Week on a Plate

The week digested: McDonald’s debuts vegan nuggets and creditors approve Giraffe CVA

Catch up on the food news from March 18-22, including the £1bn price cut pledge from Sainsbury’s and how diet affects mental health.

22 March 2019
chainsfast foodhealthrestaurantssupermarketsvegan

£1bn in price cuts pledged if Sainsbury’s-Asda merger is approved

Sainsbury's and Asda have promised to deliver £1bn in price cuts for shoppers by lowering the cost of everyday groceries by 10% if their proposed merger is approved, saying they will publish an annual breakdown to demonstrate they are fulfilling the pledge. Some newspapers are calling the move a last-ditch gambit to get the deal approved with reasonable terms by the Competition and Market Authority, whose provisional findings on the tie-up evinced concern about price hikes, reduced quality and range of products.


CVAs agreed for Giraffe and Ed’s Easy Diner

Creditors have approved company voluntary agreements for Giraffe and Ed’s Easy Diner, which will see 21 locations of the former and six of the latter close. Rent cuts will take place at 17 other sites. Boparan Restaurant Group (BRG), which owns the brands, is likely to inject £10m into Giraffe Concepts. The business last year made an underlying loss of about £3.6m.


Chick’n McNuggets?

McDonald's has debuted a vegan alternative to its chicken nuggets, swapping out the poultry for a mix of potato, chickpeas, onions, carrot and corn. No chances for Brits to get their hands on these meat-free morsels yet though – the product is currently being trialled in select Norway outlets only.

Fire fails to singe Ocado’s value

Ocado's revenue increased by 11.2% year-on-year to £404m in the 13 weeks to March 3, despite a fire ravaging its Andover warehouse. While the blaze saw it lose 1.2% of sales, the online retailer said the cause wasn't a long-term problem with its depots or robots.


Domino’s bust-up continues to take a slice out of openings

In the latest news to come out of the row between Domino’s and its franchisees, the pizza brand said on Monday that it is not misleading investors over the actions it is taking to solve the disagreement, which centres on profit sharing. The company’s retort comes after a group of store owners said that any suggestions that a resolution was in sight were untrue. The Domino’s fracas has seen a notable slowdown in new openings, forcing the chain to curb its ambitious targets. Only 59 new sites were unveiled last year compared to 95 in 2017, but even that is more positive than the outlook so far for 2019: the first quarter saw only a third as many openings as the year before.


Are restaurants ready to trim the fat?

The Guardian takes a look at whether chefs are prepared to cut the calories from dishes by 20% by 2024 as ordered by Public Health England. The paper speaks to Mowgli owner Nisha Katona, who is currently having the calories counted in her 30 dishes, about her approach to using lower-fat ingredients during recipe development. Other chefs voice concerns that eating out is meant to be a treat and the PHE rules could adversely impact the sector.


KFC readies to launch vegan options

Food waste, veganism and low-calorie meals are all being targeted by KFC as areas for food development, according to an article in The Telegraph. The fried chicken brand began heavily promoting its 500-calorie rice box option in January and is planning to unveil the results of its vegan experimentation later this year.

Supermarket sales slow in February

While UK shoppers were happy to splash out in clothing and household retailers, the news wasn't so good for supermarkets when it came to food spend. February saw the biggest drop in monthly sales since December 2016 as the termination of January promotions affected sales volumes, according to the Office for National Statistics.


How does food affect the mind?

Nutritional psychiatry is a relatively new field of research into the link between diet and mental health. The Guardian takes a look at what is happening in this area, including the benefits of cutting down on red meat and focusing on the gut microbiome.


Why are ancient grains cropping up in diets?

The Telegraph travels to Doves Farm to knead some dough and discover why ancient grains – crops not extensively changed through selective breeding – are regaining popularity. According to the article: “There’s the fightback against processed food. Organic food is up, often coinciding with a will for variety – a recent report included ancient grains in a list of foods we should eat more of to preserve planetary health. We want better quality, too, and a backstory to boot – witness the rise of craft beer and artisanal cheese.”

image credit: Getty Images

Studying sugar for bowel cancer links

A study on mice has found that sugary drinks feed intestinal tumours, with the glucose and fructose present in the beverages helping them to grow. The scientists behind the research believe their analysis explains the possible link between sugary drinks and bowel cancer, but other academics have pointed out that the discovery may not translate to humans.


Campaigners unimpressed by Walkers’ packaging progress

Environmental campaigners have scoffed at Walkers' news that it has recycled half a million crisp packets, saying the manufacturer makes 11m products a day. Walkers said 8,500 recycling collection points have been created since December and packets already recycled could create 250 benches. UK consumers eat 6bn packets of crisps a year.


Heinz scores highest for traditional condiments

The Guardian takes a tour of the condiments aisle to find the best tasting mayonnaise, ketchup, brown sauce, sriracha and mustards – both English and French. Heinz tops the ranking for mayo and ketchup, while Asda performs well in the English mustard category. None of the brands examined, however, manage more than three stars for their sriracha – time to spice things up?


Hot tea could be a cancer risk

A nice, hot tea could be bad for health, according to a study of 50,000 people by the American Cancer Society. The organisation’s research found that drinking a daily 700ml dose of beverages at 60 degrees Celsius or hotter nearly doubles the risk of developing disease of the gullet. The study follows a World Health Organisation warning in 2016 that suggested an increased cancer risk associated with drinks above 65 degrees. Before you toss your brew down the sink, a health information officer at Cancer Research UK responded to the study by saying that, while the evidence is compelling, “most people in the UK don't drink their tea at such high temperatures.”


MasterChef winner to open restaurant of British classics

Last year’s MasterChef champ, Kenny Tutt, is opening his first restaurant. The menu at Pitch in West Sussex will centre on his version of classic British dishes, including squab pigeon breast, beetroot turnip and spiced cherry, and his grandmother’s faggot recipe with lamb cannon. The Times also takes a look back at what previous MasterChef winners are doing now.

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