Peter York on Ads: Bernard Matthews Savoury Pastries

New snacks from olde England. What a bootiful mind
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The Independent Online

Bernard Matthews is a genius at NPD. There he was, back in the 1970s and 1980s, inventing a thousand things to do with a dead turkey, long before Bird's Eye had thought of much beyond fish-in-a-bag with sauce. I hope those New Product Developers are fabled now, wherever the advanced international foods trade meets for its conventions and its Baftas (every industry has its Baftas and Oscars now, strictly patterned after the real thing - "and to present the award for the best new cook-chill recipe product of 2004 is ..." It's all given tremendous outdoor relief to Angus Deayton and Stephen Fry and a mass of himoffs - not many heroffs although, something about authority and vocal register).

And you know they just keep them coming. I follow the BM output closely. This isn't just a commercial interest, you understand, I have tremendously demotic tastes in food and Bernard hits the spot for me, over and over.

The whole Bernard Matthews story is riveting and an obvious potential MBA thesis. It could have been one of Malcolm Bradbury's way-we-live-now funny novels too. The story of a convenience food empire built on turkey meat and based in Norfolk creating a whole new category along the way. The imagery of turkey as magic luxury Christmas food must have been incredibly powerful in grey, 1970s, working-class Britain.

Now he's gone into baked things that look like those filled croissants you get at railway stations - heavy, cheesy things they microwave and which are unaccountably disappointing. The new commercial for Bernard Matthews Savoury Pastries pushes the retro envelope with the Bernard Matthews Norfolk Brass Band ranged outside that russet-brick Norfolk Country House they've got (how one longs for a closer shot to see if it's 1650 or 1850) to welcome the new treats off the train. And - lovely 1970s device - we hear the news from a pair of bandsmen. "You'll never know what he's doing now - he's making pastries!"

They've thought hard about the semantics and rejected fancy, market-limiting Euro-words. No croissants or baguettes, croque monsieur or madame here. Bernard gets to the heart of the market with Savoury Pastries. And at a bootiful price, 99p. I don't imagine IoS readers will be queueing at Somerfield for the first editions - I see you more as a Waitrose kind of readership - but the choices are cheese and ham slice, chicken, cheese and leek, and egg and bacon. All winners, and not a turkey among them.