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
’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
This lively trade approach features heavily in the new-look Grocer.
One of the new sections, called Market Edge, focuses on
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
’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.’
Northern editor, the Grocer
Associate editor, the Grocer
Editor, the Grocer