The British summer should be a time to kick back, relax and enjoy lingering weekend lunches and impromptu BBQ’s with family and friends. Retailers anticipate an uplift in sales of burgers, sausages, beer and ice cream. But, there are forbidding clouds looming to spoil our party - the media – who continue to bombard us with messages about how we should be changing our lifestyle to save ourselves - and the planet.
Most of us are happy to make small changes in a quiet way. Many are instinctively cutting down on our meat consumption, are mindful of our food waste and take our own bags to the supermarket and our coffee cups to be refilled. We adopt and adapt, but the pressure is relentless and the calls for change ever more challenging. This month’s headlines include concerns about what will be the next meat substitute now that the Cauliflower harvest is in jeopardy (the answer is Watermelon which resembles a meat joint after roasting, even ‘bleeding’ juices when carved). Traditional celebrations are also under the microscope, with pressure to reduce our claims on food resources. One environmentally aware couple recently served a wedding buffet using food that had been turned away from supermarkets through the Real Junk Food Project. The fact it cost around a fifth the price (at £5 per head) of the usual charge by private caterers probably helped, but the virtue signalling was priceless.
How does this bode for Christmas, coined the ‘golden quarter’ for retailers? Even this market showed signs of a shift towards plant based eating last year, although there was no perceptible fall in the demand for indulgent treats. Will the puritanical streak deepen its grip on this traditional season of excess? And where does this leave the silent majority, the so-called ‘squeezed middle’? Most families have to grapple with fussy kids and a shrinking budget while trying to offer a healthy (ish) diet. It is this middle market that the retailers know they cannot afford to neglect. While the ‘news’ focus is on ‘showcase’ launches aimed at social media and bloggers, it is products that adapt new foods to everyday needs and bring something just a little bit different to ring the changes that will continue to prosper. We see this in the widening divide between ratings for products that achieve this balance and those targeted at a tight niche sector.