Week on a Plate

The week digested: Christmas sales figures revealed

Catch up on the food news from January 6-10, including Magnum’s new ruby ice cream and a ranking of the best vegan chocolate.

10 January 2020
chainschocolateChristmasfast foodsupermarketsvegan

Which supermarkets were filled with cheer this Christmas?

This week saw the major retailers release sales figures for the festive period, and the German discounters appeared to have the most to celebrate. Lidl reported an 11% rise in sales in the four weeks to December 29, while Aldi saw sales rise 7.9% over a similar period, pushing sales above £1bn for the first time. While neither supermarket released like-for-like figures, both said they were positive and highlighted alcohol sales as strong. Tesco managed a 0.1% rise in sales in the six weeks to January 4, with plant-based food doing well, though CEO Dave Lewis was particularly pleased to report that December 23 saw the supermarket sell more groceries than any other day in its history. Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, meanwhile, reported a 0.7% and 1.7% decline respectively, with the former claiming a poor Argos performance weighed down strong performances in food and clothing. Waitrose saw same-store sales rise 0.4% in the seven weeks to January 4 – the best of any supermarket bar the discounters, according to its chairman – while M&S saw a 1.4% rise in its food halls reduced to an overall 0.2% growth in the three months to December 28 thanks to lacklustre clothing and home sales.


Impossible Foods backs out of McDonald’s deal

Plant-based meat substitutes company Impossible Foods have pulled out of a deal with McDonald’s due to issues with increased production, clearing the way for competitor Beyond Meat to potentially secure a deal to supply the chain with meat-free hamburgers.


Magnum unleash ruby ice cream

Magnum have released the world’s first ruby chocolate ice cream, with the product made by dipping white chocolate ice cream with a raspberry swirl into ruby chocolate.

image credit: Magnum

How restaurant brands profit from grocery

The Financial Times looks at how casual-dining groups can profit from grocery ranges, helping to help offset the high-street slowdown. PizzaExpress sells 33m pizzas in retail compared to 20m in restaurants, for example, while sales of Nando’s peri-peri sauce reached £14.4m last year, making it the UK’s best-selling chilli sauce. Other brands that have been successful in the supermarkets include Leon, whose £2m partnership with Sainsbury’s has seen its aioli sauce exceed sales forecasts by 60%.


Vegan chocolate ranked

The Independent embraces Veganuary with a couple of taste tests. First up is Pret’s vegan Very Berry croissant, which the paper praises for its surprisingly effecting pastry lamination using margarine and sunflower oil (as opposed to butter), making it the equal to the chain’s regular pastries – and it’s on par in terms of price, coming in at £1.70, the same as an almond croissant or a pain au raisin. The Independent has also selected what it considers the 11 best vegan chocolate bars, including Doisy & Dam’s maple, toasted rice and pink salt snaps (£2.50), dark chocolate and almond sea salt (£3.49) from ethically minded brand Tony’s Chocolonely, Hotel Chocolat’s Colombia 75% coffee-dark chocolate (£7.50) and the smooth orange flavour of Galaxy’s much-publicised new vegan range (£3). The top pick, however, is newcomer Nomo’s caramel and sea salt bar, sold at a mere 99p.


Greggs pays employees £7m for ‘exceptional’ year

Greggs is rewarding employees for an “exceptional” performance in 2019, as the bakery chain raised its profit forecast for the fifth time since the start of 2019. Around £7m will be spread between all 25,000 employees below director level, with those who joined the company before March 2019 receiving £300 and others receiving £75 per quarter that they have been employed. Total sales at Greggs have increased 13.5%, with like-for likes up 9.2%.


Burger King plant-based burger unsuitable for vegans

Burger King have gone with a soy-based patty for their first UK plant-based burger, but – in what is becoming a familiar refrain – it is not vegan friendly because it is cooked on the same grill as meat.


Just Eat sale nears conclusion

Takeaway.com looks set to finalise their £6bn acquisition of Just Eat, with investors speaking for 46.07% of the delivery company’s shares accepting the Dutch operator’s all-paper offer.


US dairy industry under mounting pressure as consumer habits shift

The amount of milk consumed per capita in the US has tumbled more than 40% since 1975, with milk substitutes only part of the problem for the major players of the dairy industry.


Soho House becomes first chain in England to impose nut ban

Nuts have been banned from the kitchens of Soho House in a move to protect customers of the private members’ club chain who have allergies.

image credit: Getty Images

Deliveroo tech expanding in Scotland

Major delivery company Deliveroo are to expand its software development operations in Edinburgh, suggesting that their software engineering team could increase to 50 over the next three years.


Algal evolution

The Telegraph digs into the trend for algae this week, exploring the nutritional benefits as well as the increased prevalence in restaurants of both microalgae like spirulina and chlorella as well as larger seaweed. Food Spark has previously looked at how manufacturers are experimenting with algae as plant-based protein as well as how it could help vegans get enough iodine. Some companies are turning it into burgers and jerky, while others have used it to create a range of condiments.


Butternut squash pizza bases

Forget cauliflower, Papa John’s has launched a range of vegan-friendly, gluten-free pizzas that use butternut squash in the base. The release is part of the brand’s Veganuary push, which includes four different pizzas with jackfruit-based meat alternatives.


Percy Pig for your pancakes

Marks & Spencer have launched a Percy Pig sauce, designed to taste exactly like the fruity sweets – just in liquid form. Sold at £2 per bottle, it can be squirted over pancakes, ice cream or any other item that might go well with raspberry, strawberry, cherry and grape flavours.


Build-your-own brekkie

Wetherspoons is trialling a build-your-own breakfast concept at 100 of its outlets. Priced at around £3.65, it allows customers to customise seven different elements through the pub chain’s app.

image credit: Getty Images

Transparent treats

Chef James Dempsey of Blackmoor Dining Room in Leeds has got Metro buzzing with his see-through lemon meringue, made with a transparent curd. The chef has previously been in the news for creating a Yorkshire pudding wrap.


Brittany oysters fall foul of gastric flu epidemic

A gastroenteritis epidemic sweeping France has hit oyster farms in Brittany, with the contamination blamed on human waste dumped in the sea.


Factory-made croissants at heart of French bakery scuffle

The National Confederation of French Baking has criticised the country’s bakers for selling large quantities of factory-made cakes and pastries, passing them off as their own creations.


Compass looks for new direction

Catering company Compass Group is in the market for a new chairman, after the incumbent announced he was stepping down on Monday.


Chinese robot waiter on show in Vegas

A £9,000 robot that can hold trays of food, glasses, bottles and cans on its shelves and find its way through the restaurant using guiding markers on the ceiling has been on display in Las Vegas this week, with the creator company hoping such droids will transform the service industry.

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