As a new millennium dawned, predictions of a ‘Y2K’ software meltdown turned out to be overstated. The foot and mouth crisis of 2001 was anything but, resulting in the culling of seven million British sheep and cattle, as the countryside was effectively shut off.
This was also the year in which a Competition Commission inquiry formally investigated the power of supermarkets for the first time. Two further inquiries in 2004 and 2007 were to follow. In the meantime, Tesco had moved into convenience, with its 2002 acquisition of T&S.
In the same year, the tobacco industry came under concerted attack: all forms of advertising and sponsorship were banned by 2005. And the smoking ban of 2007, which outlawed smoking in pubs and enclosed workplaces, provided an unexpected boost to sales of alcohol in supermarkets.
In the meantime, the growing obesity epidemic prompted the government (and campaigners such as celebrity chef Jamie Oliver) to put pressure on the industry to change its ways. This resulted in the first-ever reformulation programme, in 2004, by Walkers crisps the demise of Turkey Twizzlers (2005) the first front-of-pack labelling scheme (2006) and the 2007 ban on TV advertising of ‘junk food’ to children.
The resulting swing away from processed food saw additives and preservatives removed in favour of so-called ‘clean label’ products. And, as the focus swung towards fresh, natural, organic and balanced food, demand for gluten-free, dairy-free and low-salt alternatives also grew. Paradoxically, the growth of world foods - typified by the success of Reggae Reggae sauce (2007) - coincided with concern over ‘food miles’, which helped revive interest in provenance and locally produced brands.
But the key feature of this decade was money: the success of Tyrrells crisps (2002), Higgidy pies (2003), Gü puddings (2003) and Ella’s Kitchen (2006) was founded on a number of the principles and values above, but chief among these was luxury as Britain enjoyed unprecedented (and debt-fuelled) growth.
With Britain entering into a deep recession following the collapse of Lehman Brothers in October 2008, the threat to these values - and to brands themselves - was palpable.
History of Brands
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History of brands: the 2000s