2014 has started off with some interesting things happening, if you can call floods, icy roads, delayed flights and crumbling Cornwall landmarks “interesting!” But apart from these events, there have been other matters relating that which makes us “go” – namely food. There is another valiant attempt to encourage the British consumer to buy local fresh, seasonal produce. It’s much better for our health and also for the health of the farmers and purveyors of home-grown veggies. The challenge will be not so much persuading the big-boy supermarkets to fall in line (we all know that’s a non starter), but to persuade the consumer to forego the convenience of getting everything from under one roof and rather to shop around and buy from the local, small suppliers.
The argument in favour of the local produce goes that it really is much more economical and healthier to buy the bunches of carrots, potatoes and other things from the corner shop (if it’s still in existence), farmer’s markets or to order the “box of produce” than it is to get the uniform, tasteless, plastic-wrapped, but beautifully presented, veggies at the large supermarkets. Of course the supermarket giants will roll out their marketing team, sorry, their “nutritionists” and expound on the virtues of buying the out of season asparagus or fruit that has been sitting in chillers for ages. They will tell the consumers that it is cheaper and more beneficial and more convenient etc etc. The choice the consumer has to make is whether convenience is trumped by quality. Sadly, up till now, convenience seems to be the order of the day, to the detriment of the farmers and small producers. Wise stocktakers like Rutters Ltd will always direct their clients to local producers where they can – giving a greater profit margin for the restrauteur and better quality food for the customer, while the local farmer is also benefitted – a win-win situation for all. But wouldn’t it be nice to get quality food at home too, not just down at the pub?
2013 was also the year for an increased tendency for diners to take photos of their food. It seems to be a trend that’s on the increase too – as the food arrives there is a flurry of camera phones and shutter clicks (WARNING: this restaurant has flash photography) as patrons upload their latest nosh-experience to their Facebook or Twitter page! This has some advantages. For the restaurant, if the food is good, there is a whole lot of free marketing that is instantly projected online to thousands of people. All they have to do is present a good-value meal, nicely presented in a pleasant environment. The negative side of this, though is if the happy-snaps diners are sitting next to grumpy traffic officer Tony Wallace, or people like him who take great exception to members of the public taking photos. It’s ok to take pictures of anything on public land (a pity no one told Sgt Wallace that) so it might be prudent to get the restaurant’s “OK” to snap away at the entrée or main. A word of advice though, take a photo of the food, and avoid including the couple at the next table in your shot – they may be related to Sgt Wallace and might also threaten to “knock you out” like he did.
The other trend that seems to have gotten worse in shops is the “temptation alley” that runs from the shop floor to the tills, that corridor that runs past the sweets and delicacies you so carefully avoided in the main aisles. They are now in your face as you shuffle through the trolley-width, snake-like maze to that place where the electronic voice will tell you to go to till number 7. Supermarkets were yesterday accused of going even further in this regard by displaying booze next to sweets and school clothes. Supposedly there is some marketing guru advising them as to why this is a good strategy to follow. Concerned parents must surely take comfort then in Sainsbury’s remark that, “… we take the sale of age restricted products extremely seriously and will take any comments about the merchandising of our products on board.” Some campaigners would translate that as “… we’ll wait till the fuss dies down and then do it the way we want to …”
And with the Chancellor announcing economic growth and a positive outlook for the coming year, businesses across the UK could take heart that this will indicate some positive business for them in 2014 (some folk in the south might just have to wait for the floodwaters to subside a bit though before they can venture out to the local pub or restaurant). George Osborne has said that the economy has grown at its fastest since 2007 while France’s economy has slipped – it might be a good time to cancel the ticket to Paris and start buying some local cheese to go with the British veggies!