Week on a Plate

The week digested: Cancer Research UK ignites obesity firestorm and Boris mulls revoking sin taxes

Catch up on the food news from July 1-5, including competition concern over the Amazon-Deliveroo partnership and the world’s first green bonds scheme.

5 July 2019

Obesity tops cigarettes as cause of cancer

Obesity is responsible for more cases of bowel, liver, kidney and ovarian cancer than cigarettes, according to new research. In fact, obesity is a significant factor in 13 different types of cancer, according to Cancer Research UK. The number of obese people in the UK is now double that of smokers, prompting the charity to demand government enact harsher restrictions on junk food. However, not everybody is convinced by the Cancer Research UK findings, with academics and nutritionists from the University of Cambridge, King’s College London and Bristol University, among others, signing and open letter to Cancer Research UK that essentially accused the organisation of fat shaming people as part of a questionable campaign.


Are sin taxes a hellish idea?

Boris Johnson has pledged to review the effectiveness of 'sin taxes' on products high in salt, fat and sugar, as well as nixing proposals to extend the sugar tax to milkshakes. The prime ministerial hopeful said the measures may be unduly penalising the lowest paid and questioned their effectiveness in changing behaviours, instead suggested that the public should be encouraged to exercise more. This would likely go against the advice of England's chief medical officer, as he is considering suggesting mechanisms to incentivise healthy food sales, potentially subsidising them by charging more on unhealthy products, with a report expected in September.

Pause button pressed on Amazon-Deliveroo partnership

Amazon and Deliveroo have been ordered to pause any integration efforts by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), including changes to big contracts or senior management, after the regulator launched an investigation into potential breaches of competition rules. Amazon bought a minority stake in Deliveroo back in May, and the competition authority suspects that they are planning to merge.


Amazon sees path to future using computer vision

On the topic of Amazon, The Financial Times takes a look at the company’s advancing computer vision technology, which allows the online retailer to track products in its factories more efficiently and is behind its 13 Go stores. This artificial intelligence tech is also being incorporated into drone delivery and internet-connect doorbells/security cameras.


Brexit will dampen Christmas cheer

Christmas is in jeopardy, according to the chief executives of Tesco and Sainsbury’s, who are both concerned about the timing of the October deadline. As Coupe put it: “The reality is, a no-deal Brexit, with no formal arrangements in place, would be very disruptive to our business and it would potentially be disruptive for people's Christmas.” Lewis, meanwhile, pointed out that the annual stockpiling for Christmas means there will be less warehouse capacity for no-deal Brexit preparations.


World’s first green bonds scheme launches

July 4 saw the launch of the Responsible Commodities Facility, backed by the UK government and the United Nations. Described as the “world’s first green bonds scheme,” it will be used to finance “farmers and producers who commit to using degraded land instead of expanding into existing grasslands,” according to Shaun Kingsbury, chairman of Sustainable Investment Management. The idea is that $1bn in green bonds, issued over the next four years, will finance the upfront costs of converting degraded land to land that can be used to cultivate soy and corn, thus reducing the need to farm on virgin soil. The resulting crop will have an estimated value of $43bn in the first decade.


In demand: the yellow pea

Plant-based meat alternatives are driving demand for the yellow pea, used by Beyond Meat, Nestle and US meat producer Tyson in their recipes for burgers, bacon and more. While this has (so far) not lead to a shortage in supply of the crop, there are insufficient facilities to process the yellow pea into the protein powder for use in plant-based products. 

Pret boss steps down

Pret a Manger boss Clive Schlee is retiring in September after 16 years at the helm. Schlee oversaw the sale of sandwich chain to an investment firm for £1.5bn and was responsible for opening 550 new stores in nine countries. His final act was to manage Pret’s roll out of a new allergy plan, following the death of a customer who ingested a baguette that contained sesame. He will be replaced by the company’s chief operating officer, Pano Christou.


Asda spends big on price reduction and store refurbs

Asda could float on the stock market in 2022, but for now the supermarket chain is investing £80m in reducing prices and £100m in store refurbishments to compete with the discount grocers. It is also trialling using Just Eat in Leicester and London, aiming to deliver a range of 100 groceries in half an hour.


Sainsbury’s sales decline again

Sainsbury's has reported a third quarter of declining sales, with grocery sales falling by 0.5%, as it warned the market was highly competitive, amid an uncertain outlook for consumers. Mike Coupe, chief executive, said the supermarket has reduced prices on 1,000 everyday food products, but was expected to face a shareholder rebellion over his pay packet at the annual general meeting. In the end, Coupe was re-elected by 99.5% of shareholders, taking the opportunity to defend his pay by noting the company’s dividend and underlying profits had risen by 8%.


Brazilians birds bring Britain salmonella

More than 1m chickens infected with salmonella have been imported into the UK in the past two years, but the Brazilian government claims there is no risk as the bacteria is killed when cooked. Thirteen shipments of contaminated meat have been uncovered by the UK border inspectors this year and sent back to Brazil, but others have slipped through the safety net, requiring a recall. 


Wimbledon criticised for not banning plastic

Chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has criticised Wimbledon for not banning plastic drink bottles, saying the Grand Slam tournament should follow in the lead of Glastonbury Festival, which banned the containers this year. The All England Club has, however, already made strides in its plastic policy: water bottles and drink cups (supplied by Evian) are made from 100% recycled and recyclable plastic, while the plastic containers for the strawberries are 70% recyclable. UK-based environmental charity Recoup is working with Wimbledon organisers to champion more recycling on the grounds.


LA ice creamery criticises influencers

Popular Los Angeles ice cream truck CVT Soft Service has banished social media influencers after receiving at least one request a week for free goods to promote them online. Instead, its owners have publicly hit out and said influencers can pay double for the ice cream as people should go to a restaurant because the food is fantastic. 


Top vegan choc ices

Speaking of ice cream, The Times takes a look at the best vegan choc ices on the market, from Magnum and Hotel Chocolat to Miro, Little Moons and Swedish Glace. 

Yo! expands sushi empire

Yo! has acquired a majority stake in American sushi kiosk business Snowfox, thereby creating a company with £337m in sales and giving it a larger share of the lucrative US sushi market.


Vegan conspiracy theory

Meat alternatives that taste like the real thing are making vegans worried they could be eating animals.


Rainforests fall to global greed

The Guardian investigates how the worldwide gluttony for meat is driving deforestation in the Amazon.


Making the weekly shop suffice

YouTube chef Ian Haste has written a cookbook called The 7 Day Basket, which educates people on how to get a week’s worth of dinners out of a single supermarket shop. Recipes are arranged seasonally and include everything from Maldivian chicken curry to beef bourguignon pithivier.

Want to see more?

Get inspiration and support for your NPD and menu development.

• Emerging ingredients • Evidenced trends • Consumer behaviour • Cost watch • Openings • Retail launches • Interviews with innovators... See all that Food Spark has to offer by requesting a free no-obligation demo.


Add to Idea Book

"The week digested: Cancer Research UK ignites obesity firestorm and Boris mulls revoking sin taxes"
Choose Idea Book