2013 - the year in review: It was a year of many flavours. But were they gourmet burgers or horse meat?

  • @SAMuston

Hundreds of upmarket fast-food outlets opened this year, explaining how as a nation we threw away £12.5 bn on burgers

As the year draws its terminal breath, it’s time to ask: what exactly did 2013 taste like? It seems fair to say the most pungent flavour was equine. When the Food Safety Authority of Ireland revealed that a study of beef burgers on sale at Tesco, Iceland, Aldi and Lidl found they were 29 per cent horse, some, mainly those who didn’t shop there, laughed. “That’s what happens when you buy cheap burgers,” they parroted. Those same people were less sanguine, however, when it transpired the meat had also been found in “beef” products on sale in the other supermarkets and even Ikea meatballs.

Despite the beef-horse switcheroo, the nation’s love of the burger joint did not wane. These meat-heavy, cutlery-lite restaurants opened like bluebells in May across the country. Even the Chancellor, not usually a bellwether, succumbed and was snapped eating a Byron burger in the Treasury. He was, predictably, then pilloried for his “expensive tastes” (though Byron’s burgers start at £6.24). Perhaps our desire to eat at all these new burger outlets – or all the other restaurants which opened this year; there were nearly 200 in London alone – explains how, as a nation, we came to throwaway £12.5bn of food this year.

One thing few people wasted was cronuts, mainly because so few people could get their hands on American pâtissier Dominique Ansel’s croissant-doughnut hybrid. People queued around the block to get them in New York and Ansel quickly patented his creation. Greggs, filling the cronut-shaped void in the UK, started selling a £1 knock-off called the “Greggsnut”.

The high-protein South American grain quinoa (pronounced “KEE-nwah”) also received an unexpected fillip in 2013. Previously notably only for being the butt of a thousand jokes about middle-class living, it came to prominence when the UN declared this the “year of quinoa” and the England cricket team requested it as part of their 82-page Ashes rider. (

We might all have laughed when Vita Coco launched its coconut water in UK shops in 2010 after investments by Madonna and Demi Moore. This year coconut water was the official “hydration partner” of the London Marathon and market researchers Mintel predicted that Vita Coco, with 91 per cent of the market, will be worth £100m by 2014. Not so funny now.

So that was 2013: horse and hybrids; grains, burgers and coconut water. Here’s to a happy new year and horse-free 2014.