Comfort food proves last refuge from wet summer

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The Independent Online

Britain's monsoon summer has had an impact on the nation's eating habits with people abandoning healthy diets and seeking solace from the unending rain in stodgy, comfort foods.

A survey by a supermarket chain found 18 per cent of the 1,333 Britons polled said they were eating more chocolate, 14 per cent more cakes and 9 per cent more pasta and bread as a result of the bad weather. By contrast more than a quarter (27 per cent) stopped eating salads altogether.

Nearly two thirds (64 per cent) blamed the grey days for increased feelings of lethargy and irritability, while one quarter abandoned exercise regimes. Almost one third believed lack of sunshine lowered their productivity at work. Forty-three per cent stayed at home rather than socialise in order to avoid the rain.

The findings, by Somerfield, backed mounting evidence that the unseasonably high rainfall this summer, the highest since records began in 1914, had a dramatic impact on shopping and leisure. Fashion shops have struggled in the past three months as shoppers decided there was no need to buy outfits they would not have a chance to wear. Stuart Rose, the chief executive of Marks & Spencer, overturned his comment – made last November – that retailers should never blame the weather for poor results by doing just that when he reported sales in July. "There's weather, and there's weather," he said, adding that when you see pictures of people wading through flood water "you've clearly had extreme weather".

Beer sales suffered too, according to the brewer Scottish & Newcastle, which last month cited the weather along with the smoking ban when explaining why its business had become "very challenging". Profits fell 35 per cent at C&C, the makers of Magner's, a cider served with ice. "The volume decline reflects the extremely poor weather in Ireland and Ireland and Britain..." bemoaned the company.

British Summer Fruits said demand for raspberries, strawberries and other soft fruit was down on last summer. Laurence Olins, its chairman, said: "All berries are weather-affected, both demand and supply. When the weather is grey and cold outside people don't rush to buy berries."

But others found the damp was more to their liking, such as the manufacturers of cough and cold medicines. Cinema and nightclubs too reported good business as people sheltered from the rain.