Not so innocent: how fast food stalled and big brands acted small

Posted on by Guy Cookson

“Pop a bit of foil on the top and make it Italian: Bingo! Upper-middle-class Fanta.” – Rory Sutherland

There was a time not long ago when the consensus was that all food would soon be fast.

McDonald’s grew at incredible pace during the 1970s and 80s as they spearheaded the standardisation of food preparation, and bragged of their ability to serve exactly the same menu items anywhere in the world.

During the same period microwaves started appearing in every kitchen, and ready-made meals were heralded as the future of cooking. Just as washing machines and tumble dryers had freed us from the burden of endless laundry, microwaves promised a shiny new future where toiling over the stove was a thing of the past.

Perhaps Roald Dahl had got it right in Charlie and Chocolate Factory, where a delicious three course meal could be contained in a single stick of chewing gum. This was the future, surely.

But as so happens with these things first there was a quiet murmur of discontent and then a fully fledged rebellion. In Italy, in 1986, Carlo Petrini launched Slow Food, a movement that extolled the virtues of regional, seasonal and sustainable food and drink.

Top tier chefs started to carve a niche by emphasising the same values in their cooking, and gained rave reviews, Michelin stars and cookbook sales in the process.

Go to any reasonably good restaurant today and the menu will be at pains to assure you their ingredients are in season and locally sourced. Wander down a supermarket aisle and words such as “organic” and “fresh” are everywhere.

The marketing of food has shifted from convenience to provenance. Every bag of crisps and fruit drink now seems keen to assure us it was “hand cooked” and “made with love.”

This is a boom time for smaller producers, and at Hotfoot we love to work with growing companies that genuinely do care deeply about the quality and authenticity of their products.

But the corporate food and drink industry is working hard to capitalise on the trend, and some brands are not as they seem.

Innocent Drinks is owned by Coca-Cola; San Pellegrino was acquired by a division of Nestlé; Green & Black’s chocolate is part of Mondelēz International; and Camden Town Brewery is now owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s biggest drinks company.

Change is happening, but not so fast.

This article first appeared in the Lancashire Post, Lancaster Guardian and other Johnston Press titles where I write a weekly column.

Related Posts

This entry was posted in Brand, Design, Hospitality, Hotfoot, Lancashire, Lancaster, Marketing, Trends and tagged , , , , , , , on by .

We’d Love To Work With You

Get in touch & let’s chat through your project


Awards & Accreditations

  • The Drum Recommended
  • Marketing Lancashire
  • The Bibas Winner
  • Lancashire Business Awards Nominee 2016
  • Boost Business Lancashire
  • Cumbria Tourism
  • Awwwards Nominee 2016
  • Digital Lancashire Founding Member
  • Lakes Hospitality Association
  • Red Rose Winner