Week on a Plate

The week digested: Aldi gobbles bigger piece of retail pie and Azzurri reveals 8% of main course sales are vegan

Catch up on the food news from November 12-16, including watermelon ‘ham,’ cod skin collagen and the Iceland ad that everybody is talking about.

16 November 2018

Iceland snowed under with support for Christmas ad

Iceland's Christmas advert has gone viral on social media after it was banned from television for being overly political. A petition has been launched to overturn the ban on the TV spot, which was praised by Environment Secretary Michael Gove for shining a light on deforestation. The furore has been seen as a coup for Iceland, which has received unprecedented attention thanks to the mass media coverage.


To buy Wagamama or not to buy Wagamama, that is the question

Two American investors in The Restaurant Group have called on the company to pull out of the proposed £559m acquisition of Wagamama, claiming that it is “overly risky and expensive.” Proxy shareholder ISS, however, said that while the price of the equity raise was questionable, there was “strong strategic rationale” for the purchase.


Bloody burgers

Beyond Burger, the plant-based patty that bleeds, is finally making its hotly anticipated UK retail debut into Tesco, after its launch was delayed back in August due to supply issues. It will be stocked in 330 stores and sell for £5.50. Outside of supermarkets, diners can also order it at Honest Burger and at All Bar One’s 56 outlets. Each patty contains coconut oil, potato starch and 20g of pea protein, with beetroot juice to give it a “bleeding,” meaty red hue.


McDonald’s delivers on profits

Paul Pomroy, chief executive of McDonald’s in the UK, expects delivery to rake in £400m by the turn of the year and claims to have the shortest supply chain of any retailer, while avoiding zapping food in the microwave. McDonald’s is also trialling services for driverless cars for its drive-throughs.


Azzurri reveals 8% of main courses are vegan

Azzurri Group, which owns the Ask Italian, Zizzi and Coco di Mama chains, has reported an 8.5% increase in sales to £279.8m in the year to July 1 on the back of 15 openings and like-for-like growth across its brands. As well as developing new menu items, including purple basil pesto and a “breakfast carbonara,” the group launched a vegan offering 18 months ago that now accounts for 8% of all main courses and is proving increasingly popular with non-vegans.

image credit: Azzurri Group

Aldi gobbles bigger piece of retail pie

Aldi has had a storming quarter, recording the greatest year-on-year gain in market share by any retailer in almost four years, according to figures from Kantar Worldpanel. Shoppers made an additional 14m trips to Aldi and Lidl compared with last year. Among the big four grocers, Asda was the best performer, with sales increasing by 2.6% year-on-year. Over at Sainsbury’s and Waitrose, meanwhile, there was a slight drop off.


Milkshakes bring Action on Sugar to the yard

Action on Sugar has urged the government to introduce mandatory traffic light nutritional labelling across all high-street restaurant and fast-food menus and to ban the sale of milkshakes that exceed a calorie limit of 300 per serving. Its call for action came as it released research that showed some milkshakes are laden with more than six times the daily recommended amount of sugar for children and half an adult’s recommended daily calories.


Celery sticks it to the healthy market

Celery juice is having a moment, with high-end juice brands in the US like Pressed Juice selling it for $6.50 a pop.


Greenpeace makes war on retailers

Greenpeace says the big supermarkets are failing to take responsibility for reducing their plastic footprint. A survey of the top 10 supermarkets by the environmental campaigners revealed that they are putting 1.1bn single-use plastic bags, 1.2bn plastic produce bags for fruit and vegetables and 958m reusable ‘bags for life’ out into the world. Iceland, followed by M&S, had the highest consumption of single-use plastic bags. Tesco had the highest sales of bags for life as well as the highest use of plastic produce bags relative to market share, matched by Lidl and Sainsbury’s. Aldi, Co-op, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose had no specific plastic reduction targets, while the retailers that do have goals are moving at such a slow pace (just 5% a year) that it would take them 20 years to rid their shelves of throwaway plastic.


Quality of supermarket mince pies is down

Asda has come out on top in the annual festive mince pie blind taste test carried out by Which?, but the consumer group said overall standards are down this year as retailers opted for cheaper ingredients to keep prices down. The judges declared Asda’s pies had a winning combination of subtle spicing and tasty pastry.

image credit: Getty Images

Fortnum to fortify city bankers with champers

Fortnum & Mason is opening its first shop and restaurant in the City. The shop will offer a curated selection of its most popular teas, preserves and hampers alongside a confectionery counter and fresh produce, including smoked salmon, caviar and cheeses. From spring next year, the shop will offer a champagne bicycle delivery service, so that bankers and lawyers can have bubbles brought directly to their offices.


Giggling Squid continues to spread tentacles

Giggling Squid remains on target to hit 50 outlets in the next four to six years and has capitalised on the spate of closures by rivals to acquire good sites at cheaper rents.


Farmers throw mud at Asda-Sainsbury’s merger

The National Farmers Union has warned that its members will feel the impact of any squeeze on suppliers that will result from the merger of Sainsbury's and Asda in a submission to the Competition and Markets Authority. But Sainsbury's and Asda argued that the rise of Aldi and Lidl has fundamentally changed the UK grocery sector and cost them sales and market share. The duo said it was imperative for them to adapt to face future challenges, such as the growth of Amazon in food retailing as well as the emergence of new competitors such as B&M and Home Bargain.


Health retailer appoints new chairman

John Walden, the former boss of Argos and Homebase, has been appointed the chairman of Holland & Barrett, as the health and wellness retailer prepares for a significant digital expansion. Walden said the retailer occupied an attractive space in retail at a time when consumers were increasingly interested in health and well-being, but there was growing competition, particularly from Amazon, which has bought Whole Foods, and it needed to innovate and anticipate change. 


Premier Foods to ditch top boss

Premier Foods is in talks to sell its custard and rice pudding brand Ambrosia. The proposal comes as chief executive Garvin Darby prepares to step down in January, months after a spat with activist investors. In announcing its half-year results, revenue rose 1.3% to £358m, boosted by the relaunch of its Mr Kipling cakes brand and by growing demand for its Batchelors convenience pots range.


Patisserie Holdings CEO gets the boot

The chief executive of Patisserie Holdings, Paul May, has quit and been replaced by a turnaround specialist. The company said Stephen Francis had engineered four business turnarounds since 2005.


Watermelon ‘ham’ and other fruity meats

Experimentation with plant-based foods is heating up in the US. New York’s Ducks Eatery is creating watermelon ‘ham’ that is brined with salt, spice and ash for four days, before being placed in the smoker and finished in the oven with olive oil, rosemary and garlic. It was such a hit when it launched that there was a three-week waiting list to get one. Ducks Eatery also has a smoked cantaloupe burger on the menu and chef Will Horowitz suggests a fruit haggis could be next.

image credit: Ducks Eatery

Kerb pulls up in Seven Dials

Kerb is bringing a new permanently covered food market to the West End in a space for 26 traders. It will be called Seven Dials Market and is expected to be open by next summer, with offerings including fresh produce, hot food and grab-and-go meals.


Medical associations bug government over antibiotics

The leaders of the UK’s main medical associations have written to the government to call for changes in the way farm animals are medicated, out of fear that current practices are causing resistance to antibiotics used in human medicine.  


Tesco partners with WWF on sustainability

Tesco and WWF will collaborate on a long-running sustainable food effort, pledging to establish a measure to halve the environmental impact of the average UK shopping basket within 12 month. They hope its scale will help drive the industry to eliminate food waste and packaging waste and encourage customers to eat more sustainably, but Tesco has ruled out eliminating palm oil from its own-brand products. New research by the two organisations reveals that demand for sustainable food is high, with nearly 80% of shoppers wanting supermarkets to offer more food that is sourced in a responsible, sustainable way.


New revenue steam from cod collagen

A lengthy rehash of the Cod Wars between Iceland and Britain culminates in a look at the revenue potential of collagen made from fish skin. Marine Collagen is one company that’s making use of unwanted skin, turning it into powdered health supplements as well as a functional additive to premium lemonade.


Opportunities in the dining car

Richard Corrigan thinks train lines are missing a trick when it comes to railway dining. After being serve an “inedible” game pie and being refused a cup of tea on a Virgin Trains service, the Michelin-starred chef bemoaned the lack of hospitality and quality food on Britain’s railway.

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