The lengths we'll go to for our creature comforts...
You’ve moved your life halfway around the world, and you’re living the expat experience. If only you could click your fingers and magically be home (back where your roots are) whenever you fancy! It’s one thing to desperately miss your family and friends, but another to be stranded (perish the thought!) in your new country of residence sans your favorite comfort foods or tasty treats. How will you cope?
No doubt you’ve mastered the art of mum’s cooking – well, it’s never quite the same, let’s face it, but desperate times, desperate measures and all that – so if need be, you can whip up a shepherd’s pie, Thai green curry, sausage and colcannan mash or chicken tikka masala no problem. But sometimes you’ll do anything for that off-the-shelf product fix, whether it’s to get your Vegemite or Marmite, Branston Pickle or Kraft mac ’n’ cheese, biltong or baklava, Skippy peanut butter or Heinz baked beans, Mikado snacks or Kellogg’s cereal, Twinkies or Marks & Spencer cakes. (It’s impossible to whittle that last reference down, in my opinion; the cakes are all just so delicious, they really do deserve a broad category note of their own – as does all M&S food!)
It’s hardly surprising export/import trade is booming as global mobility rises steadily, with over 50 million expatriates worldwide last year. By 2017, the total will reach 56 million – according to Finaccord, a financial research and consulting company – with students representing the fastest-growing category.
Britain is the biggest exporter of people in the EU. The most popular destinations for Brits include Australia, the US, Canada and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Over 1.16 million UK nationals were living overseas in 2013, and of the 25 countries surveyed, only India and China topped that. There were also 1.19 million foreigners living as expats in the UK. Finaccord forecasts that by 2017, UK expats will have surged to 1.21 million; 112 countries are estimated to have a British population of more than 1000.
Foreign exchange provider Moneycorp recently conducted research with food sellers to discover the five foods British expats purchase the most while living abroad. It seems Brits simply can’t live without their quality brew: their Twinings Breakfast Tea cup of cha in the morning snagged first place. (However, even if you have your usual tea bag of choice, the taste is affected by varying water qualities – my tea simply never tastes the same overseas – or maybe the difference has more to do with the milk.) Unsurprisingly, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk came in second; you can’t beat that classic chocolate fix. Next to take the biscuit was McVitie’s Digestive – to dunk in your tea, obviously. Perhaps you’re more of a PG Tips kind of guy or gal: a second tea bag brand snagged fourth place. Finally, as all Brits know, a roast dinner isn’t complete without gravy – or as the French like to call it, jus – so Bisto Gravy Granules rounded out the list.
It’s not just the Brits who confirmed their brand dedication. It seems the Italians can’t survive without their favorite hazelnut spread (Nutella), the South Africans obsess about their Pecks Anchovette Fish Spread, the Japanese go to great lengths to obtain their preferred brand of green tea and Americans need their cheesy Cheetos snacks.
Suppliers such as the online retail site British Corner Shop have captured the market and are profiting from expat foodies’ needs. Managing director Mark Callaghan can relate only too well to the cravings, having missed certain products himself when he lived in the States. Since he took over the business in 2004, it has increased its annual turnover to £4 million. Martin Burns developed a DIY Scotch Pie kit, originally intended for Scots living in the UK; before long he was exporting to France, the US, Canada, Spain and Germany to meet demands there. California, he says, is a “big market.” Red Hot Cuisine, based in Nottingham (England), has reached beyond British expats to local curry fanatics in its key markets, thus gaining a growing French Canadian following. World Corner Shop also offers “products of the world, delivered to the world,” with shipping to the UAE starting at £45.81 for orders of up to 5 kg.
Whatever edible delights we’re salivating over while abroad and wherever we are in the big wide world, our favorite foods (or foodie solutions) are now only a simple click away. If only the shipping costs for obtaining our quintessential fare were as easy on our pockets! Then there really would be no holding back. As it is, best have your shopping list ready for your next visitor!