Week on a Plate

The week digested: Sainsbury’s announces till-free store and Beyond Meat value soars to $3.8bn

Catch up on the food news from April 29-May 3, including Pret’s anti-allergen plans and the veggie wraps boosting the McDonald’s bottom line.

3 May 2019
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Sainsbury’s trials till-free store

Sainsbury’s has taken the plunge and launched the UK’s “first till-free grocery store.” Shoppers can scan products on their smartphone and pay via an app at the Holborn Circus site, where 80% of transactions are already cashless. The innovation will be trialled for three months. Simultaneously, the breakfast and lunch offerings and food-to-go options have been revamped within the store.


Pre-tax profits dive at UK’s second largest retailer

In less exciting news for Sainsbury’s, annual pre-tax profits slumped by 41.6% to £239m, thanks to the £46m bill for its failed merger with Asda and other one-off costs. Overall, total sales rose 2.1%, netting the retailer £32.4bn, though established stores saw a 0.2% drop over the year. Underlying profits did grow by 7%, with strong food sales contributing to the boost. Boss Mike Coupe said the supermarket was now focusing on lowering prices on core commodities and investing £100m across 400 stores, including on digital technology like mobile phone payments. 


Meat alternative company doubles its value in hours

Beyond Meat’s debut on the American stock exchange saw shares jump 150% after trading began, rocketing the company’s worth from $1.5bn to $3.8bn.


Pret launches anti-allergen measures – at a significant cost

Pret A Manger has said it will include a full list of ingredients on its freshly made products, with the roll out of the new labelling starting this week. The process should be completed in all 400 stores by the end of the summer. More than 70 products are also going to be reformulated to remove allergens – as long as it won’t affect a product’s quality or taste. The chain is also introducing other measures like a tablet in each store, which will include detailed information about ingredients, and it will also publish quarterly food safety reports. These measures are purportedly going to cost the chain 1-2% of sales.


Veggie wraps and bacon both contribute to McDonald’s sales

Vegetarian wraps and Big Macs with bacon have proved popular among Brits, contributing to a 6% gain in comparable sales for McDonald's outside the US, largely coming from the UK and France. This has helped McDonald's report its 15th consecutive quarter of growth globally, while British sales records for McDonald's were broken in March. The fast- food giant is currently introducing an iced latte to its McCafe menu. 


Cereal suffers as breakfast habits change

Changing breakfast habits have put Kellogg’s sales under pressure, as more consumers opt for grab-and-go bites while chains like McDonald’s muscle in on the sector. Shares in the company fell on Thursday after the conglomerate announced both the departure of its CFO and flat like-for-like sales in the first quarter of 2019.


Ivy Collection increases turnover

The Ivy Collection is one of the few chains bucking casual dining woes, reporting an increase in turnover of 124% to £98.5m for the year to July 29, amid plans to open three new restaurants in Oxford, Glasgow and Cardiff.


Best of the BBQs

Some of the UK’s top chefs tell The Telegraph their favourite barbecues, from the Big Green Egg (Josh Katz of Berber & Q uses it for “low and slow” cooking) and the Napoleon Charcoal Professional (Michelin-starred Chris Galvin appreciates the smokiness the equipment imbues), to the Konro yakitori grill (favoured by Remi Williams of Smoke & Salt as well as Heston Blumenthal).


California debuts environmental surcharge

If Californian diners feel like a juicy steak but are worried about their environmental footprint, a new scheme is being adopted by restaurants where an optional 1% surcharge is added to the bill. The money goes towards a fund to help farmers reduce carbon in their food production. Already, 25 restaurants have signed up to the initiative, which was started by a San Franciscan chef, Anthony Myint, who predicts climate-friendly meals will be the next big trend.


New boss of Wagamama parent announced

The Restaurant Group (Wagamama, Frankie & Benny’s) has a new boss in Andy Hornby, who has been appointed to the chief executive position after previously working at HBOS, Asda and George clothing.


Pressure cook your way to Indian eating

Madhur Jaffrey has released a new cookbook that looks at how to use pressure cookers to create authentic Indian cuisine. “The idea of traditional Indian food being prepared with the help of a pressure cooker is not new or alien to me or any Indian. For at least the last forty years, almost every middle-class Indian household has had one, two or even three pressure cookers whistling away in their kitchens,” writes the 85-year-old icon in the book’s introduction.


Fruit and veg cellulose could help dieters

A diet pill that is designed to be taken before eating and releases cellulose made from fruit and veg into a person’s gut could help people lose weight by making them feel full quicker. The manufacturers of the pill claim it could help millions after successful trials.


Publicans rail against pubs code ‘failure’

Amid ongoing complaints about the so-called ‘beer tie’ and the ineffectiveness of recent legislation to address publican concerns, The Times claims that a government consultation on regulation changes was launched this week. Recent figures show that pubs are closing at a rate of one every 12 hours in the UK.


Freezing out ice cream vans

Concerns over air pollution, not childhood obesity, are behind London councils banning ice cream vans operating on their streets. The engines have to remain switched on even while parked in order to keep the freezers cold.


Food insecurity affects 10m

Research has shown that over 10m people in the UK have experienced food insecurity. The probability of being unable to afford meals has almost doubled in recent years due to low incomes.


Young chefs encouraged to create zero waste

The third annual Young Chef Competition is hoping to combat the impact of Brexit – 20,000 chefs leave the industry a year – by encouraging those aged under 30 to engage with the industry. Each contestant must submit a four-course menu that costs £45 per head. Other requirements include utilising ethical produce and incorporating a zero-waste philosophy.


‘Pester power’ and its effect on overweight children

Educating parents could be the key to combatting obesity, judging by the results of a pilot health scheme in Leeds. The programme, which costs councils £50 per family, teaches those with children how to combat the “pester power around snacks.” While other cities in England saw obesity rates among 5-year-olds remain at 9.4% between 2013-14 and 2016-17, Leeds saw its percentage drop to 8.8. Most notably, those from deprived backgrounds benefited especially from the scheme. The public health minister, Seema Kennedy, is reportedly examining the results in advance of the release of a green paper to prevent obesity in toddlers, set to appear this summer. Kennedy also revealed that nine in 10 toddlers are consuming too much sugar and she plans to focus more on the pre-school years of a child’s life.


High on shrimp

Prawns in parts of rural UK have a drug problem, with researchers finding that shrimps tested had traces of cocaine and ketamine. This could cause a risk to wildlife but more research is required.


Attica chef plays mind games with meat eaters

Chef Ben Shewry, who owns Australian restaurant Attica (ranked at number 20 on the World’s Best Restaurant list), talks about sustainable seafood, experimenting with insects and the plant-based meat they secretly serve up to diners as part a little mind game.


Ocado shareholders outraged by management pay

A quarter of Ocado shareholders voted against the directors’ remuneration policy. The online grocer pledged to consult on pay matters in the future.

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