Settling In: A Culinary Journey Through British Supermarkets

  What are the signs of settling in a new place? Probably start by filling the refrigerator with food and preparing the first meal. To make these preparations, procurement is essential.
  I vaguely remember that one summer evening many years ago, the author walked into the supermarket closest to my new residence. Sliced ​​bread and milk became the first “big meal” when I first arrived in the UK.
  Those were the days before electronic payments. Many items in British supermarkets “end” in change such as 0.99 pounds, 1.25 pounds, and 2.75 pounds. Identifying coins is the first step when shopping. Carrying a jingling coin purse with me, I would go to the supermarket every now and then to do some shopping, filling in the gaps in my life in a foreign country little by little. At this time, several major British supermarket chains also took turns entering my daily life.
  Among them, Tesco, the most common one, is one of the three largest retail companies in the world and is positioned as a mass market.
  The special thing about Tesco is that it will set up different stores according to geographical locations. Extra large stores are large warehouse stores, usually located in the suburbs, with the most complete range of things, including electrical appliances, clothing, and household items; standard stores are in the form of a standard supermarket, selling daily necessities; urban stores are between standard stores and convenience stores in size A type of store, usually located in the city center or main street; convenience stores are small convenience stores, some open 24 hours a day, mainly selling food, and are widely distributed in urban areas or shopping areas.
  There is a saying in the UK: “Whether a supermarket is good or not depends on how many types of private brands are available.” Private brands eliminate the need for intermediate links, are affordable, and focus on differentiation. Only private brands in the food category can be subdivided into value categories, organic categories, allergy categories, low-fat categories, etc., which can adapt to the diverse needs of consumers.
  Most supermarkets in the UK are equipped with chefs, not only to develop their own brand products, but also to expand supermarket food categories. Taking seemingly simple barbecue products as an example, chefs will screen out the most suitable barbecue dishes and techniques from all over the world, and find the most suitable smoking method for semi-finished products through experiments. Chefs will be responsible for completing relatively complex operations. Customers only need to buy ingredients from the supermarket and complete the last step at home to enjoy a delicious meal.
  For many people, supermarkets cover almost all aspects of life.
  The British love sweetness, and they even like to add a little sugar to their tea. The various sweets in supermarkets are irresistible. Pudding, cake, chocolate… As a new student, I relied on a few fragrant chocolate biscuits every night when I couldn’t write my essay to resist the pressure of study, the loneliness of a foreign country and the continuous rainy weather. After one semester, I gained 10 pounds, which is really a “sweet burden”.
  Equally abundant are dairy products. The British dairy industry is relatively developed and is the third largest milk producer in Europe. The average annual consumption of liquid dairy products in the UK is approximately 91.4kg, and the average annual consumption of dry dairy products is approximately 22.7kg. Rows of milk on supermarket shelves can be distinguished by different color packaging. Whole milk has blue caps, semi-skimmed milk has green caps, and skimmed milk has red caps. In addition to liquid milk, there are also a wide variety of dry dairy products such as cheese, milk powder, butter, condensed milk, and cream.
  The weather has a big influence on what to buy. During the short British summer, barbecues and picnics are a must. For every 10 degrees Celsius increase in temperature, the sales of burgers and sausages will increase threefold, and the sales of lettuce, a must-have for salads, will increase by about 45%… So, how do supermarkets stock up in advance? Its secret weapon is the predictive system – data analysts use algorithms to build models to predict what consumers will buy at what time. The supermarket will input weather data three times a day based on the sales data of the previous five years to predict customer purchasing behavior. The computer also performs tens of millions of calculations every day based on product sales, season, weather, store location, etc.
  From this point of view, from an individual point of view, shopping may be just a whim and random act, but as a group behavior, supermarkets have already anticipated it. Therefore, supermarkets should not be underestimated. Every vegetable and meal reflects the message of social activities.
  If you want to experience the British wine culture, remember to bring your ID before going to the supermarket to buy wine. The legal drinking age in the UK is 18. However, there is another policy in place at the same time: If you look like someone under 25, the salesperson has the right to ask the buyer to show identification with age information. Even if you are buying a bottle of cooking wine for cooking, you must check for proof of age.
  Different customs collide here. Once when I went to the supermarket to buy watermelon, I tapped the rind of the watermelon out of habit and put my ear to it to listen for the sound. A staff member who happened to be passing by saw it and jokingly said, “Don’t knock on the door, there is no one inside.” I was stunned for a moment, looked at him and laughed.
  Every traditional festival, major supermarkets in the UK will launch heart-warming advertising videos. Different seasonal dishes and different holiday packaging remind everyone who purchases: the seasons change, time passes, and life is attentive.
  Thinking back to the days when I was studying abroad, I would buy big and small bags every week and carry them back to the dormitory hummingly to build up my strength; now that I am back living in China, I can place an order on my mobile phone and the courier will deliver it to my door in 15 minutes. Small supermarkets not only condense the taste of life, but are also the epitome of social changes. The pace of the future is just like these fresh fruits and pears, quiet, fresh and sweet.