The Remarkable Revival Of Morning Marmalade:

What, if anything, do you have for breakfast? Perhaps a French-style croissant and cafe-au-lait, or an expresso and panino, like the Italians? Or possibly nothing at all. Research carried out in February 2020 by Curry PC World, cited by, revealed that although 46% of the 2,003 people questioned across Britain still eat breakfast at home, the other half consider it a time-consuming ritual that can be sacrificed and skip it altogether.

However, for those for whom it remains the most important meal of the day, eggs (by a small margin) are their favourite food (39%), followed by toast (38%), bacon (35%), cereal (33%) and sausages. The eggs are either fried (23%), scrambled (21%) or poached (17%).

World Marmalade Awards & Festival 2021

These results have been contradicted by a survey conducted by the market analysts Mintel which has found, according to its Associate Director, Alex Beckett, that 81% of consumers in the UK say they prefer toast in the morning to all other available options. This then raises the issue as to what they put on it.

A YouGov investigation has concluded that butter is by far the nation’s favourite toast topping at 73%, but margarine is well down at 30%. Cheese on toast, they say, is enjoyed by 51% of the population, while a similar proportion (50%) like jam. Marmalade, it observes, “Splits the generations: Just 17% of 18-24 years-olds like it on their toast, a figure which rises to 62% among those aged 65 or over. It is still nonetheless, ahead of alternatives such as marmite, peanut butter, pate and nutella.

The problem with marmalade, as Vince Bamford, the food and drink editor of the Grocer trade magazine, pointed out to the BBC, is that it’s “perceived as being old-fashioned” and has acquired a reputation for being “grandmother’s spread of choice”. The British Food & Travel organisation has acknowledged that marmalade has been at risk of losing its previous popularity, despite the boost given by the Paddington Bear film in 2015 (he kept an emergency supply of marmalade sandwiches under his red felt hat): “Tastes change and the current desire seems to be for sweetness, which the bitter Seville orange cannot provide”.

The Guardian contributor Peter Ormerod has expressed alarm that there will be no marmalade at all by about 2030, a prospect he depicts as being the portent of a “slow-motion civilisational collapse”. His colleague, the journalist Caroline Davies, has noted that if this really does happen, it will mean the end of a long culinary tradition: “Marmalade in Britain dates back to at least the Tudors – Henry VIII received a box as a gift. The name originates from “marmelo”, Portuguese for quince”.

This gloomy anticipation of marmalade’s imminent demise has, however, proved overly pessimistic. On 21st January, the Daily Mail declared that the nation “has fallen back in love with marmalade and jam” and that sales of preserves and spreads (particularly peanut butter) have soared by £120 million (a rise of 22%) during the lockdown, amounting to about 75 million more jars sold in 2020 than in previous years. The newspaper has attributed this turnaround to workers having more time at the breakfast table because they haven’t had to commute to their places of employment. The Grocer magazine, when referring to these statistics, provided by the Kantar data agency, has proclaimed that “Breakfast has been reborn”.

Indeed, Jane Hasell-McCosh, who founded the World Marmalade Awards and Festival in 2005, contends that this enthusiasm for the nutriment has never truly gone away and that it “transcends borders and countries”.The event takes place annually in at Dalemain, a Georgian mansion just outside Penrith in Cumbria, north-west England, though this year, due to the pandemic, entries had to be by post.

The outcome – much to the elation of the organisers – was that more than 3,000 jars of marmalade arrived from around the globe, not only from regular participants such as Japan, Australia, Canada and the Czech Republic, but also from many new contenders, among them Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Portugal, Honduras, Kuwait and Zambia. The “Visit Eden” website, which provides information for tourists to the Lake District area, declared that this demonstrates that, notwithstanding the past difficult 18 months, “marmalade makers have proved their resilience”.

Fortnum & Mason: Sponsor Of The Artisan Marmalade Awards.

As the Guardian columnist, Tobi Thomas, reported on 26th June, the 2021 World Marmalade Award (WMA) was won, not by any of the thousands of international applicants but by a nine-year-old girl from the Isle of Wight in the south of England. Fiona Rider “impressed the judges with her marmalade made from Seville oranges and orange blossom from her local supermarket” The conserve is now on sale at Fortnum & Mason, the upmarket department store in Piccadilly, London, as a result of winning the prize.

Hassell-McCosh told Thomas she was delighted Rider had become the WMA’s youngest-ever champion. It showed conclusively, in her opinion, that, contrary to all the negative predictions that the product would inexorably fade away, “The future is clearly very bright for marmalade”.

Filed under: Society | Posted on August 9th, 2021 by Colin D Gordon

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