Charles Campion, food writer and critic, takes on today’s fine food issues

“Trends bubbling under”

Earlier in 2017, when the year was but a pup, Greggs the high street baker announced an impressive rise in several key financial indicators. For investors lucky enough to hold Greggs shares, dividends were up by 8.4%, and all of this despite a background of gloom and doom and low interest rates. There is always something to cheer about if you look hard enough and a healthy options range now accounts for 10% of Greggs’ turnover. The strategists at the bakers have pulled off something of a coup as there are very few bedfellows as uneasy as the Greggs “Balanced Choices” range and their own formidable sausage roll

You have to admire a company founded on selling mighty sausage rolls to impecunious students, but which can still address the “food to go” market place with such spectacular results. The key to Greggs’ High Street dominance (and whopping yearly sales of £894.2m) is that these bakers understand their customers. If some of those customers feel that they have fallen out of love with the greasy giant sausage roll, and want something more contemporary like the “Balanced Choice”, so be it. The trend has spoken. Don’t invent, cook, or buy-in a new line because it is a personal favourite, only add something to the shelves if it is what the customers want. Problems come when marketeers are tasked with predicting the future and the Next Big Thing.

Sometimes, however, the trend comes to you, and currently I have a kitchen full of bubbling jars and exploding bottles. My wife has got into fermented foods in a big way. The principle being that adding regular doses of fermented foods to your diet is a powerful force for good, you can even prepare your own probiotic powder. It’s time to make kefir (a drink that’s the rowdy big brother of natural yogurt); to pickle anything that strays onto the work top – excellent salt pickles like the famous “new green cucumber” so popular in Jewish restaurants. Or how about cultured butter? Cure the cream before churning. Like so many “wonder” foods, the idea of fermented foods is not new: try the Korean national dish Kimchi – extra pungent fermented cabbage. Koreans also appreciate black and squelchy pickled garlic. In Shanghai most of the vitamin C in the diet for the winter months comes from pickled cabbage (which is pretty much the same as Central European sauerkraut). For maximum benefit, we should wash everything down with a glass of kombucha – a Japanese creation, (infuse black tea and let it cool, add a little sugar and then leave to ferment).

It can be confirmed that all these living foods have a powerful effect on the innards and that they might just be genuine health foods. If the idea of natural foods that do you good appeals, then becoming a veg fermenter is something you should try.

Meanwhile on our high streets the mega sausage roll will still go head to head with “Balanced Choices” and it will be some time before Kimchi, Kombucha and Kefir become the people’s favourite.

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