In June The Economistpublished a sobering report on how price rises plus the financial crisis were affecting food-buying in Britain. It revealed that fruit and veg sales have ‘sharply declined’, as have cuts of fish and meat.
The changes were starkest for those on lowest incomes, for whom sales of fresh green vegetables have plummeted by 30 per cent since 2007 and lamb joints by 45 per cent. Meanwhile, pizza and chocolate biscuits are up.
It’s depressing to think that the small steps Britain had taken towards healthier eating could be wiped out so fast. Then again, it’s hardly surprising that shopping lists have changed, given that retail food prices have risen by 25 per cent since January 2008.
Madrid, to many one of the liveliest cities in all of Europe, has managed to preserve much of that spirit at a time when the economy hasn’t exactly been thriving. That’s according to InTheSity, the blogger and mobile app designer who has called the Spanish capital home for years and has produced countless dispatches from the ground for many publications, including Gridskipper in its heyday.
In the following interview, he talks about the reinvention and reemergence of Lavapiés and Malasaña, two neighborhoods known for their marcha, or nightlife scenes. He also shares some key dining spots of the moment, from midrange Italian options (Mercato Ballaró) to Michelin-starred stunners (Diverxo and El Club Allard)
What’s going on in Madrid?
As you know, the economy’s in the shitter, so it feels like we’re constantly being bludgeoned with burger bars.
Are any of them good?
Honestly, no. They all want to be 1950s diners and have a vintage vibe, and it gets nauseating.
THE international market for luxury goods such as fine art, fast cars and expensive jewellery is worth $1.4 trillion a year, despite generally negative perceptions of the global economy, a report shows.
The report, released by the Boston Consulting Group this week, claims luxury spending is likely to increase by 7 per cent over the next year, pushed up by affluent segments of developed and emerging countries.
”Overall, the worldwide luxury market has shown itself to be robust,” authors said.
”The uncertainties and worries that characterise most of today’s economic headlines are nowhere apparent in recent reports on the world’s luxury players.”
THE “fact” that junk food is cheaper than real food has become a reflexive part of how we explain why so many Americans are overweight, particularly those with lower incomes. I frequently read confident statements like, “when a bag of chips is cheaper than a head of broccoli …” or “it’s more affordable to feed a family of four at McDonald’s than to cook a healthy meal for them at home.”
This is just plain wrong. In fact it isn’t cheaper to eat highly processed food: a typical order for a family of four — for example, two Big Macs, a cheeseburger, six chicken McNuggets, two medium and two small fries, and two medium and two small sodas — costs, at the McDonald’s a hundred steps from where I write, about $28. (Judicious ordering of “Happy Meals” can reduce that to about $23 — and you get a few apple slices in addition to the fries!)
Africa, with a population expected to roughly double by mid-century, has become recognized as the world’s fastest growing continent. But the less-told story is of Africa’s economic rise. In the last decade Africa’s overall growth rates have quietly approached those of Asia, and according to projections by the IMF, on average Africa will have the world’s fastest growing economy of any continent over the next five years.
Seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies are African. The continent is famously resource rich, which has surely helped, but some recent studies suggest that the biggest drivers are far less customary for Africa, and far more encouraging for its future: wholesale and retail commerce, transportation, telecommunications, and manufacturing.
Just as it takes two separate eyes looking at an object from their distinct angles to achieve perspective and a sense of depth, the U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends and FMI Speaks: The State of the Food Retail Industry reports each have individual focuses, but put together they create a picture of the current state of the industry, said Leslie Sarasin, CEO of the Food Marketing Institute (FMI).
One sobering statistic she offered was that primary stores received the lowest percentage share of grocery trips they have received in recent years: 64 percent. She explored some of the reasons that has happened.
She wasn’t there to present new ideas, necessarily, but said that even when ideas or trends are familiar, people can overlook the magnitude of what is happening in front of them.
She discussed four movements in detail: the value-seeking American consumer; technology as a fact of shopping life; online shopping eating away at center store; and format innovation pointing to new differentiators.
“Every single one of these movements that I’m going to talk about, you’ve seen them before. You’re read about them,” she said. “In what I’m going to tell you about now not only are there trees, but there’s also a forest out there.”
Sarasin began with the economy, and its “amoeba-ish ooze toward recovery.” A new normal is emerging.
Broke Americans are busy people, okay, and they love saving time and money by combining errands and eating meals by going to places like Costco and Ikea that have on-site food courts. But according to CNBC, some Americans are even going totally out of their way to eat at these food courts, dealing with insane parking lots and navigating crowds of people even when they don’t need to buy anything at the suburban big box stores. America cannot resist a hot dog and a soda that costs $1.50 at Costco (the price hasn’t changed since 1985). Important facts: Costco has food courts at 586 of its 592 locations worldwide, and sells over 300 million food items a year.
Brad Plumer brings us IBIS World’s list (PDF) of the 10 fastest-growing industries in America*:
1. Generic pharmaceuticals
2. Solar panel manufacturing
3. For-profit universities
4. Pilates and yoga studios
5. Self-tanning product manufacturing
6. 3-D printer manufacturing
7. Social network game development
8. Hot sauce production
9. Green and sustainable building construction
10. Online eyeglasses sales
Hot sauce is, obviously, the future of the American economy. That’s because capsaicin, the molecule that makes hot sauce so “hot,” is basically like heroin:
People that eat lots of spicy capsaicin-rich foods build up a tolerance to it. The incentive: a small jolt of capsaicin excites the nervous system into producing endorphins, which promote a pleasant sense of well-being.
In other words, rather than increased hot sauce production slaking our thirst for the spicy stuff, it will only feed future demand as tolerance grows. The other noteworthy thing here is, of course, yoga. In a market niche largely unconstrained by regulations or subsidies or entrenched traditions people would rather pay a premium to do yoga with an in-person instructor, presumably because they find it more enjoyable.
To buy in bulk or not? Sure, stores like Costco and Sam’s Club make buying multiple economy-sized bottles of hot sauce easy, but is it worth it? NPR examined research and found that in fact, bulk foods aren’t as economical as you think.
One study from the group Bulk is Green said its independent research found that a shopper can save nearly 90 percent on its grocery bills by buying in bulk. Students from Portland State University did some comparison-shopping in area stores and found that buying in bulk — buying nuts from a canister rather than packaged nuts — was the better deal. Packaged containers were 89 percent more expensive than bulk, NPR reports. That totals up to about 56 percent of savings. NPR did the same comparison test and found that while the savings weren’t as big in Washington D.C., savings were about 21 percent.
Sounds like a winning endorsement, right? One problem: the foods that people buy most in bulk — nuts and seeds — are actually more expensive in bulk. Coffee and spices in bulk can actually save you money, but NPR reports most stores don’t sell those in large packages.
BIG, however, says it’s not just price that should motivate to buy in bulk; buying bulk reduces waste in landfills. If, for example, “Americans purchased all their almonds in bulk for one year, 72 million pounds of waste would be saved from a landfill,” BIG says. Same for coffee: “If coffee-drinking Americans purchased all of their coffee in bulk for one year, nearly 240 million pounds of foil packaging would be saved from entering a landfill.” Can’t argue with that.