Tag Archives: MSc Gastronomy

The Growth of ‘GYO’ in the UK

I’ve recently completed my MSc Gastronomy dissertation in which I studied GYO bloggers in the UK and looked at their GYO and GYO blogging in terms of food activism – it was a really interesting study and my findings led to the conclusion that there is a groundswell in grow your own and that it is very clearly linked with motives aligned with those in regular food activism discourse – the environment, economics and health were found to be the key motivators .

Compost Direct have just compiled a report on the growth of GYO and the UK’s changing food trends and it makes for interesting reading (see below).

Although I believe an interest in healthier lifestyles is a factor for these changing trends (the conclusion from this report), I also believe, from my own study, that there is a greater understanding of our environmental impact and the response to this is a trend in more sustainable ways of producing, purchasing and consuming food. There’s also a greater understanding and genuine mistrust of the ££ multi-million corporations controlling our food chain, from the biotech giants controlling our seed to those exploiting others at every point of the food system to reap unprecedented profits. By shortening the food chain we can all do our bit to take back control of what we consume and it seems that we are.

The rise in organic food sales

In recent years, global interest in stocking cupboards with organic food has risen. The market is worth an outstanding £2.09million and experienced a growth of 7.1% throughout 2016. In fact, organic food and drink now represents a 1.5% share of the total UK market, according to the 2017 Organic Market Report. On a global scale, the UK’s organic market makes up 4% of the $81 billion worldwide organic sales.

The rise in organic purchases has been explained by the growing awareness of organic produce and its benefits. Overall, 80% of consumers said they had knowledge of organic food, with 39% buying it on a weekly basis.

Some argue that the focus on organic food has stemmed from an increased fitness culture in Britain. With the rise of social media, many consumers are exposed to toned (possibly edited) bodies and it is inspiring them to self-improve. Given that organic food is often fresher, containing fewer pesticides and no genetic modifications, it’s the route many people choose as part of living and eating better.

It appears that the foodservice market has reaped the greatest benefits following the trend. Sales of organic food within the UK’s foodservice market rose by 19.1% in 2016 and were estimated to be worth an astonishing £76.6million.

Restaurants, pubs and cafes have recognised the growing trends and are adapting their menus accordingly to their new health-conscious visitors. Many well-known restaurants have made the switch to organic, including Jamie’s Italian, McDonalds and Nando’s.

Of course, as customers eat differently and restaurants cook differently, the wholesalers must too adapt. Between 2015 and 2016, there were almost 25% more licensed organic wholesalers, responding to the growing demand for wholesome food.

In many public services, organic food has been implemented too as schools, universities, hospitals, and workplaces serve more organic food under the Food for Life Catering Mark. The requirement for organic doesn’t seem to be slowing down.

 

The love for home produce

Following the recession in 2007, many homeowners searched for ways to battle rising food costs. One tactic taken by many was growing their own produce. In 2012, for example, the BBC reported that almost a third of British adults grew their own food. A further 51% said in a survey that they would take to the vegetable patch if food prices were to rise further.

In a recent survey, YouGov investigated the new trend, too. They found that 77% of gardeners listed eating produce that they have grown in their own gardens as the main benefit of gardening. What’s more, 44% grow enough fruit and vegetable to share with their friends and family, while over 25% said that growing their own food was now their hobby.

 

An interest in recipe boxes

Alongside the new trend of enjoying fresh food, the old lifestyle habits remain — such as our need for any time-saving tips to complement our busy lives. From this, different companies have launched their own recipe boxes. Pioneered by the likes of Hello Fresh and Gousto, these boxes contain all of the ingredients you need to cook tasty meals, along with instructions on how to do it.

The boxes offer organic food at convenience and it comes with no surprise that they’ve been successful. In 2015, the recipe box industry achieved £702 million in worldwide sales. By 2025, predictions estimate that this will grow to £3.8 billion as the market goes from strength-to-strength and more companies emerge.

Recipe boxes also reduce waste as they only contain as much as you need for the meals that you will create for that week. When you look at the UK household wastage — £13 billion of edible food in 2017 — it’s no surprise a lot of people want to get involved. According to analytics by Cardlytics, spending on recipe boxes grew by 64.6% in the first half of 2016, with the volume of orders increasing by 47.6%.

Supermarkets have recognised the threat of these boxes, and Tesco and Waitrose have launched a similar kit within their stores.

With organic food, growing our own and recipe boxes, it’s clear to see that the way we purchase and consume food is changing as we strive for healthier lifestyles.

Sources:

https://www.soilassociation.org/certification/trade-news/2017/uk-organic-market-tops-2-billion/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18094945

https://www.sundaypost.com/in10/home-and-garden/garden-people-growing-produce/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-36057783

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jan/10/uk-throwing-away-13bn-of-food-each-year-latest-figures-show

http://uk.businessinsider.com/hellofresh-and-gousto-are-nibbling-away-at-supermarket-revenues-2016-11

Getting Experimental On The Allotment

A large focus of our Gastronomy MSc just now is soil science – with horrifying losses on a global scale (75 billion tonnes of soil are being lost each year due to erosion and poor land management and it takes nature 50-100 years to make 2.5cm of soil) and with a growing population this is a very real concern with regards to the future of our food supply.

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We’ve been studying the history of agriculture and different methods being used and have decided to get experimental on our own campus allotment and see how it goes. It’s fair to say that it’s very exposed and was certainly very windy out there for yesterday morning’s session. Note to self to take warmer clothing next time!

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We decided to try a no-till approach to two beds by cutting down the existing weeds, laying them down back down on the beds, covering them with cardboard and then heaping compost over the top and then covering them with burlap sacking. The aim of this is that the existing organic matter and microbes will continue to do their thing in the soil and we’ll keep the weeds out until we’re ready to plant in our lovely healthy soil in the Spring.

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In our existing perennial bed, which has a bio-diverse approach we decided to try out some green manure seeds in some barren areas to help regenerate the soil. We removed the burlap sacking in a few areas and lightly tilled the area and sowed a mixture of Phacelia, Clover, Italian Ryegrass and Winter Tares. The aim of this is to fix Nitrogen back into the soil and to help prevent erosion from the winds through the Winter. We’ll then cut them back in the Spring when we’re ready to plant other things.

I’ll also be trying out both of these methods in my own garden with a view to starting a brand new bio-diverse garden next Spring – very excited about that!

Getting Our Hands Dirty – Foraging and Soil Science

This week the Gastronomy MSc kicked off properly and Monday was a brilliant day – we were looking at Food Procurement – a brief history and consideration of the methods and location from which we acquire our food and how this shapes our relationship with the environment.

Foraging with Fi Martynoga
Foraging with Fi Martynoga

This included a guest lecture and foraging session with food historian and author Fi Martynoga. amazingly we found so many wild edibles within the campus environs – yarrow, hogweed, vetch, chamomile, brambles, rosehips, elderberries, barberries, beech nuts, hazelnuts, ground elder and also some leftover oats and barley – probably from a time when the land was farmed.

Tuesday began with a session in the campus allotment, it’s been a little neglected over the past year so our job will be to take it on and sort it out over the coming months. First, we got our hands dirty by examining the soil, looking for worms and testing the PH to see what we’ve got to play with.

Getting to grips with our campus allotments
Getting to grips with our campus allotments

This was followed by a lecture on understanding soil – love this quote “understanding soil isn’t rocket science, it’s far more complicated” Mark Kibblethwaite.

We also had a guest lecture from Dr Kenneth Loades from the James Hutton Institute who gave us a fascinating insight into Scottish soils, agriculture, root systems, erosion, the yield gap and other issues for soil and ultimately our food and drink supply.

Green Manure Seeds
Green Manure Seeds

We took a brief look at urban agriculture as well. So far so good, this is going to be one very interesting course. Off the back of this we discovered that Whitmuir Organic Farm, just along the road, is running a series of participative workshops with scientists, farmers, politicians and other interested parties over the coming months – I’ve applied to be part of this, couldn’t be more relevant so fingers crossed. More info here

On of my fellow cohorts, who also has a particular interest in gardening, kindly gave me some ‘Green Manure Seeds’ to try out as a soil improver through the Winter. I’ve got Red Clover, Winter Tares & Italian Ryegrass – the idea is to plant them now let them grow and in the Spring cut them back, cover with a good layer of compost/manure and sow our next lot of crops in much enriched soil. Really looking forward to seeing how they work!