Mark Simons: Supermarkets should have more British aisles

The weekly food shop was a highlight of lockdown – it was my one chance to go out into the real world.

I only buy British when it comes to meat and, over lockdown, I challenged myself to purchase an entirely British trolley load.

Trying to find food from afar is no issue in my local supermarket; there is an aisle dedicated to promoting world food, shelves lined head to toe with vibrantly coloured delicacies from far-flung corners of the globe.

But choosing to eat British represents a real challenge.

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I find myself hunting the cellophane-wrapped mushroom patch for British fungi, digging through a fridge of New Zealand lamb, and taking a wild leap of faith to guess which loaf has been raised on British flour. 

You would hope that “world food” gets dedicated retail space on the basis that the rest of the store is full of home-grown produce. Not so.

Trying to pick a jar of jam made from British berries is near-impossible. The only means of discerning traceability is via the small print, which is invariably vague, along the line of “packed in the UK for this superstore”.

The entirety of the supermarket seems to be a jumble of British food hidden, diluted and dispersed within a mess of imported alternatives.

What if there was one specific aisle that celebrated in-season British produce – or, better still, all of them British.

With the current push to make climate-conscious diet choices, consumers ought to be made more aware of seasonality.

During the year, the food on the shelves of the British aisles would change, only stocking what is available from the UK.

This would mean spuds, turnips and sprouts in the winter, contrasted with salad leaves, fresh peas and strawberries over the summer, challenging consumers to adjust their diets to reflect what is available.

Supermarkets are fixated on providing customers with continual, convenient quality, but in nature that simply does not exist.

There is a plethora of fresh and preserved British food that can be consumed year round. How can we expect consumers to support home-grown food if retail layout and branding make this impossible?

With better representation of the British Isles in the aisles of my local supermarket, the food shop would remain a highlight of my week.