Not so fast with speedy food

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There was a time not long ago when the consensus was all food would soon be fast.

By Guy Cookson, Partner at Hotfoot Design

McDonald’s grew at incredible pace during the 1970s and 80s as they spearheaded the standardisation of food preparation, and bragged of their ability to serve the same menu items anywhere in the world.

During the same period, microwaves started appearing in every kitchen and ready-made meals were heralded as the future of cooking. Just as washing machines and tumble dryers had freed us from the burden of endless laundry, microwaves promised a shiny new future where toiling over the stove was a thing of the past. Perhaps Charlie and Chocolate Factory got it right, where a delicious three-course meal could be contained in a single stick of chewing gum. This was the future, surely.

But as so happens with these things, first there was a quiet murmur of discontent and then a fully fledged rebellion. In Italy, in 1986, Carlo Petrini launched Slow Food, a movement which extolled the virtues of regional, seasonal and sustainable food and drink.

Top tier chefs started to carve a niche by emphasising the same values in their cooking and gained rave reviews, Michelin stars and cookbook sales in the process. Go to any reasonably good restaurant today and the menu will be at pains to assure you their ingredients are in season and locally sourced. Wander down a supermarket aisle and words such as “organic” and “fresh” abound. The marketing of food has shifted from convenience to provenance. Every bag of crisps and fruit drink now seems keen to assure us it was “hand-cooked” and “made with love.”

This is a boom time for smaller producers and at Hotfoot we love to work with companies which care about the quality and authenticity of their products.

But the corporate food and drink industry is working hard to capitalise on the trend, and some brands are not as they seem. Innocent Drinks is owned by Coca-Cola; San Pellegrino was acquired by a division of Nestlé; and Camden Town Brewery is now owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s biggest drinks company. Change is happening, but not so fast.