It’s olive oil in, curry power out: 40 years of changing tastes

Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year has given market research specialist Mintel the excuse to look at how consumers’ eating habits have changed since its first-ever report in 1972 – revealing how much more sophisticated the nation’s tastes have become.

It's olive oil in, curry power out: 40 years of changing tastes

Many of what are now store cupboard essentials, for instance, were considered exotic 40 years ago. Then, just 16% of Brits had bought olive oil in the previous three months, while today over half are regular purchasers. Similarly, garlic and tomato puree were rarely seen in the British shopping basket, but now they are used by almost half of us. Sales of curry powder, on the other hand, are on the wane.

Said Mintel’s senior consumer and lifestyles analyst, Alexandra Richmond: “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’s 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.”

Breakfast time has also seen big changes, with the number of people going to work on an egg falling from 29% to 12% and those frying up a few rashers of bacon down from 20% to 7%. Marmalade has also slumped: in 1972 36% of us enjoyed it for breakfast, compared to just 7% today. Juice drinking, however, is on the up.

“While British breakfast favourites still exist, we’re more knowledgeable than ever about a healthy diet,” said Richmond. “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 hasn’t changed much over the past 40 years – but could potentially make a comeback if we can find ways to make it healthier.”

Mintel also took at look at how our takeaway preferences have changed and found that while fish and chips still rules, its popularity has markedly declined, favoured by only 39% today compared with 64% in 1972. In second place, Chinese has almost doubled its score to 33% today from 17% in 1972, while in third place now, with 26%, is Indian. Forty years ago chicken was third, with 11%.

The Indian takeaway was virtually unheard of 40 years ago, just 4% of people having tried one in the month before they completed Mintel’s 1972 survey.

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