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Luxury pudding: Food shopping in a time of austerity

Updated Tuesday, 30th June 2009

As the credit crunch lunch becomes more common Gregg Wallace give us his views on the rise of the healthy take away and public consumption of ethical food products.

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Do you think consumers will return to luxury brands after the recession?

I think we are creatures of habit, especially in our shopping attitudes. We will change the brands we use if we feel a need, and that need may be a need for a better tasting or, what’s happening now, a need for a cheaper option. But I think once we have sampled those brands, we are happy with those brands, recession or not, we are likely to stay with those brands.

Are consumers planning their food purchases more carefully in the recession?

People are definitely being more careful about where they shop. They are hunting for a bargain. High end restaurants, people are definitely visiting them less but the cheaper restaurants, people are visiting them more because they still want to go out. People are buying more takeaways and they are eating more at home. So yes to all of those. I am concerned that people may be eating the wrong type of takeaway, stuff that’s not necessarily nutritious, stuff that if eaten in huge quantities could be bad for your health. I honestly foresee the rise of the healthy takeaway, the healthy fast food.

How much evidence is there that consumers are returning to traditional comfort food during the downturn?

People will be turning their backs on artisan products to an extent because, of course, they are the more expensive option and people want to hunt for bargains. I do know for a fact that there are more sales of cheaper cuts of meat. Those cheaper cuts of meat take longer and slower cooking but people are cooking more in the home, so most certainly we will see a return to some more classic comfort dishes. I know that fewer people are eating out, but they are actually spending some more money on luxury lines, particularly puddings, yeah. Yeah, that is one sector that is rising is the luxury pudding.

Are consumers reducing their food wastage and use of ethical food products?

I know for a fact that ethical shopping is on the rise, and I know that people are concerned about the amount of packaging on their food. I know this because I’ve worked with some supermarkets with this. Supermarkets are very keen to reduce the amount of packaging they have, but they have to display so much information on the food they sell. It’s going to be a difficult one, a tricky one. Sales of frozen foods are up, in fact they are rocketing, which I think is a good thing, I’m a great one for food preservation, you don't waste it then, you just take it from the shelf when you need it.

To what extent are consumers buying local food?

People want to eat more local foods, they're just unsure of what is and isn’t local food. Seasons now, it’s hard to know what the seasons are, all produce is available to us all year round and, quite frankly, some of the packaging is misleading. I've attended a couple of conferences over the last couple of months, I know that people want to buy local foods, I know they want to shut down the amount of food miles, it's how do they do it, how do they get that information. If I ruled the world actually I would pass legislation that meant that every single supermarket in Britain must stock at least 10% of its fresh produce from within a 50-mile radius of the store.

What are the problems with food labelling?

I would change food labelling. One of the problems we have with food labelling is as soon as legislation comes out a team of very clever people figure out how they can then go on and mislead, and I mean mislead the public. I saw one product where it was a lower fat product and it advertised 25% lower fat, and there was actually 25% lower product, less product in the box. This isn't illegal but it is misleading. You can use the words natural on all sorts of food products. You can use the word local on all sorts of products. You can use the word home made and farmhouse. You know, you could have a farmhouse scaffolding pole if you wanted to, it’s as ludicrous as that.






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