FOOD: Bigger than the Plate

The kids recently went back to school and it didn’t seem fair to me that they get to crack on with that heady job of learning while all us oldies have is a more crowded commute.

To celebrate September, and to do some learning, the Razors went on a field trip to the Victoria & Albert Museum to feast on its latest exhibition, FOOD: Bigger than the Plate.

I love the V&A. I love wandering past all the ‘old stuff’ and into a space that, over the years, has given me McQueen, Kylie, Princess Diana, Bowie, and cruise ships. They’re nothing if not eclectic over there. 

What did I learn?
That pineapple fabric is pretty cool, that I need to watch more YouTube (Italian Grandmas Try Olive Garden For The First Time had me hooting in hallowed halls), that chickens are fabulous and complicated, and that the people who get our food to our plates – from cake to carrot – deserve all of our respect. 

Like any good schoolmistress, I naturally doled out some homework after our visit. Here’s what the team had to say:

“I was fascinated by the ingenuity of others and their desire to find ways to be more sustainable (who knew you could make cups and saucers out of used coffee grounds?!). With all the talk of global warming and how we’re ruining our planet, it was comforting to see many examples of people trying to make a difference. (It made me feel like I should do something too!) I also really enjoyed the video reel on how food is produced and farmed all around the world. I’d genuinely never given any thought as to how my iceberg lettuce is harvested and prepped to be sold. I often think about technology and the potential for it to render humans obsolete, so it was quite refreshing to see examples of humans and technology working together in food production.”

Chloe B
“I really enjoyed the exhibition. There’s something that stuck with me from the moment we walked in: 60% of the world still doesn’t have access to clean water. I had no idea it was that much and it’s already made me stop being so wasteful with tap water. I’m a big hypocrite when it comes to eating meat (I love eating it but can’t bear to think about the process behind it) so watching the video reel of a mass production line was pretty disturbing. It might not be enough to put me off meat for good but it’s definitely made me want to make my food choices more carfeully.”

“I thought the digital farming aspect was fascinating. Using computer robotic systems to adjust and monitor climate, energy and plant growth inside a specialised growing chamber really blew my mind. Creating varying climatic conditions for different products opens up agricultural research to the digital generation and could allow for more products to be grown here rather than imported from different countries. It was scary, but comforting, to see how the digital world could farm products locally and help reduce climate change. I like to think of my food being grown organically but if this method could help to reduce the global impact of exportation then why not? The marriage of farming and technology is a beautiful concept and I think it should be adopted everywhere. I also enjoyed LOCI Food Lab where you personally select what makes a great food system and they make an hors d’oeuvre snack tailored just for you. Yum!”

“This exhibition made me think how little I know (or think) about where my food comes from; and that I totally take for granted how accessible it is. I’m out a fair bit during the week which means I’m often guilty of food wastage. I actually stopped myself buying an iceberg lettuce the other day having had my eyes opened to the laborious process from field to supermarket. The final exhibit is LOCI Food Lab where we got to try a canapé of sustainable food which I found surprisingly enjoyable and made me feel positive about the future of food!”

“My general expectation was that I’d come away from this exhibition with some new ideas to help change my behaviours. What I hadn’t banked on was how charming it would also be. FOOD: Bigger than the Plate is as entertaining as it is informative. I could go on about almost every exhibit for hours, but my favourite part was a 13-minute silent loop of short video clips showing the sinister truths of food production (not just obligatory abattoir scenes but the crop-dusting and crop-picking too). When we see these kind of clips on TV there’s usually a narrator stealing focus. This time, the images did all the talking, leaving me with plenty of food for thought.”

Here’s to being well and truly back at school! (If we’ve whetted your appetite, the exhibition will be on until Sunday 20th October.)

Healthy eating

As consumers increasingly look for more convenient, healthy food options that deliver on flavour, could the recent launch of Deliciously Ella’s frozen food range help revolutionise the category and change consumer perceptions?

It’s been years since I last bought a frozen ready meal. The only reason I visit the freezer aisles is for peas and the odd late night trip for some Ben & Jerry’s Karamel Sutra Core (a girl’s got to have some guilty pleasures in life!). I naturally assume that frozen ready meals are of poorer quality, full of nasties, and lacking in flavour. And who can blame me, given the bad rep frozen ready meals have had over the years (*cough* 2013 horse meat scandal)?

I imagine I’m not alone on this subject and it would most likely take a new kind of frozen ready meal to draw rejecters back into the category. It feels like the Deliciously Ella frozen range has the potential to achieve this and here’s why:

  • Plant-based – Deliciously Ella is known for her veggie-focused recipes/products and this new range could provide a good mid-week or easy meal solution to help consumers cut-back on meat. All the packaging states that it’s ‘vegan friendly’ and reassures on taste with simple and clear ingredient listings and imagery on front of pack to aid decision-making.
  • Fresh and healthy – While I haven’t reviewed every frozen meal on the market, I would guess that most of them contain some additives and stabilisers to ensure longevity and boost flavour. The fact that this range doesn’t contain anything artificial is a real plus and could encourage more brands to look for ways to offer healthier alternatives.
  • Practical – The range is based on meals for two, so even if you’re buying for yourself, you can have leftovers the next day. This could help minimise food waste (and the dreaded guilt of having to throw food out!). It’s also priced quite reasonably at £3.99 – £4.99 for a meal for two and all the packaging is recyclable – something that could help consumers feel more virtuous in their food choice.
  • High quality – Deliciously Ella has huge brand-building success and credibility for creating fresh, healthy and great tasting food. Don’t get me wrong, there are other ‘healthier’ brands in the frozen food category (like Amy’s Kitchen). But few have the brand capital of Deliciously Ella, so this feels like a real opportunity to drive innovation and help lapsed/rejecter consumers re-engage with frozen food.

So, while the Deliciously Ella frozen range won’t necessarily be right for all occasions (roughly 45-minute cook time and you’d need to buy/prepare side dishes to go with it), it does have the potential to provide a practical solution for consumers looking for genuinely healthier meals that don’t compromise on taste or break the bank.

I’m excited to see whether it can shake up the category and help drive innovation. Particularly if, like the rest of the brand’s products, it becomes available to the masses in Tesco and Sainsbury’s (it’s currently only available at Whole Foods and theough Ocado). Watch this space…

And if healthy eating is something you’d like to learn more about, you’ve come to the right place. We conducted a large-scale study earlier this year and identified six discreet typologies to help grow your business. Kate Razor would be happy to tell you about the latest consumer perspectives and trends. Drop her a line.

Sober socialising

Could you forgo alcohol once or twice a week? More importantly, would you want to?

At the start of this year, I joined the 3.1 million Brits attempting to cut out alcohol for one month. I actually lasted until mid-March (I’d more than earned my birthday prosecco at that point) and I must say, I found it relatively easy. And, dare I say it, I actually enjoyed it!

It appears that I am not alone. The other day I stumbled across an article predicting that ‘sober socialising’ (i.e. socialising without drinking) will grow in 2018, particularly among 16-24 year-olds who reportedly drink less than their Millennial counterparts did – with a quarter stating that they do not drink at all (so they say!). In addition, we see a trend for alcohol moderation amongst Millennials – particularly during the week.

No doubt the two generations will have slightly different needs around ‘sober socialising’. For instance, if Gen Z really are drinking less, then their drinking habits, preferences and desires will be less engrained than their Millennial counterparts’. Furthermore, it’s likely that that the social expectation to drink (and the stigma around not drinking) is much greater for Millennials than for Gen Z where the drinking culture is not so heavily established. All of this will have a big impact on where they choose to socialise, when they choose not to drink and what they choose to drink instead.

Clearly, this presents an interesting opportunity for brands to understand emerging needs and to find new and innovative ways to tap into ‘sober socialising’. I’d also argue that the opportunity doesn’t just lie in developing alcohol-free versions of the real McCoy, but expands into the soft drinks category and the entertainment space.

Some brands and businesses have already started to respond to this demand. There’s a small – but growing – alcohol free drinks category (I should know because I’ve tried most of it!). Alcohol-free bars and nightclubs have started to emerge, and I noticed recently (on Instagram) that there’s a large number of wellness festivals gaining in popularity. (Think music festivals without the booze but with lots of spinning classes and cooking demos,)

I’m very interested to see how response to this trend continues to grow. From a selfish point of view I would love to have more variety and better quality options; particularly better tasting alcohol-free variants and more availability in the on-trade to avoid those awkward ‘I’m not drinking tonight’ moments.

Brands…it’s over to you.

Is ‘clean’ a dirty word?

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In 2016, #cleaneating was all the rage. In fact, it was the most Googled diet term last year and became a social media sensation. But it seems that the tide is turning with a steady slew of criticism directed at this movement.

The recent Clean Eating – the Dirty Truth  BBC2 documentary goes some way to discredit this way of eating. It does it by focussing on the lack of evidence behind its ‘pseudoscience’, with celebrities and bloggers looking to distance themselves from it.

Jumping on the bandwagon, KFC released a spoof video announcing the launch of a ‘clean eating burger’ (in fact, their new Dirty Louisiana burger). KFC is tapping into a growing fatigue around the #cleaneating trend. How patronising to imply that if you’re not eating spiralised boiled chicken or raw baby kale that you’re eating ‘dirty’!

It’s interesting to see a brand taking a stance against the health revolution rather than just adapting. For brands that lack any real health associations or credentials, the way forward may well be to stay true to their DNA by embracing and celebrating our indulgent moments and guilty pleasures with consumers. Why not give to us what so many of us (secretly!) want? A good old fashioned ‘dirty’ burger, not a flavourless healthy spin-off.

Here at Razor, we are busy updating our ‘Healthy Eating’ segmentation and are mindful of how easy it is to get swept up in all this health hype. We can’t forget about the mass of less-engaged or disciplined ‘healthy’ eaters that exist – or those ‘naughty’ moments we choose not to broadcast on Instagram that are often ‘forgotten’ about!

Which brands are talking to us then?