Credit crunch prompts cheaper cut sales and slow cooking revival

Posted by Editorial on 28th July 2008

As the credit crunch bites, cooking techniques like braising and stewing, have seen a surge in popularity among thrifty consumers.

Slow cookers are the latest must-have gadget enjoying a revival from the appliance graveyard, according to UK retailer John Lewis. They have reported a recent boom in sales of the appliances, up 25% year on year, as cash strapped consumers move away from being a generation of ‘breast and sirloin’ to more affordable cuts of meat, suitable for braising and stewing , traditional cooking techniques used by their mums and grandmothers to economise during ‘leaner times’.

John Lewis’s sister company Waitrose has seen sales of Hereford Braising steak up 22% ahead of 2007 over the last 8 weeks, whilst Aberdeen Angus Feather steak (another more affordable cut generally used for casseroling) is 37% up on last year. Similarly, free range chicken thighs are 55% up year on year as customers are increasingly looking for high welfare but opting for cheaper cuts.

Once synonymous with 1970s suburbia, John Lewis which is currently selling over 350 slow cookers a week, says the appliances are being embraced by credit strapped consumers and busy professionals who are lured by the convenience of having an affordable, healthy home cooked meal ready for when they get in from work. Slow cookers are also very energy efficient, using less electricity than it takes to power a lightbulb.

First introduced in the 1970s by Rival, which named it the Crock-Pot, the slow cooker is designed for moist-heat cooking, producing steam that condenses on the lid, then returns to the pot, making them suitable for stews, soups and casseroles .

Andy Boulton, meat buyer for Waitrose, believes we are seeing a slowdown in more ways than one. “Consumers will be all too familiar with the term economic slowdown but what we are also seeing is a gastronomic slowdown – quite literally,” he claimed. “Instead of automatically opting for the sirloin and the fillet, customers are reverting to cuts of meats that require slower cooking – and thrifty culinary techniques that would have been more familiar to their mothers and grandmothers. Braising and stewing are firmly back on the menu.”