Week on a Plate

The week digested: Pret turns popular sarnies vegan and Lidl pledges £15bn to British suppliers

Catch up on the food news from October 14-18, including oat-based ice creams and Waitrose’s own-label vegan bacon.

18 October 2019
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Discounter sales rise a billion

Lidl has pledged to spend £15bn with British suppliers over the next five years and increase sales of UK sourced meat, poultry and fresh produce to at least 10% over the 12 months. The discount retailer is also looking to shore up longer-term contracts with suppliers and launch a young farmers programme to promote new talent in the industry. Lidl was the fastest growing retailer in the last quarter, according to Kantar figures, which indicate that the German discounters have grown their sales by a combined £1bn in the past year at the expense of more established retailers.


PizzaExpress safe from CVA

Suggestions that PizzaExpress could be headed for a CVA or administration have been dismissed by insiders, as the public launched a campaign on social media to save the chain. PizzaExpress has denied claims it is planning mass restaurant closures and insisted 95% of its branches are profitable.  


Domino’s seeks to cut loose European business

Domino’s is looking to sell its EU arm, which encompasses around 90 shops across Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, as the division is not profitable. Analysts predict the business could sell for between £20m and £40m, despite £130m having been invested in it over the years. Here in the UK, the group reported like-for-like sales were up by 3%.


Pret’s vegan makeover

Pret has given four of its most popular sandwiches a vegan makeover, including its tuna baguette and egg mayo baguette, the BLT and the hoisin duck wrap. Nine months of development have resulted in chickpeas replacing tuna (flavoured with chopped pickled onions, capers and a hint of seaweed to mimic the texture and flavour of the fish) and tofu subbing in for egg. Shiitake mushrooms have been used to replicate bacon and chestnut mushrooms to replicate duck. Initially, the new products will only be sold in Veggie Pret shops, after the sandwich chain used an Instagram poll to find out what products customers most wanted to be turned vegan.

Waitrose brings in the vegan bacon

On the subject of vegan bacon, Waitrose has released a version made from seitan, responding to a 94% increase in searches for the product on its site.


October’s oat-based ice cream battle

Jude’s may have pipped them to the post (just), but oat milk makers Oatly must be hoping that brand recognition can see its vegan oat-milk-based ice cream freeze out the competition.


Ramsay stakes restaurant on rare breed meat

Gordon Ramsay has opened a steak restaurant in Mayfair next door to his Asian outfit, Lucky Cat. The new restaurant, called Bar and Grill, takes inspiration from American grills and features an all-day menu with an emphasis on rare breed steak. Other dishes include smashed avocado with sweet potato crisps, beef Wellington and a vegetarian burger featuring Truffle Tremor cheese and truffle aioli.


Prosecco crisps seized

Prosecco-flavoured Pringles have been targeted by Italian authorities who say the use of the sparkling wine term breaches EU law, with raids across supermarkets to seize hundreds of tubes. Like champagne and Plymouth gin, prosecco has protected geographical status, which means that it can only be applied on labelling for sparkling wine produced with certain grapes in the northeast of Italy.

Mussel fatigue

The Guardian examines the issue of mussels mysteriously dying in areas like the US and Spain. The molluscs are the backbone of the river ecosystem because they control silt levels and filter water.


EU farmers strike back against plant-based lifestyles

A new campaign group dubbed European Livestock Voice, which represents EU farmers, argues meat and farmed animals are wrongly blamed for the climate crisis and the debate has been one-sided. It said livestock’s contribution to delivering locally produced food, biodiversity, bioenergy and the rural economy has been overlooked, while switching to plant-based foods was not the answer as they also have their own environmental footprint. The group said the livestock sector accounts for less than 6% of the EU’s total climate emissions and suggested replacing fossil fuels with green alternatives was a better way to address climate change.


Meat eating gets reality check

A new reality TV show on Channel 4 requires meat eaters to adopt a farm animal, take it home and care for it for three weeks – then eat it if they choose not to go vegetarian. Airing in the New Year, Channel 4 said the show will confront the reality of an animal’s journey from field to plate and also examine issues like farming practices, the environmental impact of the meat industry and animal intelligence.


New Asda employment terms lead to stand-off

Hundreds of Asda staff protested outside the supermarket’s Leeds headquarters after it was reported around 12,000 workers risk losing their jobs next month unless they sign a new contract that will see them forfeit paid breaks and be forced to work bank holidays, according to union representatives.


Deliveroo investment questioned by CMA

Amazon’s estimated investment of £500m in Deliveroo is being investigated by the competition watchdog to see whether it could unfairly affect the takeaway delivery market. An initial inquiry will take place before a decision is made in December as to whether to take the matter further. The regulator expressed concerns that the two companies had ceased to be distinct, while Deliveroo said it would cooperate fully with the investigation, adding the minority investment would help create jobs, aid restaurant businesses to grow, improve choice for customers and enhance competition in the UK food delivery sector.


Currywurst a ‘national assault’

Prominent German chef Tim Raue has ignited a furore after claiming that processed food such as the German speciality currywurst, which sells 70m portions a year, is contributing to a rise in allergies in the country. He described the national dish as a horror verging on “national assault” as it barely contains any meat, urging Germans to go plant-based.


Putting CBD under the microscope

The Guardian goes on a potentially trippy experiment as they set out to try all the CBD products on the UK market, following the release of American research that found that almost 70% of products sold online under- or over-labelled their dosages.


Emerging markets fall flat for Unilever

Unilever reported 2.9% sales growth in the third quarter, failing to meet market expectations. This was blamed on a fall in ice cream sales and problems in emerging markets like China, India and Argentina. Online shopping and discounters continue to place pressures on pricing in the UK market, added the company. Meanwhile, Nestle reported 3.7% sales growth.


Plastic proposal for beer giant

Carlsberg could be ditching plastics after it developed two prototypes for paper-based beer bottles that can be pulped and recycled after use, although its ultimate aim is to create biodegradable cans and bottles. A Danish start-up called Paboco made the prototypes and is also working on designs for Coca-Cola and Absolut vodka. Carlsberg’s additional initiatives include using naturally decomposing glue rather than plastic rings and aims to halve carbon emissions from its breweries by 2022. 


Clearing up the coffee cups

Both McDonald’s and Starbucks have invested millions into plastic packaging research, including through Closed Loop Partners, as the businesses seek out alternative to unrecyclable coffee cups.


Sustainability message resonating with John Lewis customers

John Lewis has released sales figures that show more of its shoppers are spending on reusable water bottles and straws. Purchases of portable cutlery alone has risen 176%.

image credit: Getty Images

Brexit prompts more pints, less meals

Consumers are eating less and drinking more, as Brexit-related concerns impact the pub trade, according to Marston’s. The group, which owns 1,500 pubs, noted that increased drinks spend was offset by decreased food spend, leading to lowers profits than expected.


Syrian brunch

The Telegraph profiles Mo’s Eggs, a monthly pop-up by Syrian refugee Mohammed Rahimeh. “London’s hottest brunch club” serves eggs, salads and hummus spiced with Middle Eastern flavours.


Service stations fail to keep pace with foodie Britain  

Jay Rayner laments how the UK food revolution has missed the likes of public transport and motorway service stations. “There are sugar-spiked muffins, and dismal croissants so flaccid no form of culinary Viagra would ever get them up again,” he writes.


Democratising dishes

The Guardian takes a look at how the Internet has changed cooking, democratising the way recipes and new meal ideas can be delivered to people, rather than just through well-known chefs on cooking shows.

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