Week on a Plate

The week digested: Ocado suffers second blaze and Greene King acquired by Chinese family

Catch up on the food news from August 19-23, including why peas are becoming the most popular plant-based protein.

23 August 2019
animal welfareplant-basedplasticpubsrestaurantssupermarkets

Microplastics are not a health risk

The World Health Organisation has said microplastics found in drinking water are not harmful to health at current levels, but more research is needed to understand how they spread in the environment and make their way into the human body. There are a number of threats microplastics could pose, such as physical risks, chemicals leached from degraded plastics and material being colonised by microorganisms, possibly leading to infection.


Hong Kong billionaire poised to acquire Greene King

Pub and beer company Greene King, which counts 2,700 pubs, restaurants and hotels in its stable, is being purchased for £2.7bn by Hong Kong’s richest family. Multibillionaire Li Ka-shing and his family control the CKA Group, already owns Superdrug and mobile operator Three, but its bid for Greene King was based on its confidence in the enduring British love of pubs. If the deal wins shareholder approval it should be completed in the fourth quarter of this year.


Supermarkets in Britain offer healthiest food

A study of 12 nations by the University of Oxford has found that British supermarkets offer the healthiest options of all, despite the nation’s ballooning obesity epidemic. The rankings were based on the levels of sugar, fat, salt and calories in everyday foods.


Peas feed meat alternative appetite

Consultant McKinsey has released a report claiming peas are the most popular source of alternative protein based on online queries, thanks to the price point and the low levels of environmental impact. Searches for pea protein have risen 30% in the last 15 years, while interest in soya has declined annually by 6%. In the report, McKinsey notes that while this does not reflect market sales, it is an indication of where consumer excitement lies.

image credit: Getty Images

Tesco reveals packaging plans

Tesco has warned suppliers that from next year it will no longer list products that contain too much non-recyclable packaging. It also has plans to tackle in-house problems after finding 13% of packaging used for own-brand products were hard to recycle, such as the black plastic used in microwaveable meals. The supermarket is trialling measures to reduce waste at its Extra store near Cambridge, including a loose-only fruit and veg aisle, with successful measures set to be rolled out across the chain. It is also using Terracycle's Loop scheme to reuse packaging. Chief executive Dave Lewis, writing for The Guardian, also called for the government to take a national approach to recycling as households face different rules depending on the area they live in.


Greggs CEO on the company’s delivery gambit

Greggs is opening its 2,000th store today. In honour of the occasion, The Telegraph talks to CEO Roger Whiteside about his transformation of the business over the past six years. It’s involved ditching the bread side of the business, overhauling the menu with healthy items and launching that viral hit, the vegan sausage roll. Whiteside reveals the new audience gained via the vegan roll has seen the business sell more pasties, sausage rolls, doughnuts and cakes than ever. He also chats about the plans to enter the takeaway dinner market and home delivery, along with other expansion plans.


Government to review hospital food

A government review has been launched into hospital food after six people died due to a listeria outbreak. It will examine the quality of food currently provided to both patients and staff and whether more hospitals can cater in-house, including changing kitchen facilities to bring in more chefs, using less frozen food, limiting junk food and sourcing local produce. The review brings some star power with The Great British Bake Off judge Prue Leith set to advise as she said unpalatable food was often served up in hospitals, which didn't aid recovery. New national standards are expected to be set following the review along with new systems to monitor food safety to restore public confidence.


Ocado suffers second blaze

Ocado has been hit by its second conflagration in a matter of months. Firefighters battled a blaze on Wednesday night at the retailer’s Erith site, after a small fire started in a skip for waste packaging outside the warehouse. Ocado was forced to cancel customer orders because of disruption to the picking process.


Morrisons moo-ves to save male calves as stores close

Morrison is introducing a new policy in October to guarantee a market for all male calves born on its dairy suppliers' farms, in order to stop them being killed or exported at birth. Instead, farmers will be required to rear the calves for 15 to 40 days until they are a certain weight and sell them to beef-rearing company Buitelaar. Morrisons hopes to encourage dairy farmers to use breeds where the male offspring is more suited to beef production, particularly as the supermarket believes consumers are interested in buying this type of meat due to its leanness. Co-op, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose also run schemes to collect calves from their dairy suppliers to prevent them being destroyed. The announcement was followed the next day by the news that Morrisons will close four stores in Crawley, Ince near Wigan, Shirley in Solihull and Swindon town centre after a review of the performance of its 494 stores.

image credit: Getty Images

The future for Jamie Oliver

Jamie Oliver has pledged to only strike commercial deals that help halve childhood obesity by 2030, while defending recent deals with Shell and Tesco, which he says were to make healthy food more available. The Jamie Oliver Group hopes to become B Corporation certified as part of plans to highlight its social and environmental concerns. Oliver has also been in the new this week after Marco Pierre White hit out at the Naked Chef, accusing him of being delusional for blaming Brexit on the demise of his chain of restaurants. He said Oliver should take responsibility for the failure while criticising the quality of the food and service.


Lidl and Ocado see significant sales growth

Lidl has bucked the bad stretch of summer weather to record a 7.7% increase in sales in the 12 weeks to August 22, helped by new store openings that attracted almost half a million more customers. Ocado was the fastest growing supermarket with sales up 12.6%, while the big four all lost market share. Tesco remains number one with a 27% piece of the pie, although that dropped from 27.4% a year ago. Sainsbury’s had improved but analysts at HSBC said it was largely voucher driven, which was unsustainable. Nearly half of UK households shopped in Aldi during the period, with the discounter growing sales by 6.2%


Food safety agencies butt heads

The European Food Safety Authority has warned that a small teaspoon of flaxseed could be dangerous for small children due to toxic levels of cyanide. The UK Food Standards Agency has responded by saying the advice was conservative and likely overestimated the risk.


Taking a toke of the cannabis business

The biggest cannabis manufacturers are committing to legal compliance and quality controls in Britain, as the Food Standards Agency indicated that it will enforce the European novel food directive even after Brexit. Meanwhile, over in the US farmers are predicting a profitable future in growing hemp.


Does a watermelon-based tuna alternative sound fishy?

Food Spark has previously reported on Island Poke's use of watermelon as a meat alternative. The Times takes a look at where the idea came from and taste tests the dish.


CBD bangers

A butcher in France believes he has created the world's first CBD-infused sausages – and they have been a sellout success, with 30kg snapped up in just three days.


Adjudicator resigns

The Pubs Code Adjudicator, Paul Newby, has resigned and will leave his position in May, claiming he faced a “pugnacious stakeholder environment” as campaigners questioned his effectiveness in the role.


Malaysia targets Britain’s palm oil prohibition

Malaysia’s prime minister has suggested a trade deal could be made with the UK as long as it relaxes current EU restrictions on imports of palm oil, which are prevented over environmental concerns. Malaysia argues that palm oil is no more damaging to climate and biodiversity than alternatives such as rapeseed and sunflower oils.

image credit: Getty Images

Weddings reclaim waste

Environmentally conscious couples using discarded but edible food to cater their wedding breakfasts.


Kosher deli to return to West End

Reubens, which closed earlier this year, will be reopened by the S Group, which owns a collection of London kosher cafes and restaurant brands. The popular deli shuttered due to a family bereavement, but under new ownership the space will undergo a makeover and relaunch in September with a new menu – although some old favourites will remain.


Notting Hill is London’s new dining mecca

The Evening Standard reckons Notting Hill has become a new foodie destination in London with a number of restaurants opening in the last 18 months including seafood restaurant Orasay, Caractère from Emily Roux, the second location of Martin Morales's Andina, LA-based sensation Eggslut, Greek spin-off Suzi Tros and 104 Restaurant. Tel Aviv-inspired Haya will also be setting up there.

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