We're used to seeing the biggest names in food on the small screen peddling anything from tagliatelle to lemon curd desserts for the major supermarkets. Whether it's a Michelin-starred chef, a family-friendly personality or a much-respected cookery writer, Waitrose, Tesco et al will spend big to secure the right person.
But Sainsbury's has decided to opt for something a little different for its latest ad. For the forthcoming Make Your Roast Go Further print and television campaign, which will run in the new year, the supermarket has hired four little-known faces. All are certainly accomplished, but they're a giant leap away from the star power of the likes of Jamie Oliver, who was the face of the store from 2000 until 2011.
Three out of four of the new hires are food bloggers, which shows just how far they have come. Once upon a time, food bloggers were (often unfairly) viewed as untrained blaggers, demanding free meals, while snapping away at their food in restaurants. But all that has changed. Bloggers now enjoy a lot more authority and, often, masses of readers. In fact, the food-blogger-turned-author is far from a rarity – from Kerstin Rodgers (aka Ms Marmite Lover) and her lavishly laid-out tome Supper Club, to the boys behind Sortedfood.com and a series of student cookbooks, those who made their names online are often the first in the queue to see their work published the old-fashioned way. Less alienating than fully-trained chefs, the new guard is being embraced by the masses.
"In the current economic environment we're all less interested in the ideas of celebrity chefs," said Sarah Warby, Sainsbury's marketing director. "We're looking more for help and inspiration from people we can really relate to, and practical, achievable ideas for food our children will actually eat."
The most well-known name on the list is 25-year-old Jack Monroe. The single mother from Southend-on-Sea started a blog, A Girl Called Jack, that followed her attempts to cook for herself and her son while on benefits with a weekly food budget of £10 a week. She has since written for The Guardian, signed a book deal with Penguin (out in February), and continues to campaign about food poverty.
Nick Coffer is a stay-at-home father of two from Watford. The popularity of his video blog, My Daddy Cooks, has allowed the 40-year-old to release two cookery books and secure a food radio show on BBC Three Counties called Weekend Kitchen. Having started the blog in 2009 after losing his business, a hobby has turned into a whole new career.
Joining them, and taking on lamb-roasting responsibilities, is Rejina Sabur-Cross. The married mother-of-one's debut book shares the name with her blog, Gastrogeek. The tagline for both being "What to cook when you're in a hurry, hungry or hard up". A British-Bengali, Sabur-Cross boasts a food and drink journalism qualification and tends to give foods an Asian influence.
The final new face is Pam Clarkson, a 73-year-old great-grandmother from Leeds. While she has no online presence, Clarkson is no less qualified. Last year, after securing donations from local businesses, she used to the money to cook for more than 130 vulnerable people on Christmas Day, including the elderly, widowed and disabled (she plans to spend this 25 December the same way).
"Jack, Rejina, Pam and Nick are four genuine 'food lovers', with families of their own, who are making the most of their food to manage tight budgets," said Warby. "All are 'local heroes' who've built up their influence from the grassroots within their own communities, so it's great to give them a broader platform to share their approaches."
Naturally, the new faces will be costing Sainsbury's a lot less than a top chef. So not only are we being encouraged to manage our budgets, but the supermarkets are joining in, too. Watch your back, Heston.
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