What’s next…?

What’s next…?

Whilst the food industry on a very broad scale continues to evolve within the ever-changing world we live in, you could be excused for feeling it is currently in somewhat of a rut.

Supply, demand and sustainability

Since our last blog, little has changed ‘for the better’.  Increasing food costs, challenging climate conditions and post-Brexit labour shortages/import issues all continue to wreak havoc on the supply, provision and development of food.  Empty supermarket shelves are now becoming normal, extreme weather conditions mean that some produce on occasion is simply not available and, having not adopted a proactive approach towards strengthening our own UK-based supply chain, we are still worryingly reliant on foreign suppliers that just cannot deliver and meet demand.  

Many other countries operate a strict seasonality approach to their produce so that they are less reliant on imports and champion their own produce.  By doing this, costs are kept to a minimum and taste at a premium.  A large produce farm and manufacturer near to us has recently had permission granted to install acres of solar panels for which they are subsidised by the government.  Whilst sustainability in terms of energy is of course an important topic that needs to be addressed, it cannot and should not be ignored that there needs to be a much bigger conversation around the effective use of UK farmland for crops to feed the population rather than relying on carbon-fuelled imports which most likely cancel out the environmental benefits of solar energy over utilising more locally-grown produce.

We are also seeing an increased number of both perishable and non-perishable goods ‘disappearing’ from supermarket shelves or online supermarket apps, only to reappear a week or so later either at an inflated price or at a notably reduced size at the same price with, we hasten to add, little or no indication to the consumer that alterations have been made.  It seems that price/volume adjustment is now too becoming the norm as the cost of consumables continues to grow which begs the question ‘at what cost?’ – are manufacturers having to compromise quality for quantity and just how much room for movement do they have in their profit margins before consumers simply cannot and will not be able to afford to buy their product?

Increasing food costs

Supermarket magazines are an interesting reflection of the current food market and now seem a little tired, often with fewer issues per year than has historically been the case and the content largely lent over to advertising or re-hashes of long-weathered recipes.  ‘Feeding the family’ budget meals are now often meat-free; not just because of increasing interest and encouragement to adopt ‘meat-free’ days, vegetarianism, veganism and an overall healthier more sustainable lifestyle, but because quite simply many people cannot afford to buy fresh meat and fish produce on a daily basis.  Whilst these budget meals must provide some benefit and inspiration for readers, they are somewhat lacking in substance and it is concerning to think that this could become commonplace as consumers struggle to feed their families with such tight budgets.

So, what exactly are the government doing to tackle these issues?  Not a lot if mainstream media is anything to go by and of course this has a direct impact on the commercial sector of the food market.  When supplies are low, even food service providers are forced to effectively scavenge for produce.  In addition, there is only so much they can do to keep costs low whilst still providing superior food to that which customers can cook themselves at home.  Coupled with ever-increasing energy and premises costs, if some concessions are not made soon it is only logical that, as during the covid-19 pandemic, yet more food business casualties will be suffered and who knows how long it will take to recover, if at all?  Government reassurances are hollow and insufficient to sate those who stand to lose the most – those that survived the pandemic are now literally falling out of the frying pan and straight into the fire.

The government also continues to fall short when it comes to the increasing number of people that are reliant on food banks.  According to official figures (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-65050920) the number of families who used a food bank in the year to March 2022 was 3% which is equivalent to at least 2.1 million people.  It is frightening to think where people would be without the communities who selflessly strive to help those in need. 

The use and number of food banks has been steadily increasing for many years now which indicates that this problem is not going away and, it could be said, shows that by public provision of such services the government is able to ignore its own responsibility towards the needs of an increasing number of people within our society.  These figures are pre-energy price increase which came into effect in April 2022 and it is likely that they have increased again over the past year.  Sadly, the number of donations to food banks is decreasing as more people struggle to make money go round.  Having spoken with a member of our local food bank, they are often restricted by supermarkets and local sellers from utilising more of their ‘end of day/waste’ food with the train of thought being that people will seek out free produce rather than purchasing from the supplier direct.  With this attitude towards food poverty, the food waste mountain continues to grow and families will continue to go hungry.  Hopefully our government is taking these concerns seriously and is exploring long term solutions to help those in need.

It’s not all doom and gloom – is it?

The home-cook food delivery service is seeing positive growth which, given the cost-per-meal, may seem surprising.  However, it seems that popularity is increasing as consumers explore ways of reducing their weekly grocery bills, with many viewing the service as a way of only using and paying for food that they need, thereby reducing food costs and waste over time.  Bearing in mind these services also offer a choice of dishes, it also helps to ease what many consider as the burden of meal-planning inspiration.  It will be interesting to see how this trend develops throughout the year.  This neatly ties in with a notable increase in the supermarket home-cook ‘fake-away’.  The fake-away is a hybrid of home-cook food delivery and ready-meals whereby the consumer purchases a kit containing the ingredients they need to create their favourite takeaway or dine-out meals and simply add a protein of their choice and possibly a few minimal fresh ingredients.  Although meal kits have been around for a long time now, this flexible and versatile product that is now able to fill both a price-gap and bespoke market is only set to increase in popularity as an ‘affordable luxury’ at a time when many are struggling to afford to continue to maintain old takeaway and eating-out habits.

What’s new for Steve Walpole Ltd?

Steve is pleased to announce that he is now a Thermomix adviser!  Having used Thermomix’s both professionally and personally for many years now, he is keen to help champion such a versatile solution to all your cooking needs.  Never has a piece of kitchen equipment been so comprehensive, meaning multiple appliances in your private or commercial kitchen can be streamlined down to one all-singing, all-dancing piece of high-tech easy to use equipment.  It even has a self-clean programme for those really messy recipes!  A great bonus of this piece of equipment is that it can do many if not most of the jobs that your oven and hob can do but at a fraction of the energy cost.  Have a look at their website https://www.vorwerk.co.uk/en/c/home.html for an overview of the product and do contact Steve for further details or a demonstration should you require.

And finally… we are now offering food research, content, article and blog services.  Yvonne Walpole is an experienced content writer with first-class honours in English Literature, including creative writing.  Coupled with the many years she has now spent working in the food industry alongside Steve, she has a wealth of experience producing website content, blogs, research for projects and putting together tender presentations and documentation.  Please do contact us should you wish to discuss these services further.

What’s on…

So, what has Steve been up to these last few months?  He has been busy hosting the new products tasting theatre at IFE, Judging for Salon Culinaire, creating podcasts, and attended the Seafood Expo Global in Barcelona as an ambassador for Seafood Scotland.  Fresh back from his talk and demonstration on ‘conscious cooking’ at WTCE in Hamburg, he is currently in sunny Cannes with Bompass & Parr, working on a food event for Meta.  There are lots of projects booked in for June and July which we will update you on along the way.

We continue to work with local primary schools, educating children about food and encouraging them to explore new foods and tastes outside of their comfort zone.  Steve has also been reviewing some great products for FD Review.  We have also been working on some project development with Amanda Seafoods and their Cod Roe which has seen us come up with some great ways of using cod roe both as an individual product and a food enhancer making this a fantastic all-round product that is both versatile and affordable.

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