Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Not a recipe, a rant

I ordered some single cream from Ocado and instead they bought Elmlea. I didn’t know what it was, so I didn’t give it back to the driver. I think I assumed it was just branded (as opposed to supermarket own-label) cream. It was with a growing sense of (what? Outrage? Is outrage too strong?) let’s just say outrage, tinged with disgust, with perhaps a soupçon of sadness that I read the label.

It’s tagged as an ‘alternative to cream’. The ingredients are buttermilk, vegetable fat, vegetable oil (eh? Fat and oil?), buttermilk powder, stablisers: E412, E410, E407, emulsifier E475, colour: E160a. They say “Elmlea single tastes great, so feel free to spoon some on your pud, drizzle a bit in your coffee, and add a splash to your mash because it’s great for everyday cooking.” And elsewhere: “Feel free to love your food.” (Thanks, I will.)

I think the word the marketers want to stick in your cranium is ‘free’. Not actually dairy-free or fat-free (which it’s not) (though they probably wouldn’t care if you managed to come away with that impression), just lovely. Floaty and carefree. Why does it make me so cross, then?

I went to the Unilever website to figure out what niche this particular ‘alternative to cream’ could occupy. Was it just, as it seems, an alternative for people for whom cream is just too… natural?

It has a long shelf life (as does UHT single cream, by the way). It has 43 fewer calories per 100ml than standard single cream. Yup, a whole 43. The same as in a small apple. And that’s it.

I’m a big subscriber to the ‘everything in moderation, including moderation’ school of thought. I’m not too precious about fat or sugar - hell, even additives I reckon have their place. It just leaves a nasty taste in the mouth to see something manufactured in a laboratory – and if it wasn’t cheap they wouldn’t bother – sold alongside (even in competition with) a natural one. They say we can ‘feel free’ to eat this product thereby intimating that we shouldn’t feel free to use real cream in the same way, even if great care has clearly been taken to make sure no health claims are made on the packaging.

Laboratory to marketing department to supermarket (via lawyer) is one food chain that I don’t particularly want to be at the end of.

Sorry, had to get that off my chest. Normal service will resume shortly.


  1. You go, girl!

  2. I could not agree more. I was horrified to discover my mum had some in her fridge the other day. I had a stand-up row with her about it. Your post was music to my ears.

  3. how bizarre - we are an island blessed with dairy products - the best milk, butter, cheese - why do we need this?

  4. I hear you! I went to a newish cafe here recently and was appalled to see the waitress squirting cream from a can onto a plate. I wanted to shake her and say, 'don't you realise this country is basically kept afloat by the dairy industry (even though it is destroying our waterways and the fact that it is all being exported to China means the price of milk is getting ridiculous)?' Harrumph. Naughty Elmlea!

  5. Thanks so much for your comments, everybody. I'm so glad it isn't just me!