From stacks of pancakes to piles of doughnuts, food from across the Atlantic is rarely the healthy detox the doctor ordered. However, its popularity among Britains has reached unprecedented levels over recent years. Ventures to bring stateside goods to the UK have been met with overwhelming demand from the public.
Such an appetite for major US brands like Hersheys, Kraft and Pepsi has exposed a new battleground for market heavyweights, and contributed to the prominence of the aforementioned names on British store shelves.
The love affair began with the introduction of the barbecue. Freshly grilled hot dogs, burgers and fried chicken on a sunny day are enough to get anyone salivating. Yet the appeal of these edibles goes a bit further than simply their deliciously fatty taste.
American food is often regarded as fun and bears a strong association with the sunnier side of life. Burgers and fries continue to epitomise the ‘American dream’ of Californian diners and open highways while still remaining affordable.
Not only does this mean that more people are willing to buy them, but demand for them is less affected during periods of economic recession.
The number of US food products in the UK spiked significantly in 2012 when supermarkets Tesco and Asda decided to install fixtures designed exclusively for American goods. Being owned by American giant Walmart, the latter was the first to make the move and obviously benefits from an existing distribution network between the two countries.
Euro Foods Brands, a distributor of international goods, announced a 50% increase in the sales of Hershey’s products in 2011. High levels of growth have seen both supermarkets expand their trial phases in a limited number of stores to include many more of their branches.
At a local level, the Tesco in St Andrews has attempted to cater to the desires of many Americans studying at the town university. Since its launch last week, its shelves have sat depleted for the majority of most days with goods being picked up almost as quickly as they are stocked.
Having a greater level of affluence than many other student populations, the store has also managed to excessively price their ‘exclusive’ American products. In 2013, Walmart sold a box of ten Twinkies for the equivalent of £1.86 for a box of ten. This is compared to over £7.00 at Tesco.
The irony is that some cheap and inferior goods like Twinkies in America are regarded as speciality items in the UK. These high mark ups on the imported products coupled with a responsive customer base has ensured the success of Tesco’s latest exhibition of exploiting gaps in the market.
A student organisation called A Taste of Home also joined the party recently, advertising its upcoming importing services. The concept is simple and in its primitive stages. It hopes to use present demand for American goods in St Andrews to make bulk purchases, thus reducing import costs.
Additionally, they can undercut the extortionate prices of Tesco or other out-of-town stores. A further advantage is that the business should be able to better market to the pri- mary (student) consumer base for these goods and meet demand more flexibly.
So, no strangers to indulgence, it is hardly surprising that the British public have embraced the invasion of American goods. However, it cannot be said to be a mutual relationship. Cask ales, fresh seafood and farm sausages are not exactly thriving across the pond. It is likely that this stems from a lack of faith in national dishes and the self-deprecating opinion that other countries know how to do it better.
Perhaps it is time that Britain took some pride in its own food and stopped living in the shadow of much celebrated European cuisine and cheap and cheerful US foods. Only then may it have wider reach than its own domestic borders.