As Jellybean celebrates its 33rd year in business and manages its way through the Covid 19 lockdown I take a rather irreverent look back and reflect on what was happening in the UK in 1987 – the year that it all started and our business was established. I am sure it will jog some memories and I hope it brings a smile to a few old faces who remember those days as fondly as I do.
In 1987 we “dressed” for work, girls were all about big hair, shoulder pads and high heels (even if we did have to run for the train on a daily basis), guys wore statement ties, highly coiffed locks and all smelt of the same aftershave. In the agency world the client handlers were known as the suits (always dressed for a meeting) and the creatives were known as the scruffs (cool dudes in denim). We commonly repeated vernacularisms such as “I’ll be back” (The Terminator) or “Just Say No” (Nancy Reagan Drugs Initiative) or “Take a Chill Pill” when discussing campaigns or if we got really excited “Cowabunga” (Ninja Turtles) or “I have a Cunning Plan” (Blackadder). Clearly we took our roles very seriously and took comfort in communicating using stock tv and movie phrases.
There were some epic events in that year: the first heart transplant in the US, Reagan challenged Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall, 2 men crossed the Atlantic in a hot air balloon and the first condom advert was aired on UK TV. The tragedy of the fire at Kings Cross station in London’s busiest station that killed 31 people shocked commuters to the core and it was the year that Maggie Thatcher became the first prime minister in 160 years to win a 3rd term (some also considered that to be a tragedy). It was also a time for big spenders as Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers sold for £22.5m and Wallace Simpson’s jewels auctioned for over £31m.
Music will always be a huge influence and symbol of the times. That year we were avidly listening to George Michael’s debut album Faith (I was a huge fan being a Hertfordshire girl) and the Beatles released their first compact disc (CD) which were replacing vinyl at a fast rate. All the “dweebs”, “Posers”, “Studs”, “fit-bods” and even the “butt ugly” (all common parlance) partied to the max in nightclubs to “I wanna dance with somebody” and slow danced to “Didn’t we almost have it all”, a No 1 that year. Frankly, Whitney Houston had a lot to answer for!
On TV, Top of the Pops was virtually a religion for some, many people got their daily fix of real life issues from East Enders, Corrie and Brookside, we laughed at French and Saunders, the Two Ronnies and Blackadder , we solved crimes with The Bill, Inspector Morse and Bergerac and we had a rather tame dance show called Come Dancing which was a far cry from the cult of Strictly we see today.
Cocktails such as the Margarita, Tequila Sunrise, White Russian and Kamikaze were the big thing to drink in bars and clubs as well as a few more raunchy options called Sex on the Beach or A Long Slow Screw Against the Wall. It was all about fun and colour and being out there and if challenged the response would be “Nobody puts baby in the corner” (Dirty Dancing) as we kept calm and carried on. And if it all became a bit too much for the “Party Hardy” we could take a shot of the newly launched Red Bull for a caffeine boost.
The 80s had already established foods such as Pizza and Pasta, Devilled Eggs, Potato Skins, Sweet and Sour Pork and Spicy Chicken Wings as staples to eat at home. Quiche also peaked at that time, shamed into virtual oblivion by a book entitled “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche”, another stock phrase that did the circuit. Mexican food was beginning to feature as we tried Queso Baked Nachos and Ground Beef Tacos at home as well as Jambalaya and Creole Chicken as we started to discover Caribbean flavours in our diet. For those with a sweet tooth we indulged in Angel Delight, Choc Chip Cookies, Chocolate Mousse or Brownies and if we really wanted to push the boat out there was always Viennetta or Tiramisu!!
When we mixed (no such thing as a mixologist just a cocktail barman) our home-made cocktails we “soaked up” with Salt and Shake crisps or bacon and cheddar potato skins alongside other quick fixes from our microwaves such as “micro chips”, something you ate not something in your phone, dog or hard drive.
1987 was the year that Chicken Satay hit the scene with the promise of exotic flavours of Asia, you could get ranch flavoured anything and with the slow growth of Vegetarianism, Portobello mushrooms made a comeback as a meat-free meatiness. Frozen yogurt also made its debut as a healthier alternative to ice cream and iced coffee started to make inroads into the beverage category.
Eating out of home was growing fast as consumers who were travelling the globe more extensively continued to explore new cuisines and cultures and wanted the convenience of food out of home to meet the needs of their busy lives. At that time, mainstream restaurant menus would often feature French Onion Soup, Lobster Bisque and Angel Hair Pasta, and for mains there was lots of singed protein described as blackened meat or fish. And if food wasn’t blackened it was accompanied by something “foamed”. Chicken and Veal Marsala using industrial strength wine was popular, Sushi was fast becoming the choice of Yuppies in the city and Swordfish Carpaccio was popular with “Mwah, let’s do lunch” Sloane Rangers. Pesto shot to fame, despite the recipe dating back to the Romans and pink peppercorns, sun dried tomatoes and poppy seeds were high on the ingredients list in any self-respecting restaurant. Creative salad dressings were all the rage featuring raspberry vinaigrette and olive oils that had been crushed between the thighs of extra virgins. As Nouvelle Cuisine became established in the more exclusive establishments we were often treated to overpriced and undersized portions accompanied by an often very limited and poorly described and sourced wine list
Provenance and animal welfare was rarely a consideration, menu engineering did not exist. We were vaguely health conscious but not at the expense of enjoying ourselves, fast food was just taking off as mainstream, the coffee culture was just on its launch pad, there were few sandwich bars or pubs that served edible home cooked food, only pinged food. But the eating out market was evolving and becoming exciting and challenging in every sector from schools to a la carte restaurants, from hospitals to pubs, from B&I to fast food and it has been a wonderful journey to be part of. We have come a long way and it is so very different today when we are totally spoilt for choice on cuisine, price, speed of service, quality of service, fresh, local and seasonal foods, ethical foods, healthy or indulgent options, made for me choices, all day-part eating and snacking, I could go on…..
So, it’s been epic – the change in such a relatively short period of time in this and every other industry and I haven’t even mentioned the technological, political, economic and social revolution that has been our landscape too. These are just my memories shared for nostalgia (not for fact) to bring a knowing smile to anyone else who remembers 1987 and who may also have taken the plunge to start a business in what was a very uncertain time too. Who could have known that 33 years on the amazing Jellybean team would still hold the same values and remain totally dedicated to the food and drink industry.