Goodbye gravy, hello harissa: Sainsbury’s delves into its archive to uncover the nation’s evolving palate

Goodbye gravy, hello harissa: Sainsbury’s delves into its archive to uncover the nation’s evolving palate

Goodbye gravy, hello harissa: Sainsbury’s delves into its archive to uncover the nation’s evolving palate

Sainsbury’s has explored its archive alongside food historian Polly Russell to uncover the fascinating generational shift that’s been happening in our store cupboards.

Spicy ingredients selling like hot cakes to become modern store cupboard staples
Since the 1960s Sainsbury’s has seen a 3,000% increase in the number of spicy ingredients on sale
From cakes to curries – our use of spices has changed dramatically
Since the 1960s Sainsbury’s has seen a 3,000% increase in the number of spicy ingredients on sale, as the nation’s tastebuds get hooked on spicy flavours. Back in 1965 Sainsbury’s herb and spice range stocked just one spicy ingredient (curry powder). 50 years later, it stocks well over 33, plus almost ten different types of fresh chillis reflecting a dramatic increase in consumer demand for fuller, spicier flavour.

Polly Russell notes that within living memory British taste has transformed dramatically – from a 1950s diet that was relatively conservative and bland to the eclectic and highly spiced food of today as our taste buds are now demanding a broader range of spices, influenced by the cuisines of North Africa, the Caribbean and the Far East.

This is reflected in Sainsbury’s sales of Ottolenghi’s fiery favourite, harissa, which have skyrocketed by 15% yoy while classic hot pepper sauce is up 11%. By contrast, traditional sauces such as mayonnaise and brown sauce remain flat.

This research comes as Sainsbury’s launches a campaign encouraging customers to give everyday meals a twist with store cupboard ingredients to add flavour and excitement to midweek cooking.

Susi Richards, Sainsbury’s head of food comments: “We see an increased interest from customers in adding modern twists to traditional classics. Chimichurri, peri peri and harissa sauces are now more popular store cupboard standbys as our taste for spicy international cuisines continues to grow.

“As a nation we cook over 5 billion midweek meals a year – and Sainsbury’s is passionate about offering great quality, everyday food to inspire households that are cooking the meals that matter to Britain. The store cupboard is a goldmine of interesting twists in waiting. With more ingredients available than ever before, now is the time to reclaim the store cupboard and start experimenting!”

Food historian Polly Russell comments: “Analysis of cookery books in the twentieth century illustrates that spices like cinnamon and ginger have long been a feature of cakes, puddings and baking. The widespread use of spices in savoury dishes, however, is a relatively new phenomenon. By the 1960s changes in population and increased foreign travel started to transform British tastes.

“With the arrival of prepackaged spice mixes in the 1970s, things began to heat up. By the 1980s spices had found their way into everyday dishes like macaroni cheese and recipes for foreign dishes emphasised authenticity and regionality, becoming increasingly complex. In the 1990s the availability of fresh herbs, spices and chillis expanded and umami rich ingredients like Thai fish sauce became popular – all indications of how British tastes have transformed within a lifetime and how a love of spice and variety is now the norm”.

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