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British wake up to the great American breakfast

The man who taught the US to go to work on a bagel wants to change UK diets too, says Colin Blackstock
THROW away your toast, forget your cereal - the British breakfast is about to be "bagelised". At least, it will be if Murray Lender and Kellogg's have their way.

Mr Lender is responsible for changing the eating habits of a nation by moving the bagel out of its ethnic enclave and into the mainstream of America's diets.

With the help of Kellogg's, he hopes that Lender's Bagels will do the same in the UK. "You sent us the English muffin," he said, "now we're sending you the American bagel."

Mr Lender is plotting to make the doughnut-shaped doughy roll - a Jewish speciality bread boiled and baked to give a glossy, crusty shell - a mainstay of breakfast tables in this country.

New research suggests there is a good chance of that happening. As the nation develops more sophisticated eating habits, ditching the traditional breakfast of bacon and eggs for more healthy alternatives, the popularity of speciality bread items, such as croissants and bagels, is growing.

A consequence of this is that traditional plain bread is beginning to wane. Of the speciality breads, the bagel is showing the most rapid growth. A Datamonitor survey reveals that annual sales of white sliced loaves in the UK have fallen by 400 million in the past three years, a drop of 12 per cent, while sales of bagels have risen by 35 million (51 per cent) to pounds 20m a year. Croissant sales are up by 90 million (27 per cent).

Mark Baynes, director of convenience foods in Europe for Kellogg's, said the breakfast cereal giant was not trying to make bagels more popular than cereal, but rather to add bagels as a complement, instead of other bread products.

Cereals are now promoted as health foods, and the bagel, which is 98.5 per cent fat free and has the same number of calories as two slices of bread, is a healthy alternative to bread.

Kellogg's are planning to spend pounds 3m over the next six months promoting Lender's Bagels and explaining to people just how versatile the bagel is. They hope that by April all the major supermarkets will have the bagels on their shelves .

"We've got to educate people so they know what a real bagel is," said Mr Baynes. "For them to get into bagels they've really got to taste the real thing."

An NOP survey, to be released tomorrow, shows that educating people will be an important factor in the growth of bagel sales. Half of the people surveyed did not know what a bagel was - one person thought it was a dog - although younger people had a better idea than those over 65.

There are two schools of thought on where the bagel originated. One is that it was an east European creation, around the 16th century, and circular to represent the continuity of life - a key theme of Judaism.

The other is that it was first made by a Viennese baker as a tribute to the Austrian King Jan Sobieski, a particularly good horseman who had driven the Turks from the gates of Vienna in 1683 - thus the bread was shaped like a stirrup. The name itself derives from beugel, an Austrian word for a stirrup.