I’ve written about this before, but its time for an update:
I remember the first time being shocked at the price of a take away food item; when a food stall in a railway station wanted 95p for a pack of crisps, at a time they were 25p everywhere else. Yes, they were packaged up as artisan, organic or some other such bollocks, but the fact remains that they were nearly four times the price that other retailers charged at the time.
The 95p bag of crisps is no longer unusual, the price point has become acceptable and is fairly common.
I have just been in an airport where they wanted €2.70 for a bottle of water, €2 bloody 70… for f***ing water.
I was pleased to note that the take up seemed to be low and the shelves remained virtually untouched when compared to neighbouring products, but how long will it be before this price point becomes acceptable?
What drives all this hyper inflation, even in the midst of a recession, is ‘branding’. The marketing men are very skilled at it, but it’s probably not that difficult when people will buy any old shit as long as it’s endorsed by whoever is considered a celebrity today.
Branding used to be useful to the consumer as it was a badge of trust; you knew what you were going to get and valued the safety of a purchase endorsed by it. However, this trust has been misappropriated by the marketing people when they seek to apply it to virtually everything.
One airline I use offers sandwiches endorsed by the chef James Martin, are they anything special? Not really; I think one of them is a BLT; it’s hard to see what special chef delights Mr Martin can have added to this. Similarly they offer coffee endorsed by Ainsey Harriot, I was unaware of his expertise in the coffee arena; I might respect the branding of Kenco for my coffee, but Ainsey Harriot? No, I don’t think so.
The marketeers get away with this nonsense because people can’t evaluate quality for themselves and so just buy what they are told; as long as there is a friendly face on the can all is well. The downside is that we are paying for this, and we are paying big time…
The so called UK food revolution: Jamie this, Nigella that, is just another facet of this phenomenon. Despite the hours of prime time TV devoted to cooking, the British public stock up on pre prepared packs which they can just sling in the oven. Such items are much less evident in continental supermarkets, where people actually know how to prepare food and can spot a load of overpriced old tut at 100 meters.
It would probably be a safe bet that only one in ten cook books sold is ever used to actually produce something at home, and only then as a special occasion. People just want to feel like they belong, to be part if the clan, they don’t really want to learn how to cook at home or produce a meal from raw product.
So, what can we do about this? I have no idea; education and good taste have failed, the marketeers have won and we must live with the overinflated prices and sub standard products that this brings. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em: I’m off to get some Cheryl Cole carrots, I don’t like carrots, but apparently these are fab and they are only £3 each… madness, I don’t know how they do it…