Don Williams, CEO of brand and design consultancy Pi Global, outlines a window of opportunity
If you turn on a TV set in the UK, chances are you will land on one of the following enthralling items: property search; reality rubbish; wannabe celebrity show; or food programmes. British TV got fat and lazy and seemingly devoid of any real talent. What has happened is that quality has been replaced by brain-numbing zombie fodder. Dollar-chasing production firms witnessed the success of pap like Big Brother (RIP) and ’kerching, kerching’ saw the chance to churn out dross so formulaic that an amoeba on drugs could probably produce it on a budget that would cover a pot of tea and a packet of biscuits.
Yes, I’m cynical! But from an industry point of view, the resurgence of interest in home-baking can, in some large measure, be attributed to this ’Pap-Culture’.
Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t all bad, but the range is huge. The number of cooking programmes on BBC alone ranges from the cool and ever-jovial James Martin on Saturday Kitchen to the, in my humble opinion, excruciatingly irritating Masterchef/Celebrity Masterchef team to the ’odd couple’ hairy bakers. Just go to the BBC website and check out food programmes and you’ll find 70 food-content titles to choose from; we’ve come a long way from the days of Fanny and Johnny Craddock.
Naturally, the recession has also had some influence over the stay-in trend, just as it has in the decisions of many people to ’staycation’. But the frenzy of foodie media activity, which has made cooking and baking in particular far less ’jam and Jerusalem’ has also made it incredibly accessible. Baking is undergoing a personality transplant from village fête to urban chic; yes folks, it’s officially trendy to bake. I’ve never been in so many meetings where cupcakes are as abundant and essential as a BlackBerry or a good old Filofax.
General Mills is clearly capitalising on what appears to be an American baking invasion, showing nearly 27% growth for Betty Crocker over the last year. American favourites seem to be everywhere: not just cupcakes which have been around a while but which seem to have morphed into something far more full-on mouthwateringly indulgent but also newbies on the block like whoopie pies.
The big question is, will this trend continue beyond the point at which the media have wrung the last cent out of it? When we eventually drag ourselves out of the financial mire, will we suddenly decide that we don’t have the time any more and have better things to do than slave over a hot oven?
The baking industry has a huge (but closing) window of opportunity to ensure this doesn’t happen. Anyone who can remember licking the wooden spoon as mother baked knows a simple truth baking is fun.
Keeping it relevant to today’s lifestyles and culture is what will drive growth, ensuring that product innovation and marketing are focused on fresh thinking and giving the consumer an experience of baking that always, to use a cliché, surprises and delights. That’s the challenge.