Finally catching up with the stack of newspapers yesterday I came across a supplement from last week’s Observer about cool brands. Or, more correctly, CoolBrands®. Now, having been through this process before, I’m a bit cynical about what might be included, knowing that defining cool must be even more subjective than defining what makes a brand super.
And what were the results?
Well, disappointing and predictable in my view. Some interesting brands were entered, but what the final vote was for in each of the food related categories was rather dull, and not reflective of the new excitement in British food, drink and restaurants. I think the winners, whilst all great brands, are established brands, not necessarily cool, as cool does often seem to be the territory of the young! So here are my entirely biased and personal views, based on the other options that were available, or even some that weren’t!
Drink: Beer & Cider – won by Guinness, which I am quite fond of, not to mention its iconic advertising. And I think of all the long established brands I would think it still deserves the tag of cool. Mind you, the other options weren’t very exciting, the usual suspects such as Stella and Grolsch. I think they should have been recognising some of the new microbreweries that are emerging like Sambrook’s Brewery (London beer for Londoners) or Otter Brewery from the South West. Although I don’t imagine they have the budgets for things like this.
Drink: Champagne – Won by Dom Perignon, which I guess is as good as any. I’ve nothing against Dom Perignon, although I think Veuve Cliquot have been doing some interesting things to make champagne sexy, like their travel sets. Happy to have either! And don’t forget the Bolly!
Drink: General – Now I’m going to seem churlish, as this category went to everyone’s favourite drinks company: Innocent. And I do love these guys. And they are still cool. But isn’t it time to find the next thing, isn’t that the definition of cool? I’d have loved to have seen Fever-Tree walk off with this, or even Belvoir Cordials. I love the Italian style of Illy but at least it didn’t go to Evian or, even worse, Glacéau Vitaminwater.
Drink: Spirits – Went to Jack Daniels, which is kind of the same comment as Guinness. Except I don’t like Jack Daniels. And there were so many wonderful alternatives. Hendricks Gin would have got my vote, for a great product, turning the gin category slightly upside down, and beautiful design. And the same would go for Belvedere Vodka. And Grey Goose. Then there is the joy of the advertising images of Absolut. And the list goes on, of so many other, newer, more interesting choices.
Food – so, all those categories for drink, and then all food gets one. Just the one. Which went to Green & Blacks. Forgive my cynicism, but with perhaps the exception of Innocent, the winners are all from very big companies, with very big advertising spends. If it was going to go to chocolate, I would have given it to Rococo or Montezuma’s, both of which I adore, and salute for doing different things with chocolate, particulary with flavour combinations.
It could have gone for services to crisps, and rewarded either Burts Potato Chips or Salty Dog. For services to breakfast, I would go for Dorset Cereals, not to mention bringing great design to cereals. For full on lifestyle choice, then there’s Daylesford Organic. And for sheer sweet and sticky gorgeousness then it would have to be Gü. I mean, talk about making the safe choice. And since when was safe cool?
Leisure & Entertainment: Restaurant & Coffee Shop – interesting combination, and again another safe winner in The Ivy. I know it still has the glitz and glam of its celeb clientele, but it rather ignores the renaissance in eating in the UK, and where we lead the field. I mean, The Fat Duck was in this list, and I would think what Heston was up to was much cooler. I also love what Thomasina Miers is doing at Wahaca, about as far from Taco Bell and Chiquitos as you could get. And I could carry on all night about the macaroon plate at Yauatcha. And if you were looking at something that captured the spirit of the moment, then you’d have a good look at Square Pie for comfort food. Leon obviously had more sense than to enter, but I think they’re pretty darn cool for making fast food healthy and tasty.
So I think my lesson learned from this is when the list comes out next year, I’ll just pass it straight to recycling, and move straight to proper awards to recognise the taste revival going on in the UK!