SPREAD THE WORD
Retailer gives fish paste fans the best news ever: it’s back!
There’s a smile on smotherer-in-chief Jeremy Maggs’ face this morning, and now there’ll be one on yours. Because… Fish. Paste. Is. Back.
It is confirmed. When we heard it only on Thursday night we thought, nah, that’s too good to be true. We even checked the calendar: no, it’s not April 1st. So, at cock’s crow on Friday morning, half the staff of Pick n Pay were the target of a barrage of emails from your TGIFood Editor. Was it true? Could it be? Is the dearth really over? Is fish paste back on the shelves?
And the answer was an emphatic yes. What’s more, said a senior group press officer. “It’s back for good!”
But wait, there’s even more: it’s not only Redro that’s back. Or only Peck’s Anchovette. It’s both of them. The brands are in 50-plus Pick n Pay stores throughout the Western Cape as of now, and the retailer promises that they will be in stores nationwide “within the next two weeks”.
Here’s what happened, in Pick n Pay’s own words…
“Pick n Pay has again triumphed for their customers, this time bringing two iconic fish paste brands, Redro and Peck’s Anchovette, back to store shelves – reigniting nostalgia for South Africans.
“The retailer brought the popular Hellmann’s Mayonnaise back to their shelves in June, after a countrywide uproar by distraught shoppers when the American brand was delisted by its local supplier.
“Now, Pick n Pay has worked closely with Cape Gulf Brands and Premier Fishing & Brands to relaunch the popular fish paste products back on the shelf for local customers after they were discontinued nearly two years ago. The products will be exclusive to Pick n Pay stores.”
A little history about the two brands:
Peck’s Anchovette is the older of the two by far, having originated in the UK in late Victorian times when, in 1891, it first found its way into the market. It only arrived in South Africa in the 1960s and was a favourite with hundreds of thousands, until it suddenly disappeared from the shelves.
By the time Peck’s arrived on the scene in South Africa, fish paste fans had already been long familiar with their own brand, Redro, which had first appeared in the 1930s.
Fish paste world fell apart
Then, in December 2021, the fish paste world fell apart. In January 2022, South African fish paste fans woke up to the ghastly news, and word spread fast: it had been confirmed that both brands had been discontinued, ostensibly for lack of interest.
This was news to fish paste fans, who scratched their heads and thought, huh? But I have some almost every day…?
At TGIFood, we headlined our story The War on Spreads, such was the severity of the calamity.
Head scratcher-in-chief was television presenter and fish paste devotee Jeremy Maggs, who wrote in Daily Maverick: “Mine was a childhood smothered in fish paste. And now the memory has been harpooned as a major food conglomerate — with a click of a mouse on a profit-hungry spreadsheet — has decided to discontinue both Peck’s and Redro anchovy spread.
“I feel like a panicky sardine caught in a tight net off the South Coast. Like Nemo staring down Bruce, the vegetarian shark.”
Read more in Daily Maverick: My world is shattered: a paen for the demise of my beloved anchovy toast
We had to hear from the smotherer-in-chief himself. Maggs, on hearing the news this morning, managed to calm himself down sufficiently to reply:
“I’m overwhelmed with joy and excitement now that this condiment crisis is over. In coming days I am planning a private ceremonial smearing party (toast, not body) and am salivating with sensory expectation of hot melted butter intermingled with fish paste running down my chin. It will not be a pretty sight, but I don’t give a fig.”
In the meantime, many South Africans, ever an inventive and resilient bunch, learnt to make their own versions of the spread, including our own fish paste boffin, Georgia East, whose recipe you’ll find in this article.
If you really still need to make your own… DM
Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Writer 2023, jointly with TGIFood columnist Anna Trapido.
Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.