Blog 22 April 2015 – Tesco Job Losses

Tesco Job Losses

The Taster Magazine Daily Update: Tesco Job Losses

WE DON’T usually write about supermarkets, but signs from the USA have hinted of — hopefully — a sea change in the way people shop for food. When even Americans turn away from cheap packaged foods, you know something’s up. Significant ripples were caused when ConAgra (giant US food-packaging company) reduced its profit forecast in February. Reuters commented: “ConAgra, like other processed food companies, has been cutting costs as consumers shift to foods that are perceived as healthier, such as organic products.” Kellogs and Kraft also reported falling profits. In contrast, Mother Jones has reported that sales of fresh foods farmers’ markets and local food distribution schemes are all booming in the US. Imagine!

In the past at least, Americans have famously been more comfortable with junk food than the Brits. Spray-on cheese and the Candwich (a canned sandwich, designed to fit soda vending machines) could only ever have originated from across the pond. Over here, we know that Tesco et al have faced significant competition from Aldi and Lidl; but The Taster very much hopes that, as in the US, it’s not simply a case of people switching supermarkets. Consider this:

♦ Sales of organic fruit & veg boxes, delivered to customers’ homes, have nearly doubled over the past decade. This, of course, is not counting similar schemes which, although not certified organic, employ small-scale low-intervention farming methods.

♦ Around 750 farmers’ markets have set up since the Bath market paved the way in 1997. (To put that into perspective, Waitrose took 90 years to build up 300 UK branches.)

♦ Dedicated food & drink festivals now number hundreds and routinely attract tens of thousands of visitors.

♦ Increasing numbers of speciality food producers are selling direct to the public online, no longer tied to the necessity to buy a shop or find a distributor. (Our upcoming summer issue includes a taste test of several gourmet curry Spice Mixes, all available online.)

♦ The streetfood revolution is going great guns in London, reflecting and being fuelled by several social trends as well as gourmandism.

The above reflects a lot of money spent on non-supermarket foods. Which means a lot of money spent on small food producers and vendors, small farms, their employees, and their employees’ families.

One thing works against the perceived success of these ventures: their quantifiability. It’s difficult to establish whether 200 people ate burgers at a streetfood market, and subsequently failed to stock up on burgers in the supermarket. But it’s easy for a supermarket to announce a drop in burger sales. That doesn’t mean several streetfood burger vendors aren’t doing a roaring trade, and thinking of branching out into Speciality Sliders.

The cry now is that Tesco’s decline has led to the loss of hundreds of potential jobs in Wolverhampton. Because Tesco is a single entity, this is very easy to present as a stark loss. But, while we feel sorry for anyone directly affected, we hope very much that Wolverhampton finds a better way forward than relying on a giant supermarket for its rescue. As an alternative, how about local businesspeople creating jobs for themselves, employing their friends and being supported by their own community? We think they’ll find there is all the difference in the world between stacking shelves for yourself, and stacking shelves for Tesco.

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Still having fun finding favourite foodie vids for our YouTube channel. Try Bill Bailey’s thoughts upon kebab photography:

Have a great Wednesday,

The Taster

For links to Reuters reports on ConAgra, click HERE and HERE

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