Media Profile: Serving up food for thought - Clive Beddall, editor, the Grocer

A few years ago, food was just the stuff you ate. Then, during the 1980s and beyond, it grew to become a lifestyle statement and a political, er, hot potato. These days, food is open to the closest scrutiny imaginable by almost every area of the media. Even the industry’s own trade paper, the Grocer, is undergoing a radical overhaul this month under the no-nonsense hand of its editor, Clive Beddall.

A few years ago, food was just the stuff you ate. Then, during the

1980s and beyond, it grew to become a lifestyle statement and a

political, er, hot potato. These days, food is open to the closest

scrutiny imaginable by almost every area of the media. Even the

industry’s own trade paper, the Grocer, is undergoing a radical overhaul

this month under the no-nonsense hand of its editor, Clive Beddall.



The magazine has redesigned its front cover, switched distribution

arrangements, redesigned its pages, introduced new sections and embarked

on a series of marketing initiatives which will see the title supplying

information for Capital Radio’s Monday jobs feature. It’s the eighth

re-design Beddall has seen in his 33 years on the Grocer, but it’s the

most comprehensive.



’The market was ready for it,’ Beddall says simply. ’We’d researched our

readers from the supermarkets through the buyers to the analysts and

found the industry was very eager for this kind of thing. It’s such a

dynamic industry to cover. I’m 55, but it makes me feel half that.’



Beddall started in journalism whilst still at secondary school, flogging

sports reports to the local paper. After a row that went right up to the

education committee about schoolboys earning more than the careers

officer, his headmaster decided to back him and he spent his fifth year

moonlighting with the school’s blessing. He joined the Ashton-under-Lyme

Reporter series after his exams and worked through local papers until he

joined the Grocer as Northern correspondent in 1964.



His background as a news journalist might explain why he is keen to

increase the investigative and campaigning content of the Grocer.



’Food safety is a major issue these days,’ he says. ’We’ve campaigned

for an independent food standards agency for some time, so it was

reassuring when I interviewed Jack Cunningham at the Ministry for

Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, for our latest issue, and found that he

supported the idea.



We’re also setting up an insight team to work on a number of secret

projects.’



This lively trade approach features heavily in the new-look Grocer.



One of the new sections, called Market Edge, focuses on

supermarkets.



It is designed, says Beddall, to replicate a supermarket: it has two

pages on fresh produce at the front, followed by two on meat, two on

provisions and two on checkout.



’The checkout section includes the Grocer 33,’ explains Beddall. ’It’s a

new weekly shopping section featuring eight shoppers who buy 33 items in

selected multiples throughout the country, recording price, time spent

in the store and at the checkout, quality of service and an overall mark

out of ten.’



It’s a tough approach that’s typical of the man who espouses the

tradition of working up through local papers and who is annoyed by PR

people ringing him early in the morning with the promise of ’something

brilliant on a press release later on today’.



’Most of the PR people in the food industry are really good,’ he

says.



’There are still a few that are irritating but most have worked out one

of my golden rules - never send me a press release if you can help it

Get to know me and give me good stories.’



HIGHLIGHTS

1964

Northern editor, the Grocer

1988

Associate editor, the Grocer

1990

Editor, the Grocer



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