Thursday, 13 November 2008

Credit Crunch Cook

I’ve just come across some recent sales figures released by online supermarket Ocado and they’re so encouraging that I felt I had to share them. The year-on-year figures for 2007-2008 tell a very interesting story about how the credit crunch is affecting people’s shopping, cooking and eating habits. With an increase in sales of basic cooking ingredients, it seems that the credit crunch may finally have shown its silver lining as people move back into the kitchen and start to cook in order to save money. It seems that, whatever their budget, everyone is feeling their purse strings tighten – and it’s putting them more in touch with what they’re eating as a result. Sales of ‘from-scratch’ style ingredients such as flour and onions are up 15% across-the-board suggesting that those who would buy pre-prepared products are starting to make their own. Cheap, convenient and versatile; it’s not surprising that sales of tinned tomatoes have shot up but the increase of 129% that Ocado are reporting is still impressive. The news that sales of premium meat cuts have also seen a surge in sales is harder to understand. It seems, though, that people are realising that buying and cooking luxury, high-end ingredients can still end up much cheaper than going out. Steaks are the biggest risers, with sirloin up by 50%, whilst veal escallops have gained an impressive 30%. A 15% increase in customers paying £10-15 per bottle of wine shows that these premium products are being washed down by some premium plonk whilst similar increases in sales of luxury ice-creams and desserts suggest that people are bringing the restaurant to them and creating a dining-out at home experience which is high on extravagance and lower on expense. As a real advocate of home-cooking, I find this downturn in ready-meal sales and increase in the ingredients to make them from scratch very encouraging. It is particularly uplifting to see something so positive come out of something as negative as the current financial climate. Sympathy must be had for struggling restaurants, though. They may well turn out to be one of the credit crunch’s worst victims. On the bright side, though, perhaps an increased fight for profit could lead to more creative cooking. Many restaurants still rely too heavily on expensive ingredients as a sign of luxury. Cooked right, liver can be just as indulgent as lobster at a fraction of the price...

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