Shoppers go back to basics with comfort food

Posted by James Ferre on 25th May 2009

As concerns about the economy grew, Australians went ‘back to the basics’ of home cooking and shopping by rediscovering classic ingredients, according to leading food commentator, Liz Dangar.

“In tough economic times, cost-conscious Australian families are looking for ‘in-tertainment’, choosing to stay in and cook at home rather than eat takeaway or go out to restaurants,” Liz Dangar, founder of the Dangar Research Group, explained. “When it comes to the weekly grocery list, families are of shopping for on-special items and bargains. In the fruit shop, they are more aware of ‘tactical shopping’; buying seasonal fruit when it’s at its best price and taste.”

According to Dangar, home cooks are using left-overs more efficiently and rediscovering versatile, classic ingredients such as pears.

“With budget-conscious home cooks making the most of left-overs, versatility is essential. Ingredients without multiple uses are likely to be left off the shopping list,” she said.

Ms Dangar predicts an opportunity with the resurgence of old favourites. “While there’s a subtle move to greater experimentation in the kitchen, it’s with classic versatile ingredients,” she added.

But the economic times might bring an unexpected winner; the nation’s health. A Heinz survey of 1500 Australian consumers last month echoed similar sentiments.

Ms Dangar sees families moving away from foods fortified with vitamins and nutrients and going back to the notion of a balanced diet to eat a variety of nourishing food to enjoy a combination of nutrients that nature provides.

“Home cooks are looking for real food that is genuinely fresh, from the source and with true nutritional vitality,” she says. “Somewhat forgotten over recent years, the pear is (one of the products) coming into its own again.”

The US and UK were the first to see trends toward comfort foods and products that allow shoppers to reminisce about bygone days. Casseroles have reportedly received a leg-up, while Shepherd’s Pie – one of the more famous English products – has also received a boost. Chocolate coins were among other products to see stronger sales in the UK as consumers got nostalgic about the good old days… when money wasn’t so hard to find. Supermarket chain Waitrose reported a staggering 63 per cent increase in sales as the credit crunch hit.