Bottles of craft beer

In the age of the ‘hipster’, we’re looking out for new ways to tantalise our taste buds. But with large chains no longer cutting the mustard, there’s been a shift towards a more traditional method of buying food goods.

UnSUBURBIA has explored the main areas of the artisan food and drink movement, and whether or not it’s a concept that’s here to stay.

A new mentality, or have we gone full circle?

A key aspect of artisan is being independent. It’s the self-starters who have kick-started this trend through bringing new ideas to the food marketplace, bucking the ideas of the mainstream bodies who have preceded them. But buying from independents isn’t a new concept – far from it.

How we get our bread is a key example of this. Going to the local bakery was the only way to get our weekly loaves in – until the supermarket industry change the face of it. High quantity, mass production of bread became the norm, and we happily swapped where we bought our bread from. For convenience, it was easier to buy all our shopping in one place, rather to visiting separate establishments to buy our goods.

However, recent studies have revealed that this approach to bread making may be impact our health more than we could imagine. Eating white bread which has been baked at a faster pace than perhaps would be done in a traditional bakery is said to increase the risk of obesity, diabetes and high cholesterol.

But has our health been the catalyst for resurgence of independent bakeries, or is it the fact the artisan loaf is perceived as being the cooler option? Studies have found that over the last five years, there has been a 1,500 per cent increase in the number of independent bakeries in the UK – an almighty rise in  what could be deemed an ‘old-fashioned’ business.

The bakeries of today are much different to those of yester year though – we aren’t just going there for a tin loaf and a batch of bread rolls. The bakers of today are blending an array of ingredients together to tantalise our palate – fruit, nuts and herbs aren’t found out of place within the modern-day loaf.

Bluebird Bakery in Kirkgate Market, Leeds, is a prime example of this. The bread it produces looks more like a work of art, and the taste is pure heaven. It’s this type of product we want – independently made, packed with flavour.

It isn’t just bakeries though. Greengrocers, cheesemongers, butchers, fishmongers – once upon a time, these were the pillars of the UK’s consumer market, yet fell victim to the convenience of the supermarket. In 2019 though, they seem to have become the choice of the consumer once again.

But what’s changed? Are we sick of the loveless convenience of the supermarket, and now favour the care, attention and craft of the artisan offering? Or have we realised that how we used to buy food was the right way?

In a way, it’s an old mentality for a new generation.

A thirst for craft ales

A huge area within the artisan trend is alcohol, with a particular focus on beer. The pint of lager is losing its position at the top of our wish list – we want something different that brings new flavours and blends.

The craft ale phenomenon has boomed over the last few years, rightly taking its place at the top table of alcoholic beverages. The latest figures suggest that across 2016 and 2017, almost a thousand craft breweries were opened and registered – that’s around ten breweries per week. The number of trademarks registered for beer brands in 2017 also rose significantly by 20 per cent to 2,372, up from 1,983 the previous year.

The boom in these breweries isn’t just through popularity though, the everyday punter is helping to fund their expansion. Leeds-based brewer Northern Monk sold shares in its offering, raising £1.5m from over 2,100 investors whilst Five Points, born out of East London, raised more than £950,000 from 1,350 investors. Does having a paying part of this craft ale surge make it cooler and more lucrative than spending money in the local pub?

The figures may suggest so. In contrast to the craft ale boom, the traditional British ‘boozers’ are closing at a rate of 18 per week across the UK and since 2001, 25 per cent of pubs in the UK have closed, according to ONS figures. There’s been a mentality switch from going to the mainstream pub for a drink, to instead enjoying a unique beverage from the comfort of our homes or on-site at a microbrewery.

According to the first report from the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), craft ale is also beginning to influence consumer behaviour. SIBA’s research found that almost a quarter of us would be more likely to visit a pub or restaurant based on its craft ale selection, whilst 16 per cent said they would change where they do their weekly shop based on the craft beers a supermarket sells.

Supporting the local economy

At the heart of the movement towards artisan foods is the local area, community and economy. With the booming rise of independent venders comes the need for the local residents to buy into these concepts – without this support, any artisan establishment could be doomed before it has taken off.

We need to create new communities in areas that promote the idea of buying into the artisan approach, through having and being near to the right amenities and facilities. At Kirkstall Forge, a different by design mentality has been taken to bring a market square (an idea often more associated with European living) to the area, creating an events and market space for the best of the local artisan scene to be showcased by the independents.

On the doorstep of the development, you’ll find the home of Kirkstall Brewery, which serves its range of craft ales out of the Kirkstall Bridge Inn, and the monthly markets held at Kirkstall Abbey allows those local artisan businesses to showcase their products to the community. This in return can help drive interest in what they have to offer and give the opportunity for local money to go back into the local economy.

Everything changes, everything stays the same

Without doubt, our eating habits have developed gargantuanly over recent years – however, the way we actually buy the food is almost returning to model settings. We’ve begun to turn our backs on the big supermarkets, instead going in search of new flavours and tastes that have been brought to life with some TLC.

But is it a case of our taste buds becoming artisan, or a want for a more personal experience when it comes to our food and drink? It’s safe to say, it’s a mix of the two.