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2012 saw the first major campaign to tackle the slow demise of the high street, as 14.3% of the nation’s high street shops were standing empty. The new operation to help failing shopping areas was set up in January and targeted eight towns in Yorkshire. British charcuterie began to grow in popularity, with stalls opening up throughout Borough Market, one of London’s most renowned food and drink markets. Of course, 2012 also brought the Olympics to London, resulting in a surge in food sales as Brits stocked up on traditional delicacies and celebratory indulgence.
2013 began with the butchery sector calling for more young people to learn the skills and art of the trade as industry figures worried traditional British butchery would be lost. Adding fuel to the fire, the FSA clamped down on rare meat, announcing that delis and farm shops that serve rare meat in on-site cafés and restaurants could face repercussions. New data revealed that Britain was 62% self-sufficient, compared to 75% in 1991, which prompted the National Farmers Union (NFU) to start a campaign encouraging consumers to buy British.
Prince Charles showed his support for British farmers in 2014 as he accused the supermarkets of a lack of support for small producers, stating that multiples are happy to make profits from the hard work of farmers whilst taking on “none of the risk” that farmers put up with in regard to low and fluctuating incomes. Later in the year, The Organic Market Report, published by the Soil Association, revealed that independents led the growth of the organic sector with an increase of 7%, making it a trend to watch.
In 2015, fine food retailers united against supermarkets to promote genuine farm shops and farmers’ markets after Lidl released adverts promoting its food in a farmers’ market-style scene, calling into question its authenticity. In October, the National Wage increased from £6.50 to £6.70, making the luxury of extra staff slightly less affordable for indies. Off the back of indies leading the growth of organic, the Soil Association introduced a free support package for them to boost their organic sales further. The year ended with a cancer scare as the World Health Organisation stated that red and processed meat are carcinogenic, putting the meat industry at risk as shoppers worried about purchasing beef, lamb, pork and veal.
Defra announced that 2016 was to be The Year of British Food – introducing an opportunity for retailers and consumers to support British-made food and drink. This was followed by the Soil Association launching the BOOM Awards, a celebration of quality, innovation, creativity and great taste in organic products, retailers and places to eat. Of course, 2016 was also the year that a big decision was made – whether the UK would remain in the European Union or leave. In June, voters decided that ‘Brexit means Brexit’, and with a 52% majority, Britain was set to leave.
In 2017 Theresa May triggered Article 50, officially kickstarting Brexit, and around 700,000 contaminated eggs were said to have made their way to Britain in a scare that mainly rocked the supermarkets. This was also the year that Speciality Food launched our New Producer Awards to celebrate start-ups, and British exports broke the £20bn barrier after increasing by over 10%.
In 2018 the NFU highlighted the need for a focus on homegrown food. The stats showed that British food stocks would run bare by August 7th if the nation was fed only British food from January 1st – meaning the country produced just 60% of its own food. At the end of the year, a Europe-wide potato shortage was pinpointed as the reason behind a hike in prices for crisps and chips, with memorable storm the Beast from The East delaying planting and the summer heatwave not providing the correct conditions for spuds to grow.
This year saw a big push on the vegan front as major supermarkets and chains released a hoard of new products and The Veganuary campaign had its most successful to date, with a record-breaking 250,310 people from 190 countries around the world signing up. 2019 also brought the launch of the first Future Food Awards – a collaboration between Speciality Food and The FoodTalk Show – to celebrate the new brands and innovations revolutionising the food and drink industry. In June, the government announced Natasha’s Law, which required businesses to provide a full ingredients list on pre-packaged foods, following the tragic death of teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse after an allergic reaction to a Pret a Manger baguette. The year ended with a general election, with the Conservatives winning by the largest majority since the 1980s after Boris Johnson pledged to “Get Brexit Done”.
‘Vegan’ was once again the word on the fine food sector’s lips at the start of 2020. Veganuary welcomed a record-breaking 400,000 vegan-curious and flexitarians into its fold, and a number of new product launches were unveiled, making it easier than ever for retailers to cater to their rising numbers. March brought the Covid-19 pandemic to the UK, and the country entered a national lockdown where cafes, restaurants and bars were forced to shut their doors to consumers. But while consumer confidence in the UK was at an all-time low thanks to Covid-19, a shift to local shopping was becoming apparent. Brexit took the spotlight off Covid-19 as the end of the transition period approached on 31st December and Britain officially left the European Union.
January 2021 EU began with chaos as increased paperwork and trade delays began causing issues for retailers and producers. Meanwhile, the UK entered its third national lockdown, which would last until a phased reopening in March. May marked the return of indoor hospitality, with cafés and restaurants reopening in England, Wales and Scotland, and the government announced it was working on a free trade agreement with Australia, the first new deal following Brexit. The National Food Strategy was published, which contained a number of recommendations to improve the UK’s food system, including introducing the world’s first sugar and salt tax to drive reformulations, investing £1bn in innovation and trialling a programme where GPs could prescribe fruit and vegetables to improve diets. The final month of the year saw the arrival of the Omicron variant in the UK and the reintroduction of Covid-19 restrictions.
So far in 2022, we have seen the start of a horrendous war in Ukraine after Russian forces invaded in February and the worst cost-of-living crisis in decades. But we have also seen the return of trade shows as Speciality Food attended IFE in London and Farm Shop & Deli in Birmingham. As we hit the mid-point of 2022, we hope that the war comes to a swift and peaceful end, and inflation begins to decrease in the lead-up to Christmas.
Here’s to another 20 years of Speciality Food!