THEY were once the foodstuffs which, for good or bad, typified the British diet – a hearty fry-up to start the day, followed by a fish supper at tea time.
But in a sign of how the nation has become increasingly health-conscious over the past four decades, the extent to which growing numbers of people have shunned the greasy favourites of yesteryear has been revealed.
In a landmark comparison with its first ever consumer report, a new survey by Mintel has revealed the drastic change in our mealtime habits since the early 1970s.
The analysis of how Britons have changed over the past 40 years also highlights a sharp rise in the number of people taking vitamins, although traditional pastimes – such as DIY – have witnessed a decline.
The most telling result from the survey, which posed the same questions asked of the public in 1972, was the diminished popularity of an old-fashioned fry-up at the breakfast table.
While as many as one in five (20 per cent) enjoyed a rasher or two first thing in the morning back in the year when the BBC quiz programme Mastermind was first broadcast and Rangers won the European Cup Winners’ Cup, fewer than one in ten (7 per cent) has bacon as part of their first meal of the day in 2012.
The popularity of the humble egg has also suffered, with 12 per cent of people having the foodstuff for breakfast now, compared with 29 per cent in 1972,
There has also been a marked increase in the consumption of fruit juice, with one in five people (19 per cent) drinking it in the morning, compared with just 11 per cent when Mintel carried out its first ever such study of the public’s eating habits.
Alexandra Richmond, senior consumer and lifestyles analyst at the consumer analysis group, said: “While British breakfast favourites still exist, we are more knowledgeable than ever about a healthy diet.
“Healthy choices now guide our dietary habits and, over the last 40 years, Brits have recognised the importance of breakfast. A shortage of time, and the increased availability of healthier breakfast options explain the decline in popularity of the great British fry-up – which has not changed much over the past 40 years – but could potentially make a comeback if we can find ways to make it healthier.”
While fish and chips remains the nation’s favourite takeaway today, with almost four in ten Britons (39 per cent) enjoying a portion in the past month, it is significantly down on the 1972 figure of 64 per cent.
Chinese food continues to go from strength to strength. Fewer than a fifth (17 per cent) enjoyed a Chinese takeaway in the early 1970s but now it is consumed by a third (33 per cent) of people.
Curries are third in the list of the nation’s favourites, but in an example of how multi- culturalism has flourished in the 40 years separating the surveys, the dish was almost unheard of in 1972, with just 4 per cent having sampled one in the month before they were asked about their food consumption. That compares with more than a quarter (26 per cent) in 2012.
However, the survey also flags up declining enthusiasm among Britons for carrying out odd jobs around the home. Mintel found that in 1972, close to three-quarters (74 per cent) of people had turned their hands to DIY tasks in the past 12 months, but that proportion has shrunk to just 37 per cent today. Wallpapering, too, has suffered, perhaps highlighting how tastes have changed.