Summer is traditionally the time of year for barbecuing, eating ice-cream and drinking sundowners but after a rain-soaked July, weary Britons are taking solace in wintry comfort food such as roast dinners, soup, rice pudding and custard.
For campers and festivalgoers, the fact that the UK had one of the wettest Julys on record is not news. Indeed, in Northern Ireland and parts of England such as Greater Manchester, Lancashire and Merseyside, rainfall records were broken. And there is no end in sight soon, with Storm Antoni due to bring strong winds and heavy rain on Saturday.
After getting caught in the rain perhaps one too many times, the only thing for it was a warming roast dinner, with Waitrose reporting that last week’s sales of readymade roast potatoes and yorkshire puddings were higher by 47% and 39% respectively than in 2022.
The comfort food binge did not stop there, with light summer puddings replaced with treats usually reserved for winter. Frozen apple pie sales were up by 55% with rice pudding up 17%. Demand for custard was up by 36%, Waitrose added.
Faced with grey skies and frequent showers the retailer said searches on its website for stewing beef surged by nearly 60%, with soup, gravy and mashed potato also popular keywords.
Giles Fisher, its head of buying for grocery and frozen food, said the pattern was very unusual. “We’re not used to increasing our orders of traditional winter comfort foods at the height of summer. Customers are seeking pleasure in these heartwarming foods.”
The unseasonal spending pattern does not end there, with household specialist Lakeland shifting three times as many of its heated clothing airers this July, and demand for its electric blanket-style heated throws up sharply too.
But while most Britons do not view heavy rain to be a call to barbecue, there is a growing contingent of all-weather grillers determined to keep going. “For 80% of the population barbecuing is weather dependent, for the other 20% it’s a way of life,” says Paul Henley, of family-run specialist BBQ Store.
The UK’s now £2.3bn-a-year barbecue industry is unrecognisable from even a decade ago. You can still buy a kettle barbecue in Argos for under £30 but many consumers spend a small fortune on US-style gas ranges fuelled by what National BBQ Week calls the “gastro grilling” trend.
Many households invested in weather-proof outdoor cooking stations during the pandemic, and they remain in heavy use as barbecuing is deemed cheaper than eating out or grabbing a takeaway.
About one-fifth of UK households now have multiple grills, with traditional US “smoker” barbecues – thanks to TV shows such as Netflix’s Barbecue Showdown – becoming more popular. Retailers also report demand for ever-fancier kit including the high-end ceramic egg-shaped kamado barbecues made by the likes of Big Green Egg.
“If someone’s going to go all in and spend over £1,000 on a barbecue then, hell yeah, they are using it all year round,” says Henley. “The average family with a £100 gas grill or £30 kettle grill, that’s for when the sun is out. But that’s not really what the industry is about any more, it is about making street food at home.”
Source : The Guardian