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Brits Are Eating More Pizza and Drinking Less Tea

According to new data from the government’s National Food Survey, Britain is falling out of love with traditional staples like tea, toast, and fish and chips.
Phoebe Hurst
London, GB
Photo via Flickr user jeffreyw

Brits aren't known for having particularly adventurous palates. Milky tea, cheese on toast, roast potatoes … basically, if it's beige and mildly flavoured, we're probably consuming it under a blanket somewhere while complaining that the WiFi isn't good enough to stream First Dates.

But according to new data from the government's National Food Survey, which has been charting the population's eating habits since 1940, Britain may be falling out of love with some of its staple dishes.

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Published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the survey used data from 150,000 households collected between 1974 and 2000, and combined this with information from 2000 to 2014.

READ MORE: Britain Is Too Fancy for Standard Tea Nowadays

Tea—that teeth-staining, chocolate Hobnob-accompanying, Milk in First or Last Debate-fueling beverage—took the worst hit. Defra found that Britain's consumption of the drink had halved since the 1970s, falling from 68 grams of tea per person per week to 25 grams. Brits now drink an average of eight cups of tea per week, down from the admittedly slightly excessive 23 cups in 1974.

Despite this widespread abandonment of the national beverage, Yorkshire Tea, Britain's third most popular tea brand, seems unfazed. Speaking to Metro, brand manager Tom Blair said: "This is all a bit of a storm in a teacup. People aren't drinking as much tea but when they are, they're choosing quality, which is why we're the only standard black tea brand in growth."

The move away from tea does however match previously released data from market research agency Mintel, which found that the rising popularity of herbal alternatives and trendy coffee had resulted in a 22 percent decline in volume sales of traditional tea.

Staple beverages aren't the only foodstuff to suffer at the hands of Britain's new eating habits. The amount of bread eaten in the country each week has fallen from 25 slices in 1974 to just 15, making the favourite tea-and-toast combo something of an endangered species.

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The survey also noted a switch in preference from white bread to brown and wholemeal varieties, perhaps reflecting recent healthy eating trends. Indeed supermarket chain Marks & Spencer recently announced that they would no longer be selling basic white bread, due to growing customer demand for "bread with benefits."

All this bread eschewing may make the country sound like a #cleaneating, green juice-chugging haven but worry not, carbohydrate fans. While Brits are eating more fresh fruit and around the same amount of fresh vegetables as they were 40 years ago, consumption of takeaway food has almost doubled, leaping from 80 grams per person per week in 1974 to 150 grams.

Kebabs, chicken, and burgers were revealed as the most popular takeout options, but consumption of fish and chips has more than halved since the 1970s.

READ MORE: This British Supermarket Is Going to Stop Selling White Bread

It seems Brits have lost their stomachs to Italy, now eating an average of 75 grams of pizza per person every week compared to … erm, none in 1974. Pasta consumption has also almost tripled.

Commenting on the survey's findings, environment secretary, Elizabeth Truss said: "Shoppers are more plugged in to where their food comes from than ever before, the internet has brought quality produce to our doorsteps at the click of a button, pop-up restaurants are showcasing the latest trends, and exciting global cuisines are now as common as fish and chips."

Sure, that filter press Colombian coffee and quattro formaggio thin crust pizza pop-up may be global and exciting but can they really beat a large mug of tea, a doorstop-slice of buttered white toast, and a night of catchup TV?