Week on a Plate

The week digested: Greggs to stay open till dinner and the recycling revamp

Catch up on the food news from July 29-August 2, including the latest on Just Eat and the success of the plastic bag tax.

2 August 2019

Greggs to offer takeaway dinners

Greggs is planning to enter the takeaway dinner market by opening some sites across the UK until 9pm and offering hot food like pizza slices. More vegan products are under development too, including a doughnut. Chief executive Roger Whiteside said the popularity of its vegan sausage roll has opened up the bakery chain to a whole new audience, changing the perception of the brand into a modern food-on-the-go brand. Greggs is set to open its 2,000th store in the next few weeks, with 100 sites planned for this year. It reported that sales at established stores grew by 10.5% and profits jumped more than 50% to £40.6m in the six months to June 29. It is now Britain's second biggest sandwich retailer behind Tesco.


Just Eat investment wipes out profits

Investment in its courier network and Brazilian operations has wiped out Just Eat’s profits for the first half of the year. Pre-tax profits fell by 98% to £800,000 between January and June, even as revenues rose by 30% to £465m. The company revealed that its 27m customers had ordered an average of nine meals a year from 5,200 restaurants, with order growth up 11.2% in Britain. The news comes as speculation continues to mount about the mooted merger of Just Eat with its Dutch rival Takeaway.com, which would create one of the world’s biggest online food delivery companies.


Plastic bag tax carries the day

Sales of plastic carrier bags in England have dropped by 90% in the seven biggest supermarkets since the introduction of the levy in October 2015, according to new government figures, with the average consumer purchasing just 10 bags a year – down from 140 in 2014. In 2018/2019, sales dropped by 37% to 1.1bn. Campaigners have called for the charge to be rolled out to smaller stores.


Recycling labels need revamp

A clearer labelling system for recycling will be introduced to replace the confusing current symbols that are stalling the recycling rate, pledged new environment secretary Theresa Villiers. Retailers and manufacturers are working on introducing a clearer system that could involve giving all products a number that will correspond to the same number on a bin in the home, reported The Times. The announcement comes as the government admitted it will not meet its 50% recycling rate target by next year, largely thanks to the system of 58 signs that consumers have to interpret.

image credit: Getty Images

The blurred lines between restaurant and retail

Following on from news that Sainsbury’s is in talks to deliver goods through Uber Eats while simultaneously agreeing to use Deliveroo to deliver hot food, The Telegraph looks at how the lines are blurring between foodservice and retail, with Co-op and Asda embarking on similar deals.


No-deal Brexit could mean £220 increase in average basket

A no-deal Brexit would see the family food shop go up by £220 a year, researchers from the University of Sussex have suggested, with prices rising by 7%. Food bank charity the Trussell Trust has called for a dedicated hardship fund to help those hit hard by rising food costs.


Burger without the beef trialled across America

America is going the whole hog with its meat-free fast food. Burger King will roll out its plant-based Whopper burger across the US from next week for a limited time. Meanwhile, Dunkin’ announced it would offer Beyond Sausage patties on breakfast sandwiches in New York City.


Floating farms

The Dutch have launched Europe’s first floating farm, with a herd of cows being kept on a vessel in the port of Rotterdam. The cows live in individual stalls with soft rubbers floors but can also walk down a gangway to graze in a small field, with 80% of their feed coming from waste from within the food industry, while the farm generates its own electricity through solar panels. The aim is to provide the city with dairy products sustainably. If the cows are a success, there are plans to extend into a floating chicken farm and greenhouse for fruit and veg.


Yog on

Its gut-friendly features are not the only reason why we should be tucking into yoghurt, with new research from the University of Washington showing eating at least two portions a week cuts the risk of pre-cancerous growths by a fifth. More than 80,000 people were tracked for 25 years, with the research finding yoghurt eaters had 19% fewer growths – although it worked better in men. The Times also looks at other studies that have documented the benefits of yoghurt.


Shot down

Waitrose is banning the sale of birds shot with lead, phasing it out by 2021 from the estates it sources its game, due to health concerns surrounding lead contamination. Scientists and experts have called on the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to phase out lead shot across the industry,


Cherry-picking the best growers

British cherry growers are now producing bumper harvests by using smaller trees, meaning that supermarkets like Tesco and Waitrose don't have to turn to imports to meet consumer demand. The UK industry is set to produce about 6,500 tonnes of cherries – double the amount picked last year and the highest for nearly 50 years.

image credit: Getty Images

World-ending heat

A new British chilli described as the Armageddon, touted as one of the hottest in the world, is set to hit Tesco stores. It is recommended that consumers handle the chilli with gloves when cooking.


Chocolate sweetens mood

A new study suggests that eating dark chocolate could boost mood and relieve depression symptoms. University College London (UCL), the University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services Canada found 70% of those who tucked into dark chocolate had lower odds of reporting depressive symptoms compared to those who avoided the sweet treat.


Economy may dampen sustainability surge

Britain needs a new sustainability law to mandate statutory targets to ensure economic activity doesn’t trump measures to rapidly reduce the effects of declining soil fertility, air quality, pollinator numbers, fish stocks, wildlife diversity and other benchmarks of a healthy environment, according to the Institute for Public Policy Research.


Hummus spreads to shakes

Food Spark reported on the hummus milkshake trending over in New York last year and now the beverage has hit the UK. The York branch of Humpit has launched its own hummus shake: made with banana, tahini and chickpeas, it is being sold for £3. Craft brewers from around the world have also been embracing the legume to make alcohol, while bartenders are substituting egg whites for aquafaba in cocktails. A chickpea ice cream has also been cooling down New Yorkers recently.


Parliamentary success of latte levy could mean nationwide scheme

A levy on single-use coffee cups imposed on Parliament has cut the number used by almost three-quarters while failing to slow sales. Environmental campaigners have called for a nationwide compulsory cup charge to reduce litter as only 4% of the 3bn cups used were recycled last year. Other trials at universities have found charges are successful in decreasing the use of disposable cups.


‘Bacon’ doughnut

Crosstown are launching a limited-edition vegan maple bacon and banana doughnut after teaming up with meat substitute producer This.  

Chef it till you make it

The Times chats with Jason Atherton about his new BBC Two series, in which he travels with a group of 10 inexperienced but ambitious chefs to top European restaurants, attempting to mould them into a world-class kitchen team.


Sandwich-related listeria deaths continue

A sixth person has died as result of the listeria outbreak from pre-packaged sandwiches and salads served to patients in NHS hospitals. The infection was one of the nine cases previously confirmed and Public Health England said its investigation continues, while coroners are also examining the deaths. North Country Cooked Meats tested positive for the strain of listeria responsible for the outbreak and has stopped production.


TripAdvisor falls over itself… again

A French cafe has set out to trip up TripAdvisor by getting customers to post fake reviews about its superb gastronomy. La Java’s owner was previously ranked 112 out of 363 places to eat in Saint-Malo even though it doesn’t serve food. When the owner’s request to be removed from the list was ignored, he asked regulars to post fake reviews praising its non-existent food, propelling the cafe into the top 10.


Under new management

Unicorn Grocery, a co-op owned by 70 member directors, has an £8m turnover but a lack of hierarchy in terms of management. The Times takes a look at how this type of structure is looking to change the game for employees.


Owners of old London restaurant invest in the new

Lockets is a new cafe and wine bar coming to St James this autumn from the group behind one of London’s oldest restaurants, Wiltons. It will offer a daily changing menu with a focus on sustainable produce and include salads and sandwiches for lunch, while evening fare will consist of tapas-style small plates.


Pubs code is not up to scratch

The Pubs Code is failing to protect tenants, according to three quarters of publicans, who complained they weren’t being treated fairly or lawfully by landlords. A fifth also weren’t aware of that they were allowed to go on a market-rent-only deal, instead of being tied to buying products and services from the landlord.

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