Peter York on Ads: It's fat, it's pink and it's juicy - and it wasn't shot in a barrel

Marks & Spencer food
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The Independent Online

I'm always on for anything involving bacon. A few lardons can save your supper completely. The combination of pork fat and salt is so potent. Come to that, I rather like pork scratchings, the one snack you can eat confidently in the North. Sometimes, of course, they have bristly hairs in them, a reminder of Mr Porky's pink chin. Sad then that the Diet Miserabilists (and I wouldn't want you to believe that I wasn't half with them, through my powerfully PC Other Self, the self that believes underclass mothers shouldn't be allowed to buy crisps) say such horrible things about bacon. It's full of nitrates, there's altogether too much fat and salt. It's fantastically bad for you.

I'm always on for anything involving bacon. A few lardons can save your supper completely. The combination of pork fat and salt is so potent. Come to that, I rather like pork scratchings, the one snack you can eat confidently in the North. Sometimes, of course, they have bristly hairs in them, a reminder of Mr Porky's pink chin. Sad then that the Diet Miserabilists (and I wouldn't want you to believe that I wasn't half with them, through my powerfully PC Other Self, the self that believes underclass mothers shouldn't be allowed to buy crisps) say such horrible things about bacon. It's full of nitrates, there's altogether too much fat and salt. It's fantastically bad for you.

But I really noticed when the new M&S food commercial seemed to be opening on a bacon joint being carved. Fat pink slices fall on to a plate, to big, vaguely Clapton-ese music. It wasn't, it was smoked salmon (I like that too, but it isn't as glamorous as bacon). But not just any smoked salmon. It was extraordinarily important distinguished smoked salmon, according to the Voice-Over lady (she had a modern voice whose nutritional building blocks, flavours and top notes I'd like to trace back to her particular farm, a kind of Southern TV executive woman voice that didn't really exist before the late 1980s).

This particular smoked salmon had three copy-points in its favour. It was wild, line caught and Alaskan. Meaning not Scottish/farmed and shot in a barrel.

"This is not just food", she says. "This is M&S food. And the salmon is yours when you spend £35 or more at M&S this Saturday."

Time was when M&S wouldn't have had to say all this. M&S food was so self-evidently different, nicer and treatier than anything else you could buy in a supermarket that everyone with a pulse knew it. Poor mothers with big families couldn't afford it, but knew they'd go there if they won the lottery. Investment bank boys and girls stocked up at the Moorgate branch - the best microwave ready-meals in the universe, first with those instant pressure-cooker steam things - and moderately prosperous, ordinary types declared their new status by buying the weekend specials there and getting the basics from Tesco or Asda.

Even foodies acknowledged M&S food with faint praise. They said the flavours were all too bland for sophisticated tastes, but it was well enough done with decent ingredients.

But now M&S need to support their food premium, which is massive - especially on the more commodity things - and remind people that's it's worth the extra. There's Tesco Finest, a lot of innovation all round and a feeling that we've seen some of those M&S star performers before. It's much more competitive in a sector M&S had to itself 10 years ago. Which is why it would have been rather clever to have one of those traceable, organic, meet-the-farmer-in-Devon bacon joints to lead off with.

Peter@sru.co.uk

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