UK: Mintel hails Queen’s jubilee with 40-year food survey

The UK’s changing breakfast preferences, the impact of shifting diets, and the great British takeaway are three key food trends to emerge from Mintel’s first survey charting consumers’ changing food choices between 1972 and 2012.

“As the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee approaches and the nation gears up to enjoy the best of British – Mintel celebrates its 40th anniversary. Indeed, Mintel has only ever known the UK consumer as governed by HRH Elizabeth II and, although our Queen has remained the same, Mintel’s consumer research shows that us Brits have changed considerably since Mintel was founded in 1972,” says the research group.

Celebrating providing in-depth consumer research for 40 years, Mintel has re-run its first ever consumer market research report to reveal the shift in consumer attitudes between 1972 and 2012. Mintel reveals just how diets have shifted since the 70s, changing the face of Britain’s breakfast habits, together with how the great British takeaway has changed shape since the seventies. 

Alexandra Richmond, Senior Consumer and Lifestyles Analyst at Mintel, says:

“For 40 years, Mintel has been providing best in class market research and analysis. Just as the Queen is celebrating 60 years reigning over the nation, Mintel is celebrating 40 strong years in the research industry.

“Health, convenience and travel have all had a major impact on consumer habits over the past 40 years. While many of our habits have changed, such as letter writing and sending postcards, some elements of British behaviour are ingrained in the nation’s psyche such as our love of fish and chips and DIY.”

Starting with breakfast, today it seems less of a meal fit for a queen.

It’s down the pan for the great British fry up as bacon and egg fall out of favour for Brits at breakfast time. While eggs were a firm favourite with the nation back in 1972, as many as three in ten (29%) enjoying a cracking good start to the day, forty years on, just one in ten (12%) Brits start the day on an egg.

Meanwhile, bacon has also suffered as a breakfast option. While back in 1972 as many as one in five (20%) enjoyed a rasher or two – this British favourite has had the chop. Indeed, in 2012, less than one in ten (7%) wake up to the smell of bacon.

And it’s been a short sharp shock for Paddington Bear’s favourite, marmalade. In 1972 more than a third (36%) of Brits enjoyed a dollop of the orange stuff, today, just 7% of Brits spread it on their toast.

In this, the year of the Diamond Jubilee, as many as a fifth of Brits get fruity at breakfast with almost one in five (19%) drinking fruit juice, compared to just 11% in 1972. Encouragingly, just 6% of Brits only drink it at breakfast time, while back in the seventies twice as many (14%) admitted to starting the day with juice.

“While British breakfast favourites still exist, we are more knowledgeable than ever about a healthy diet. Healthy choices now guide our dietary habits and over the last 40 years, Brits have recognised the importance of breakfast. A shortage of time, and the increased availability of healthier breakfast options explain the decline in popularity of the great british fry-up, which has not changed much over the past 40 years – but could potentially make a come-back if we can find ways to make it healthier,” Alexandra continues.

Now to something just as British as the queen – and it seems the chips are down for the nation’s favourite; fish and chips.

Top 3 takeaways:

1972 = 1. Fish and Chips (64%), 2. Chinese (17%), 3. Chicken (11%)

2012 = 1. Fish and Chips (39%), 2. Chinese (33%) 3. Indian (26%)

While fish and chips remain the nation’s favourite takeaway – almost four in ten (39%) Brits enjoyed a portion in the last month – back in 1972 almost two thirds of the nation (64%) opted for this classic British takeaway.

Chinese continues to go from strength to strength, while less than a fifth (17%) of consumers enjoyed a Chinese takeaway back in the early seventies, forty years on, a third (33%) of Brits choose a Chinese.

Meanwhile, as Mintel celebrates its ruby anniversary, the ruby murray (curry) takes on the third spot as the nation’s favourite takeaway. Indeed, the Indian takeaway was almost unheard of in 1972, just 4% having tried one in the month before they completed Mintel’s 1972 survey. Today, it is a firm British favourite among 26% of Brits.

“As the nation’s favourite, it’s not quite the end of the line for the fish and chip supper, but a greater variety of takeaway options has seen ethnic choices such as the Indian and Chinese takeaway grow in popularity in the last 40 years. Since 1972 consumers have been travelling the world more than ever before and enjoying the foods they ate on holiday back here in Britain. As well as growing in confidence to try them, this also reflects the wider range of takeaways cited in the research.”

Mintel’s 1972 research also reveals how many of today’s store cupboard favourites were considered “exotic” just 40 years ago.

While olive oil was considered an “exotic food” back in 1972, just 16% of Brits having bought some in the past 3 months, today, over half (53%) of Brits are regular purchasers. Similarly, garlic (11%) and tomato puree (20%) were rarely seen in the British shopping basket, but now they are used by as many as 48% and 42% of households respectively.

And while the nation may be in the throes of celebrating the Jubilee, it could be bad news for the the great British classic Coronation Chicken, as one ingredient to have declined in popularity is curry powder. Once a must for British picnic and street party fare, curry powder was an essential ingredient in old favourite dishes such as Coronation Chicken, and was used by almost a quarter (24%) of the nation in 1972. Today however, fewer than one in five (19%) households use curry powder.

“Nowadays, curry means more to us Brits than just a spoonful of curry powder. Instead we can buy far more sophisticated and authentic herbs and spices and this is a key reason why curry powder is falling out of favour. What is classed as exotic has changed vastly over the past 40 years and there is now global influence on the store cupboard staples of British households.” Alexandra continues.

There has also been a dramatic decline in the number of Brits who believe it is a good idea to take an “old fashioned tonic” when recovering from flu. Just a quarter of Brits (24%) believe this is the case compared to 68% back in 2012.

What’s more, the nation was twice as likely to believe vitamins help prevent colds (44%) in 1972 as they are in 2012 (23%).

Furthermore, the number of Brits who believe there is no need to take vitamins has dramatically declined from 58% in 1972 to 32% in 2012. Similarly, there has been a rise in the number of Brits who believe it is good to take vitamins regularly – up from one in three (29%) in 1972 to almost a third (32%) in 2012.

Today, just 10% of Brits believe that “old fashioned tonics” are better than modern vitamins, falling from 32% in ‘72.

Source: Mintel