An interesting trend is currently sweeping the UK, and it is one that certainly gives pause for thought. Imagine the average family freezer, and you probably picture something very normal and low-cost: fish fingers to keep the kids happy, the odd pie, some pre-made frozen mash, peas and other vegetables.
But open up that average family freezer in real life, and you are likely to find something much more unexpected. Gourmet meals are leading the way in the frozen section, with options like whole lobster, souffles, and prime wagyu beef becoming best-sellers.
A Two-Part Effect
The increase in sales of foods which are seen as “posh” has apparently come from two sources. The first is that middle-class families are now more and more regularly returning to the dinner party as a means of socialising. This is likely due to the economic hardships of the past 8 years, causing meals out in restaurants to be seen more as a luxury, while a meal at home can be prepared at bargain prices.
The second is the expansion of those bargain lines in cheaper supermarket chains, such as Lidl and Iceland. Not only are we now more likely to shop in these places, but they are also more likely to provide this so-called posh food. You may have seen Lidl’s advertisement before Christmas of a whole Canadian lobster sold at a price of just £4.99 last year. It was certainly effective: 15,000 lobsters were sold in the first day of their launch alone.
Other exotic meats are also becoming more popular, according to the industry experts keeping an eye on the situation. It is now no longer unusual for a store to stock items such as frozen sushi, crocodile meat, and ostrich. Kangaroo steaks can cost as little as £1.25 for 2 – so why wouldn’t sales soar? Items like asparagus tips are also rising in popularity in the vegetable aisle.
A Growing Trend
The upswing in sales of more exotic products has now lasted for over 2 years, with no sign of stopping at the present moment. As more brands react to the trend and stock increasingly exotic options, it seems as though this will be a widening phenomenon, and such luxury items may be seen as perfectly ordinary within the next decade.
“The demand for gourmet fast food continues to grow in popularity and UK operators have been quick to adapt to this trend,” says Brian Young, the chief executive of the British Food Federation. “As consumers continue to seek out great tasting, convenience foods that can be eaten quickly and on-the-go, they now also expect more luxurious fast-food options on their menus.”
One of the reasons that he suspects behind this rising trend is the convenience of frozen food, particularly when ordering in bulk for home delivery.
“Frozen food is particularly doing well on the internet with home delivery,” he said. “People have just decided to try different things and they have found it to be very good.”
Interestingly enough, the trend has gone the other way for traditional frozen foods like chicken, duck, and fish, which have seen a 3 to 5 per cent drop between them. At the same time, luxury frozen desserts such as roulades and tarts have gone up by 6 per cent. This shows a definite move towards the exotic and away from the normal, everyday, and humdrum.
It’s interesting to speculate whether this is a continuation of other trends, such as the rise in purchases of bottled water. Are we becoming more used to the idea of purchasing items that were once regarded as luxurious, now that prices have dropped?