Food fashions: Five decades of food fads

By at home

71576861 11Can you remember what tickled your taste buds in the 70s, 80s and 90s? Check out our guide to Britain’s culinary crazes through the ages…

Futuristic food and technicolour treats  

The more processes food had been through, the more the 70s British population craved it. A taste of the space age involved cheese and pineapple sticks to start, Smash instant mash for main, and Angel Delight for pudding, while instant coffee was seen as a rather thrilling after dinner treat.

Groundbreaking grub: Fondue
Remember when fondue was a culinary staple at dinner parties? Who’d have thought a small pot with long forks was the ultimate home accessory for 70s newlyweds?

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Excess, excess and more excess

A time when technology and food collided to create showstopping sustenance. Drinks were no longer drinks – they were Slush Puppies or fizzy sensations created by Soda Streams. City dwellers revelled in Champagne and sushi,  while the rest of Britain began a long-lasting love affair with the toastie maker.

Groundbreaking grub: Findus Crispy Pancakes
Voted the number one UK retro food in the former GMTV (now Daybreak) poll, 80s Brits rushed to snack on the minced beef and three cheese Swedish-based creations.

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Convenience cooking and eating meals on the move

Food reflected the busy lifestyles of Brits, with chilled ready meals overtaking sales of frozen ones for ultimate culinary ease. Breakfast on the go became part of everyday life, as Kellogg’s introduced cereal bars. And previously exotic salad leaves, such as rocket, became regular residents on supermarket shelves, with vendors striving to meet the desires of their worldly British buyers.

Groundbreaking gulps: Starbucks
As Friends invaded our TV screens, so Starbucks stormed onto the British scene in 1998. Takeaway coffees were never the same again as Brits were baffled by choices such as chai, syrups, no-foam and wet lattes.

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Environmental awareness and sustainability

‘Seasonal’ and ‘local’ became food marketing buzzwords, as the news raised concerns about the sustainability of the food Brits were freely munching. Food blogging took off and campaigners continued to flag up the importance of animal welfare and farming ethics. Gastropubs, promising an ethically sourced, upmarket take on pub grub, became the place for the in-crowd to be seen.

Groundbreaking grub: Cupcakes
As soon as Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw nibbled on one, bakers identified a clear gap in the market for the British sweet tooth. Swirly icing and coloured sponge transformed the quintessential British fairy cake into the ultimate high street power treat.

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Wellbeing worries and organic champions

Recent food trends have been preoccupied with treating our bodies the best we can. Fond childhood memories of Monster Munch and Sunny Delight are stuck firmly in the past, with the media championing grains and pulses over previous staples like red meat. As the age of organic hits Britain and we slurp smoothies and nibble nuts, supermarkets continue to market everything in favour of one thing: health.

Groundbreaking grub: Frozen yogurt
Trendy ‘FroYo’ vendors are whisking the limelight away from coffee shops and juice bars. Co-founder of yogurt bar Snog, Rob Baines, says he gets an average of ‘eight international enquiries a day about opening Snog all over the world’. Meanwhile, original Californian yogurt store Pinkberry looks set to take London by storm after its Selfridges debut.

Menu milestones

  • 1974: The sale of the first domestic microwave oven.  
  • 1980: Marks & Spencer starts selling sandwiches – prawn mayonnaise quickly becomes the best seller.
  • 1992: The very first high street mini-supermarket opens, as Tesco Metro changed the retail landscape of London’s Covent Garden.  
  • 2007: Marco Pierre White takes over the helm of TV show Hell’s Kitchen, and the celebrity chef phenomenon keeps on growing.  
  • 2011: The EU reforms its Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) to limit waste and overfishing. 

This article was first published in at home with Marco Pierre White in October 2011. [Read the digital edition here]

 Images: Getty

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