1981… New Lo for milk… Incredible but true, the UK’s most popular type of milk was launched in Scotland as Fresh ‘N’ Lo just 30 years ago. Cutting fat levels in milk from 3.5% to 1.7% at a stroke, the nation’s waistlines should have got slimmer, but at least dairy has done its bit.
1981… First pre-packed sarnie… The team who dreamed up the M&S prepacked sandwich probably had no idea how big a monster they were creating. From six varieties in two M&S stores 30 years ago, we Brits now munch through more than three billion prepacked sandwiches a year.
1982… Olive oil goes mainstream… If you wanted to buy olive oil 30 years ago, you visited a pharmacy (it was used to remove earwax). The arrival of Filippo Berio changed all that. As British cuisine has swung from France to Italy, sales of olive oil have increased from £1m to £147m.
1982… Diet Coke launches… With shoppers crying out for healthier alternatives to their favourite brands, Coca-Cola launches its first new product since 1886 to use the Coca-Cola trademark. Diet Coke is an instant hit and leads to a plethora of low-sugar drink launches.
1983… Waitrose goes organic… Waitrose has established itself as the foodie’s supermarket, so it’s no surprise that it was the first UK multiple to introduce shoppers to the muddy delights of organic food. It also probably attracted the only shoppers who could afford it.
1984… Red Bull takes flight… Austrian entrepreneur Dietrich Mateschitz visits Thailand and discovers that a local drink called Krating Daeng (Red Bull) cures jet lag. Three years later, Red Bull launches, giving wings to the UK energy drinks market, now worth a gravity-defying £947m.
1985… Tesco’s healthy own-label… It may be commonplace now, but in 1985 Tesco becomes the first major retailer to push the nutritional value of its own-label range to shoppers. It launched a Healthy Eating initiative, with lines carrying nutritional advice and a Healthy Eating logo.
1985… New Coke bombs… “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is a maxim that Coca-Cola should have abided by when it released a new taste for its iconic drink. The rerformulation - the result of a top secret research initiative codenamed Project Kansas - was the brand’s first since it removed cocaine from the recipe list in 1903. Unfortunately for Coca-Cola, the new flavour wasn’t as addictive as the drug, despite the fact that in taste tests people loved it. Some critics called ‘New Coke’ the biggest marketing blunder ever, after the company was forced to bring the original formula back as Coca-Cola Classic following a public backlash. However, more cynical observers believe that it was one of the greatest marketing ploys in history, with sales of the Classic drink increasing significantly following its reintroduction. Whichever way you cut it, it’s clear that the brand learny from its lesson, sticking to the tried-andtrusted Classic recipe ever since.
1985… Bogof… A popular expletive, and an even more popular sales promotion technique, at least with shoppers and retailers (environmentalists and manufacturers tend to disagree). No-one knows who invented the bogof, but 1985 marks its entry in the OUP.
1986… BSE crisis starts… A 20-year crisis for the British beef industry starts when the first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy is confirmed in an animal. As more cases emerge, 10 years later, British beef exports are banned, and remain so until 2006.
1987… Tesco gobbles up Hillards… As well as an enviable property pipeline, developed from the 1980s, Tesco was never afraid to make acquisitions. This is among the more unpopular, as it snaps up the Hillards chain to establish itself in the northern heartland of key rivals.
1988… Edwina Currie and her eggs… “Most of the egg production in this country, sadly, is now affected with salmonella,” said junior health minister Edwina Currie in 1988, cutting eggs sales in half overnight. The industry howled with outrage at her mishandling of the situation, while others maintained that salmonella was an issue in the industry. Either way, Currie’s faux pas is up there with Ratner.
1988… Nestlé buys Rowntree… Rowntree went public in 1987. Twelve months later Nestlé and Jacobs Suchard went to war over it. Nestlé eventually won the day, in one of the bloodiest-ever hostile takeovers seen, paying $4.55bn for the inventors of the Kit Kat
1989… The beer Orders… Britain’s brewers have too much power. So says the government as it passes the infamous Beer Orders, restricting the number of tied pubs breweries can own. The act follows an inquiry that heavly criticises the vertical link between beer producing and pub retailing, and leads to the formation of pubcos such as Punch Taverns. The Beer Orders are revoked in 2003 but by then the industry has been transformed.
The Grocer's 150 defining moments: the 1860s
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The Grocer's 150 defining moments: the 1980's