While Jamie can command the ear of the government and Gordon the US networks, it's only when Delia Smith announces a new book or TV series that every retailer in the country listens. Among the many examples of the shelf-clearing abilities of her recipes has been a national shortage of cranberries in 1995 and an extra 54 million eggs sold in 1998. When she called a particular omelette pan 'a little gem' on one of her shows, the makers had to take on extra staff to deal with a rise in sales from 200 pans annually to over 100,000 in four months. In short, consumers take Delia's recommendations very seriously.
Which makes the publication of her latest book How to Cheat at Cooking, which mentions brand names found on any c-store shelf, particularly exciting for retailers. The tenet of the book is that it's possible to eat well without spending a vast amount of time cooking, and it includes recipes which list ready-made brands or 'cheats' as ingredients. Even though it was only published just over a month ago, manufacturers such as Jus-Rol, which has products including its new tartlet cases included, are already feeling the Delia effect. Marketing manager Tracy Roberts says: "We've already seen an uplift - people are obviously out there finding the ingredients already." John West sales director Andrew Gidden, who calls the inclusion of the brand's dressed crab and lobster meats "a nice endorsement", isn't surprised that the book has caught consumers' imagination: "She's a very human celebrity chef, so the fact that she's relying on brands that make life a bit easier is great."
One of the products mentioned which has really captured mainstream press interest is Aunt Bessie's Homestyle mash. Marketing manager Jane Jones thinks the inclusion of the product in the book holds enormous potential for the brand and could overturn the public's lingering preconception that frozen food has no taste. "Who better to change that than Delia Smith?" says Jones. She says there's been a strong uplift in sales of frozen mash since the book's launch: "We'd been seeing double digit growth but it's been unprecedented since the book came out."
These effects come as no surprise to Kikkoman UK sales and marketing manager Ben Briody, as the brand has been included in Delia's recipes before. The difference this time, he says, is that the whole industry is fully prepared for increased demand rather than being caught on the back foot.Manufacturers were told of the inclusion of products months ago, which should mean no shortages. Says Briody: "We obviously don't know the level of interest but we've geared up on the basis of very significant exposure."
Roberts says c-stores should waste no time stocking up on mentioned brands: "Make sure you have the lines, so when people are passing they can pick up everything they need for the recipe. That's where c-stores have often missed out."
Most brands included in the book have adopted the 'A Delia Cheat Ingredient!' logo, giving them shelf standout, and Briody says that retailers should highlight labelled items by having a group of them together in the store. Gidden suggests retailers have the book on the counter to raise awareness.
Overall, the entire industry seems to be gearing itself up, excited at the prospect of being able to feel the full benefit of the Delia effect.