Loyalty cards and the politics of a Christmas dinner

Loyalty cardsI’ve always been fascinated by consumer profiles.  When Tesco introduced the Clubcard, David Sainsbury initially rejected the idea of introducing a similar scheme. However when Sainsbury’s saw the adverse affect that the Clubcard had had on Sainsbury’s sales, they soon changed their minds.

The value that you the consumer get from “loyalty cards” (usually expressed as points – so you don’t realise how little it is) is nothing compared with the information you’re giving the retailers.

Clive Humby, from marketing firm Dunnhumby, helped Tesco to establish their Clubcard in 1994. Lord MacLaurin (who was then the chairmen of Tesco) famously said “What scares me about this is that you know more about my customers after three months than I know after 30 years”.

It’s very easy to see how profiling works. YouGov kindly let you search their information online: www.yougov.co.uk/profiler

Enter your favourite products, and it will tell you all sorts of things about other people who like that product:

The possible lifestyle of a Warburtons customer

So the shops can use this data to predict what sort of thing you may want, and more importantly what they can try and sell you to make more profits.

As it’s nearly Christmas, and just for a bit of fun, I thought it would be interesting to compare the politics (and possible gender) of people for different roasts:

Politics of Christmas Roasts

£64 million of wasted food at Christmas

graph showing Christmas Food Waste

I was horrified to read reports in the press this week about a Unilver poll which found that we waste £64 million of food on Christmas dinners!


  • 17.2 million Brussels sprouts
  • 11.9 million carrots
  • 11.3 million roast potatoes
  • 10.9 million parsnips
  • 9.8 million cups of gravy
  • 7.9 million slices of turkey
  • 7.9 million cups of stuffing
  • 7.5 million mince pies
  • 7.4 million slices of Christmas pudding
  • 7.1 million pigs in blankets

will end up in peoples waste bins!

How did we end up in such a state, where there’s around 925 million undernourished people in the world and we’re feeding our bins! As a small boy I’d loved to have done potato prints – but my mum told me food was for eating, and not to be wasted.

How times have changed, we even have have competitions to see how quickly people can stuff obscene amounts of food into their stomachs:

Picture of people eating ridiculously large burgers

We definitely need more education for our our children (and their parents). Portion control is a good way to teach kids maths. If we’re having 10 people for dinner and 50% of people like sprouts, and the sprout lovers eat 6 sprouts each, how many sprouts do we need?

Leftovers are some of my favourite meals. We will buy a sensibly sized turkey, the bones will make stock, and we will enjoy tukey and ham pie, turkey risotto and turkey curry etc.

Have a look at sites like Love Food Hate Waste for more inspiration. You’ll save money and feel better. Perhaps you could join me and donate some of your savings to Oxfam?

A nation of drug takers?

Prescription drugsIn 1776 Adam Smith (in The Wealth of Nations) described us as “a nation of shopkeepers”. With our high streets in decline, this is no longer true. If Adam Smith was alive today, perhaps he would call us a nation of drug takers?

Nearly half of us now take prescription drugs, with a cost of over 15 billion pounds! I can feel my GP’s blood pressure rising as he reads this. So before any more angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are prescribed for hypertension, let me make some things clear. As an insulin dependant person with diabetes, the medical profession have saved my life. Without insulin, I would have been dead many years ago, and the plethora of other drugs I take help prevent me get complications like strokes and heart attacks. These days, with the help of Google (other search engines are available) everyone is a “medical expert” and I don’t have any medical qualifications. However there are some obvious facts, which many are chosing to ignore, about what could be done to reduce drug costs and make us healthier.

A nation of fatties?

What worries me is that our GPs now barely have time to treat symptoms, let alone find and treat the underlying causes. It’s not hard to find what’s wrong with the nation’s health. The Health Survey for England, published yesterday, show us that we’re getting fatter:

Weight of adults

It’s now almost become politically incorrect to suggest to someone that they should loose weight. Nearly half the population don’t do sufficient physical activity, and we’re eating more junk food . More than 27% of women consume more than 3 units and 37% of men conume more than 4 units of alcohol. The poorer you are, the more likely you are to be affected. There’s a very clear link (particularly with women) between waist circumference and social deprivation:

Waist circumference & social deprivation

source: www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB16076/HSE2013-Ch10-Adult-anth-meas.pdf

Sadly it’s these people who are often the least mobile, and often have had a poorer education. So there’s no point in telling them about health vegetarian meals, made with ingredients from Waitrose, when their nearest shop is Home Bargains or Poundland.

Building up trouble for the future?

It’s even more worrying when you look at the data concerning childrens’ health. Eat up your greens? The number of children geting their five a day has fallen in the last 6 years and is now only 16%:

Children five a day

Over half our kids get less than three portios of fruit and veg a day, and 7% don’t get any! Last year 15% of girls and 16% of girls were classified as obese! In 2012 0nly 18% of our children did the recommended physical exercise (compared with 24% in 2008);

Who’s to blame?

I believe this problem has come about as a result of lack of education. Our politicians need educating, and also need to stop listening to some of the very effective lobbying from the food industry.They need to be aware that having more people educating us on exercise and diet could save prescription costs.

The parents of today’s children also need educating. Many of them rely on ready meals, and don’t now how to cook good simple meals with fresh ingredients which are cheap and nutritious.

The last person I want to blame is our GPs.

What can you do?

If you’ve got kids, take them on a hike! The endorphins you get as you climb a hill beat anything their local dealer can supply, and theyll lose weight and be less likely to be depressed. You’ll also feel better.

Read books like Joanna Blythman’s Bad Food Britain: How A Nation Ruined Its Appetite to find out how we got into this mess, and then read (by the same author) What to Eat: Food that’s good for your health, pocket and plate, to find out what you can do. about it.

Visit (and preferably walk to) your local shops and find (if you’ve still got them) your local butcher and greengrocer. The butcher can tell you how to cook the cheaper (and tastier) cuts and your greengrocer will show you cheap seasonal foods (which will be riper and better tasting than the supermarkets).

Cook with your family – it’s far more fun than watching celebrity chefs on MasterBore. If you make a mistake have a laugh and learn from it. As a small child I loved visiting an aunty who’s cooking sometimes went wrong. When the sponge she’d baked turned out to be a bit runny in the middle she used a tin can to sut out the middle and then called it a polo cake!

Co-operate with your neighbours. If you can’t afford a sack of potatoes, share one. You’ll both save money and you don’t have to worry if they won’t keep as you’ll get through a smaller quantity twice as quickly.

Change food from being a chore to a source of fun – and feel better at the same time.

Healthy hospital food?

White toast


Last week I was admitted into hospital. I can’t fault the wonderful staff, all were professional and friendly at the same time. However I can’t believe some of the unhealthy foods we’re still being offered in hospitals.

I’ve had insulin dependant diabetes since 1980, so am very careful what I eat. The ideal diet for someone with that condition, is a good diet for most of us to follow. I aim to eat a balanced diet, that is low in fat, sugar and salt and contain a high level of fresh fruit and vegetables. In particular I aim to eat carbohydrate foods which have a low GI (Glycemic Index).

My first meal was breakfast. A lady asked me if I would like some toast. I asked if I could have some granary or wholemeal bread. Only white bread was available (pictured above). I wasn’t expecting hand crafted rolls from an artisan baker. But I do think that in hospital I should have at least been offered (and preferably encouraged) a more healthy alternative to this mas-produced white bread. A local bakery does a sliced oatmeal bread, which would have been better, and is not expensive.

I then found I could have had cereals, including Rice Krispies! I suppose I should have been pleased that we weren’t offered Ricicles (although that decision was probably made by the accountant and not the nutritionist).

I was offered sugar in all my drinks, despite having insulin dependent diabetic written above my bed.

I tried to choose my lunch carefully. I certainly didn’t choose this:

Healthcare orange juice

but one arrived anyway! Most of the people in my ward had diabetes and I noticed were drinking this. The only time I ever drink orange juice like this is when I’ve got hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). I find it’s almost as good as Lucozade (which is high in glucose syrup) for getting my blood sugars up.

The problem highly processed foods, like white bread and orange juice is that they make your blood sugars shoot up and then drop as quickly. This applies to everyone, not just people with diabetes.  That’s why people on unhealthy diets can get irritable when they get hungry (as their blood sugar drops). Most people in ward had a poor understanding of good nutrition, and (despite havingdiabetes) didn’t appear to have spoken to a nutritionist.

I realise the NHS has a very difficult job to do, and there are financial pressures.  Sadly our food industry often makes healthy eating dearer (white bread is usually the cheapest – which I don’t understand as the flour needs less processing).

In 1980, when I first had diabetes, I was surprised to be offered white bread, ice-cream and jelly (not low sugar) in hospital! I was hoping that things would have improved more than they have.

A hospital visit is a great opportunity to make people rethink their diet, make healthier choices and hopefully cut down the chances that they are readmitted. That would actually save the NHS money.