced from the Creedy Carver farm in Crediton, Devon. Jolly Foods also offer seasonal game. So from September grouse, partridge, venison, dice game meat and pigeons are available as well as snipe, mallard and woodcock.
From food service companies with depots to small local suppliers, Oxfordshire food has much to offer AC Services’ catering clients.
Gloucestershire lies close to the Welsh border with the River Severn flowing through it and the Cotswolds to the east and the Forest of Dean to the southwest. Food production from this county has always been prolific, from lamb and pork to elvers and eels to cheese and pickles. Today, the food industry in the county is thriving and varied.
The award-winning Severn & Wye Smokery is one of the finest fish markets in the country. It sells a whole host of seasonal British and international fish as well as shellfish and the smokery’s own smoked haddock and kippers. After a three-year renovation project, Severn & Wye Smokery opened The Barn in October 2017. The former derelict outbuildings have been transformed into a foodie destination. This now encompasses a restaurant, bar, fish market, deli, gift shop and café.
Initially starting with smoked wild salmon and smoked eel from the rivers Severn and Wye, the business has grown to produce a full range of smoked fish products. So popular is the product range that the company sends weekly shipments to Italy, Germany, Greece, Dubai, Bahrain and France. The production techniques and smoking processes are still very traditional with grading, filleting, curing and cutting still mostly done by hand.
If you are looking for something a bit more exotic, TruffleHunter is the UK’s leading supplier of fresh truffles and truffle products. Located in the Cotswolds, the company produces truffle oils, minced truffles, truffle salt, truffle honey, truffle mustard and truffle mayonnaise. It sources truffles from the finest truffle regions across Europe, as well as from Somerset and Wiltshire.
Trufflehunter began in the UK in 2010 and today supplies restaurants throughout the UK and much further afield. The main markets are the UK, Germany, USA, Japan, Singapore and India. All truffle products are produced in small handmade batches in the Cotswold factory.
Mustard Through the Ages
An artisan product that was featured in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, is Tewkesbury mustard. The Tewkesbury Mustard Company is now the only true producer continuing a tradition that dates back to the 16th century. The product range is hand-made in a small kitchen in Tewkesbury. Legend has it that Tewkesbury Mustard Balls covered in gold leaf were presented to Henry VIII when he visited Tewkesbury in 1535.
Renowned for their excellence since medieval times, these balls were sent all over the country. The ingredients are simply local grown mustard seed, mixed with an infusion of horseradish. This is steeped in water, milk, cider or cider vinegar until it was workable. Now, Tewkesbury mustard is still as popular as ever.
Specialising in porridge and couscous, Wolfys is the brainchild of Kitchen Garden Foods, traditional preserve makers. It was launched in the summer of 2013 after a challenge to find a hot, filling and tasty snack for a festival caterer. Each pot of Wolfys has another little pot hidden under the lid. This is jam, marmalade or honey in the porridge and chutney or relish in the couscous. Everything is made by hand in Stroud. Everything is vegetarian and the couscous is vegan.
Gloucestershire food producers prove that in our region there is a wealth of local suppliers of all types of food. And those producers also supply internationally such is their quality.
The headlines are currently dominated by Brexit, the snowy weather, the great American stand-off and the Oscars. But what is making the headlines in the world of food and drink?
There is a greater call of allergen labelling following the death of a schoolgirl from an unlabelled baguette. Proposals unveiled by environment secretary Michael Gove would see all prepackaged food labelled to help the UK’s two million food allergy sufferers decide whether they can safely eat it.
There are celebrations down in Devon as a popular fish and chip shop has been crowned as the best chippy in the UK. Krispies Fish & Chips in Exmouth has “battered its way to the top” winning the coveted award as UK’s best fish and chip shop at the National Fish and Chip Awards 2019, organised by Seafish. Krispie’s is owned and operated by husband and wife team Kelly and Tim Barnes, offering “true excellence in the fish and chip industry” with factors such as “sustainability, menu innovation, catering for special dietary requirements, customer service and marketing activity” all part of the judging process.
It’s also been getting spicy down in Devon with the humble ketchup being the focus of attention. The South Devon Chilli Farm has been listening to market research and is giving fans their signature chilli twist to the UK’s favourite condiment. Three new delicious chilli ketchups – cool jalapeno, smoky chipotle and hot habanero –have been added to the range as an alternative to the tomato option. Presented in a smart glass bottle, the range is suitable for vegetarian, vegan and gluten free diets and contains no artificial ingredients or preservatives.
Over in Taunton, the newly-introduced ‘bleeding’ vegan burger has been a new year triumph for TGI Friday. The completely meat-free burger, which was one of the most talked about burgers in the USA last year, is high in protein and has zero cholesterol. As well as beetroot, which gives it the iconic bleed, the flame-grilled burger is made from coconut oil, mushrooms, herbs, plant proteins, and spices.
Terry McDowell, TGI Fridays’ head chef, said: “Friday’s flame-grilled, hand-crafted burgers are one of the most popular dishes on our menu and now everyone can enjoy their legendary taste, whether they are vegan, vegetarian, trying to cut down on meat, or anything in between!”
Over in Wales, the Welsh government has just published a consultation considering a range of proposals to encourage people to change their eating habits and be more active. As well as banning energy drinks to under-16s, other measures in the ‘Healthy Weight, Healthy Wales’ include “restrictions on the positioning of products in stores, restrictions on the amount of marketing of certain products in stores, restrictions on promotions and discounting of certain products in stores, mandatory calorie labelling for food purchased and eaten outside of the home.” If you want to be heard then respond to the consultation.
And staying in Wales, following the huge success of the inaugural event in in 2017, BlasCymru / TasteWales returns March 20 and 21 2019. The show will bring together buyers, producers and food industry professionals for this signature international food and drink trade event and conference, held once again at the world-class Celtic Manor Resort.
Tradition plays a major role in choosing Christmas food. At some point before the big day, we decide where and when to do The Big Shop. And it’s a major event in the calendar. Whether it’s off to one of the high street supermarkets or down to the local butcher for the Christmas turkey.
But tastes change significantly: more and more people, especially younger members of the family are making life choices. Some become vegans or vegetarians, some are gluten or lactose intolerant, others demand free range…so as a commercial buyer, where do you source your Christmas turkey?
Turkey All Round
Wherever you are in South West England and South Wales, there is an easy way to find your closest turkey farm by using the NFU finder . Just enter your postcode and set the range. The list of local farms pops up for you to contact like Harts in Gloucestershire
If you are near Exeter, Rosamondford Turkey Farm provides traditional, naturally reared Devon turkeys. The turkeys roam the pastures and are fed on the finest locally produced ingredients. All turkeys are dry-plucked and hand finished to avoiding bruising or marking of the bird. All birds are grown, prepared and supplied on the farm premises. They are only fed a natural cereal and vegetable protein diet without additives or animal proteins. The flavour comes from dense meat and natural marbling.
In South Devon is Scobbiscombe Farm, a National Trust owned farm in Kingston. The turkeys have been specially bred to grow slowly. The farm also supplies the ‘TINY’ breed of turkey. This is a smaller bird without compromising on the importance of rearing to full maturity.
As a member of the Traditional Farmfresh Turkey Association, assurance is provided of the highest quality turkey and the highest standards in welfare, traditional methods and hygiene. As far as the turkeys go their welfare is identical to that of birds reared on well−run organic enterprises. The turkeys arrive as day-old chicks at the end of June each year and are carefully reared under heat lamps until 5-6 weeks of age. They are fed on a proprietary turkey food which is supplemented with home-grown cereals from 10 weeks of age and they live until approximately 23 weeks of age twice the age that many supermarket turkeys will live.
Organic turkey is available in many places but if you are catering in Wales, there is the award-winning organic and free range poultry from Capestone Organic Poultry Ltd . Today the business is run by Justin Scale, the fifth generation to farm at Capestone with all poultry reared, produced and processed on site.
Traditional organic farming methods and working with nature produce a slower-growing bird, reared and produced from slow growing bronze strains. The turkeys have constant daytime access to lush organic pastures on which they are free to roam and forage from four weeks of age.
Don’t Forget the Sprouts
Just space to mention fruit and veg: from fruit to vegetables and from dairy to salads, Milfords supplies a vast area in the south west supplying loose and pre-packed fruit across Devon, Dorchester and Somerset locally from the West Country whenever possible.
In Wales, Peter Broughton Cardiff, is one of Wales’ largest independent fresh fruit and vegetable suppliers. Their fleet of refrigerated trucks, trailers and vans are ready to distribute food, offering exceptional freshness and quality. From kale to carrots, from swede to purple sprouting broccoli, everything is catered for!
Wherever you get your Christmas turkey, it’s still not too late to source locally.
We may moan about the cost of living and in particular, the cost of food but a report commissioned from data research company Euromonitor shows that in the UK, in fact, we are better off than most of the world.
On average, Britons spend 8% of their total household expenditure on food eaten at home. Only America and Singapore spend less. In context, Nigerians spend 59% of their household budget on food to be eaten at home with Greeks spending 16%.
What is more, UK food consumption is the cheapest in Western Europe at 8% less than the EU average. We are spending less on food than our grandparents ever did! While housing and leisure costs have doubled in the past 60 years, the amount of household income spent on food has more than halved.
Why is this? There are many reasons, notably technology, loyalty and discounters.
Constantly advancing technology has led to food production becoming more efficient with the mechanisation of farming and speeding up of production. Transportation, storage and distribution have also improved considerably. UK trade between other countries also plays a major role. The UK currently imports about half of all its food simply because it works out cheaper to do it that way.
Nowadays, people shop around. There is very little loyalty to brands or stores and large weekly shops have given way to more frequent shopping. Discounters such as Aldi and Lidl and Jack’s are also key to the shopping routine. The former two stores have 13% of the UK’s grocery market.
Are there any threats to this state of affairs? Of course there are. The weather is a variable as always. Take 2018 as a classic example. Huge storms (remember the Beast from the East?) followed by a summer of scorching heat have wreaked havoc on crops with increased prices in supermarkets. For example, between March and July the wholesale cost of carrots rose by 80% and wheat by 20%.
Then there is the reliance on imported food. Here we must mention Brexit which has already caused the fall of the pound against the euro and the dollar, and trade disputes. Marmitegate led to Tesco temporarily dropping Unilever products when the manufacturer increased its prices. An update on the sales of Vegemite over this period is currently not available.
According to Lord Price, Conservative trade minister, a no-deal Brexit will lead to “a pretty significant increase in the cost of fruit and veg, the cost of meat and the cost of dairy products“. We will see.
Finally, our global tastes and habits are changing. There is much more demand for fresh produce rather than processed food. The vegetarian/vegan movement is extremely popular and there are more calls for organic food. Countries like China (a massive population) are becoming more affluent and making different choices when it comes to food.
It seems that the low cost of food in the UK may not be long lasting. Manufacturers and food producers will have to keep their eyes and ears open. They will need to be amenable to diversification and innovation to keep prices as low as possible through the coming uncertainty of variables such as Brexit and the weather.