Jam in crisis? The end of the British breakfast as we know it? … Not likely
Many people skip breakfast, but with UK eggs sales up and butter back in fashion, the first meal of the day is fighting back
In a very British parliamentary debate this week, MPs discussed plans to allow commercial jam makers in the UK to reduce the sugar content of their preserves from 60% to 50%. Liberal Democrat MP Tessa Munt told the BBC the change could bring “the end of the British breakfast as we know it”.
With up to two-thirds of us apparently skipping the first meal of the day anyway, perhaps the great British breakfast has been floundering for a while. The market research company Mintel reported in 2011 that half of those who do eat when they wake up in the UK choose cereal. There can’t be many of the rest who eat a traditional cooked breakfast every day. Clues to the potential fate of the most important meal of the daymay rest in how it has fared in the face of these other breakfast threats.
In 1988, as junior health minister, Edwina Currie gave an infamous warning that most of the country’s egg production was affected by salmonella. Sales of eggs plummeted and the outrage of farmers led to “Eggwina’s” resignation. Did the affair stop us from enjoying boiled eggs with soldiers? Far from it – the industry recovered. The British Egg Industry Council has estimated UK consumers ate 11,355 million eggs last year, 6% more than in 2011. The British Lion scheme claims to have effectively eradicated salmonella in British eggs and reversed a long-term sales decline. Egg consumption is back to its highest level since the crisis.
“The most heinous crime committed against breakfast,” says the Real Bread Campaign’s Chris Young, “is the Chorleywood loaf.” Created by the British Baking Industries Research Association in 1961, theChorleywood bread process was designed to reduce the natural proving time of bread, to make bread production faster. Today it is used to make for 80% of the bread we eat, and yet we throw away 32% of all our bread. If bread were more palatable, we might be more inclined to eat it. Since the Real Bread Campaign was launched in November 2008, the number of independent bakeries has increased and consumption of cheap white bread has declined. Good breakfast toast may have teetered on the brink of extinction, but it’s pulling itself back from the edge now.
Since the 1980s people have been advised to switch to spreading margarine on their toast to help reduce their cholesterol levels. However, cardiologist Aseem Malhotra has turned that advice on its head, Even before his suggestion that butter is not as bad for your heart as has been believed, it was making a comeback. British shoppers bought 8.7% more blocks of butter last year, perhaps reckoning that life, and breakfast in particular, is too short to spend time eating a low-cholesterol, vegetable oil-based product.
Changes to recipes of favourite products are always hard to pull off, and first thing in the morning is not the ideal time to discover your cereal has been tinkered with. Earlier this year Kellogg’s changed the recipe of its Special K breakfast cereal, adding barley to the rice and wheat mix and by all accounts so far it’s killed breakfast for at least 778 people who’ve signed the petition at Change.org requesting the recipe be switched back.
The pace of life
If it’s a choice between an extra half hour in bed over getting up to eat, 64% of us would choose the sleep, according to last year’s Dr Oetker Onken’s Great British Breakfast survey; 74% of men leave their first meal till lunch and 47% of parents reported that breakfast is the most stressful time of their day. Though breakfast kickstarts your metabolism for the day, giving you much needed energy, if you’re overworked and overtired, it appears to be one of the first things to go.
• Gloopy jam, tasteless margarine, claggy bread or lack of inclination – what kills breakfast for you?
Read this feature as it originally appeared on the Guardian’s Word of Mouth blog