Week on a Plate

The week digested: Amazon unveils Clicks and Mortar stores and Sainsbury’s announces major plastic reduction initiative

Catch up on the food news from June 3-7, including how sound affects taste and the Waitrose Unpacked trial.

7 June 2019
online shoppingpackagingplasticrestaurantssupermarkets

Amazon launches pop-up shops

Amazon is opening 10 pop-up shops on the high streets of the UK, with the first site located in Manchester. Dubbed Clicks and Mortar, all will offer food and drink along with other goods, plus Amazon lockers for customers to collect orders. The aim is to give 100 small online businesses a taste of bricks-and-mortar presence, according to the online giant.


Sainsbury’s becomes first major UK retailer to ditch plastic for loose produce

Taking the plastic-free plunge, Sainsbury’s announced this week that it will become the first supermarket chain in the UK to ditch plastic bags for loose fruit, vegetables and baked goods across its stores, a goal it hopes to have fully achieved by September. Bakery items will go in paper bags, while re-usable bags made from recyclable material will be available for purchase for fruit and veg, resulting in an estimated 489-tonne reduction in plastic output. Packaged fruit and veg is also being targeted as an area ripe for plastic cuts. Currently, Tesco, Morrisons and Waitrose are all engaged in plastic-reduction trials involving fresh produce, but none has committed to the move yet.


Waitrose trials grain dispensers and frozen pick-and-mix fruit

The Sainsbury’s pledge comes on the heels of Waitrose’s news this week that it is trialling a potential store format for the future in Oxford, selling food and drink completely free of packaging. Prices are typically 15% cheaper than the packaged alternatives, with nearly 30 products available from dispensers, including pasta, rice, grains, couscous, lentils, cereals, dried fruit and seeds. There’s also a frozen pick-and-mix section with blueberries, cherries, pineapple and mango. The outlet, branded as Waitrose Unpacked, will also have a choice of 160 loose fruit and veg, four wines and beers on tap, and a borrow-a-box scheme for people needing containers – although customers are encouraged to bring their own. The trial will run until mid-August as the supermarket chain seeks feedback from consumers as well as monitoring whether people pick the unpackaged alternatives over the packaged goods.

Health groups criticise use of cartoons to sell high-fat foods

Health groups are urging the government to ban the use of TV and film characters to market products to children after research found that half the food and drink products with popular cartoon characters like Peppa Pig are high in fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt. The survey covered 500 products, including chocolate, snack bars, tinned pasta, smoothies and yoghurts. Action on Sugar, Action on Salt and the Children’s Food Campaign are also calling for mandatory traffic light nutrition labelling.


Can sound affect enjoyment of food?

The fashion for thumping beats in restaurants “drowns out the taste of the food,” according to Nigella Lawson, who this week said she is “allergic to all noise” while eating and shopping. In response, The Telegraph asked a number of top-tier chefs how they felt about the statement, with the majority responding that, while bad music can ruin a dining experience, the right rhythms help set the ambiance – a position backed by Richard Corrigan, Jason Atherton and Tom Brown, among others. From a scientific perspective, a new study by the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford has found that tinkling music with high-pitched notes can make dishes taste 10% sweeter. The research also suggested that sales go up as noise increases. Batting for the other side, a survey by charity Action on Hearing Loss found that eight in 10 people have left a venue because it was too noisy.


Compostable packaging is not biodegradable

The term ‘compostable packaging’ is misleading to consumers, scientists have warned, as industrial plants are required to process the materials, meaning many pieces will end up in landfills and take years to break down. Researchers from University College London are concerned people will ditch the products in grass or hedges believing they will biodegrade, thus creating more pollution.


Rubbish in British canals is mostly plastic

The litter clogging canals in England and Wales is 60% abandoned plastic, with half a million items reaching the ocean from the waterway network. According to the research, if every visitor picked up and recycled just one piece of plastic on each visit, the network could be plastic-free in a year.


25 cups of coffee a day? The heart can handle it

Coffee lovers rejoice – new research from the UK shows people can drink up to 25 cups a day and it won’t impact their heart health. But before you reach for the coffee pot, The Times notes that while it might not be bad for your heart, excessive caffeine most certainly is detrimental to other aspects of wellbeing, with the European Food Safety Authority recommending no more than four or five cups a day (400mg).

image credit: Getty Images

High street issues affect retail jobs

London was the only city in the UK not to see a fall in high street retail jobs between 2012 and 2017, new figures from the Office of National Statistics has revealed. This was a reflection of the 2% fall in the number of retail businesses on the high street, a stark contrast to the 6% growth in those located off main thoroughfares. By contrast, employment within the high street food sector jumped 20% across every region of England, Scotland and Wales, mirroring the 15% overall rise in high street businesses (the rate of increase was 22% off the high street).


Nutella supplies dry up

Nutella supplies could be affected if workers from a French factory continue to strike. The facility is responsible for 25% of the chocolate spread supplied to the world, amounting to 600,000 jars a day. Currently, the factory is working at only 20% capacity and raw ingredients are running low.


Vitamin D linked to reduced risk of dying

Research from Michigan State University and Hurley Medical Center suggests vitamin D could reduce the risk of dying from cancer. While the study focused on the effects of a supplement – taking one for at least three years resulted in a 13% drop in mortality – the effects could potentially be reproduced via fortified foods like breakfast cereals.


Sainsbury’s CEO gets bumper pay rise

Sainsbury's chief executive Mike Coupe has been given a quarter of a million pound pay rise, increasing his income to £3.9m. It comes despite the supermarket chain reporting a 42% drop in profits to £239m. Coupe was rewarded for the integration of Argos and meeting other targets like continuing development of business strategy.


White men continue to dominate retailer boards and committees

Two-thirds of main board and executive committee members in retailers across the UK, US and Europe are white and male, according to new research conducted by recruitment group Green Park, law firm DLA Piper and the World Retail Congress. Thirty leading retailers and almost 700 roles were covered in the data, which showed that 69% of positions on main boards and 78% of positions on executive committees in the UK were occupied by men, while the proportion of non-white persons on main boards and executive committees at the UK’s 10 biggest retailers were 5% and 1% respectively.


Hovis re-releases classic ad

British bakery company Hovis has relaunched an advertisement that first ran 46 years ago and was directed by Ridley Scott. While the original has been remastered, Hovis said it hoped introducing the ad to a new generation would highlight the brand’s core message of hard work, family and strength of community.

School lunches need improvement

Free school breakfasts and lunches for all primary school children will be supplied in a new scheme rolled out by Fulham and Hammersmith councils. The move comes as a report from the Children’s Future Food Inquiry finds that providing free school meals is inconsistent and some pupils are going hungry due to limited options. Some schools were also criticised for a failure to provide tap water, requiring students to buy bottled.


Sales at Loungers show steady growth

Loungers has announced like-for-like sales growth of 6.9% for the year to April 21, with 25 new sites opened over that period. The business recently undertook a successful flotation on the AIM stock market.


A rice time

The Evening Standard talks to Spanish chef Quique Dacosta about the opening of his new restaurant Arros QD and bringing high-end paella to London.

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