Good Food Blog
Overhyped and overpriced?Posted at 12:27PM, 23 February 2009 by Carol Wilson - Food writer
These days it seems that everything from tea bags to dog food is available in 'premium' or 'luxury' versions. As consumers, we all know that 'you get what you pay for'. We know that a £2 chicken will have led a miserable life and be practically tasteless, while a more expensive free range chicken has enjoyed life in the fresh air and will be full of flavour.
But I'm talking about ordinary everyday foodstuffs suddenly upgraded to luxury status. Am I alone in thinking that food marketing companies are going too far in their creative efforts to bring us ever grander foods at inflated prices?
Have these companies created an artificial need for items such as hand rolled tea (white, green or black), 'gourmet' coffee beans, 'special reserve' tinned salmon; 'epicure' butter with sea salt crystals; sea salt from the Atlantic, Wales or Cornwall; salt with kelp, pure white organic salt, smoked salt and even a Chardonnay flavoured salt! Then there's the vast range of 'premium' bottled waters (some top hotels now offer a water menu, described in the same way as fine wines) from the Arctic, Alaska, the Alps, Scotland, Fiji...and even rainwater. Recently in delicatessens and 'gourmet' food sections in stores, I've also noticed overpriced small jars of sugar flavoured variously with lavender, vanilla; espresso and even chilli.
Talking about sugar - my local supermarket is selling 'special reserve' sugar which is 'cut from specially selected canes picked at just the right moment'; packed in a fancy tin, it sells for £2.50 for 500g! A 500g pack of unrefined sugar costs around 89p. Would anyone notice even a slight difference in taste when the sugar is stirred into hot drinks, used in baking or even sprinkled as a topping?
A friend gave me a cloth bag containing carnaroli rice 'grown and hand harvested by Italian monks in the Po Valley' in Italy. Sold at a premium price, it made a very nice risotto but with no discernible difference to risotto made with my usual brand of far less expensive carnaroli.
So can we be persuaded to purchase a product by clever advertising - which usually includes the words 'connoisseur', 'superior', 'luxury', 'prestige', 'finest', 'taste the difference', 'the best', or 'extra special'?
How exactly are these different from run of the mill products? The logic seems to be that the more expensive an item of food, the better it must be - but as far as I'm concerned, the only difference is the extravagant wording on the packaging.