Week on a Plate

The week digested: Tesco job cuts and Domino’s spends millions stockpiling ingredients

Catch up on the food news from August 5-9, including the UK’s first king prawn producer and Kraft Heinz’s sales struggles amid changing consumer tastes and own brand competition.

9 August 2019
image credit: Getty Images

Downsizing at Tesco

Tesco will axe 4,500 jobs from 153 high street Metro supermarkets in response to changes in customer habits, with 70% using the larger Metro stores for convenience shopping rather than weekly food shops. Remaining staff will be expected to use headsets to communicate across the shopfloor and less stock will be held at the back of stores, instead being loaded straight on to shelves when delivered. The supermarket chain will also reduce opening hours in 134 of its smaller neighbourhood Express stores due to lower footfall.


Sales woes for Kraft Heinz

Kraft Heinz has admitted its struggling to adapt to changing consumer tastes, as well as facing fierce competition from supermarket own brands, after it revealed that sales had dropped in the first half of the year by 4.8% to $12.4bn.


Sustainable prawns now available in the UK

FloGro Fresh is the first warm water king prawn producer in the UK, with the outfit offering prawns that are sustainably and ethically farmed. More than 81,000 tonnes of prawns and shrimp are imported into the UK each year, mostly from India, Vietnam, Thailand, Ecuador or Honduras, but these overseas industries are accused of using modern slavery and destroying marine ecosystems. FloGro Fresh uses a closed-loop aquaculture system that employs renewable energy – a combination of rooftop solar panels and wind power – and the prawn poo is used as fertiliser on the land. Yotam Ottolenghi’s Fitzrovia restaurant Rovi gets its prawns from the UK producer – but FloGro admits it can't meet demand at the moment. It is now setting up its own hatchery to increase production.


Healthy eating could be chucked out the window with no-deal Brexit

Unprecedented levels of disruption to food supply chains could see a dire shortage of fresh fruit and vegetables if a no-deal Brexit was to go ahead, warned a food policy expert. Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University, claimed healthy eating advice will have to be abandoned.  He added that the public was currently being kept in the dark about the government’s view on the gravity of the situation. But the government disputed the claims, saying robust measures were in place to ensure food supplies continued, even though the UK is heavily reliant on fruit and veg from the Mediterranean over the winter.


Calls to suspend competition laws

The British food and drink industry has requested the government suspend competition laws if a no-deal Brexit was to go ahead, so that companies can work together to prevent food shortages without being fined for collusion. Meanwhile, French fisherman have threatened to blockade Calais if they are not allowed to fish in British waters after a no-deal Brexit – a move that would affect all goods trying to cross the border.


Pizza profits still impacted by franchisee dispute at Domino’s

Domino's has invested £7m to stockpile ingredients like tomato sauce from Portugal, frozen chicken, pineapple and tuna to protect itself in the case of a no-deal Brexit. Meanwhile, its chief executive David Wild is due to step down once a successor is found after a long running dispute between franchisees holders over the share of profits. Wild warned that the dispute is likely to continue until 2020, as he reported a 27% fall in profits in the UK with only seven new sites opened in the last six months.


UN report identifies meat eating and food waste as big impacts on climate change

Another report has come out recommending meat consumption be cut and food waste prevented to reduce climate change. It warned that food security would increasingly be affected by climate change through reduced nutrient quality and yield declines. It comes from the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which called for more sustainable use of land, revealing about 25% to 30% of food produced globally is wasted and that this accounts for between 8% and 10% of manmade greenhouse gas emissions. It recommended governments tackle food waste by encouraging improved harvesting techniques, educating consumers and ensuring better packaging, transport and storage on farms. If the world’s population shifted to a more plant-based diet, emissions could fall by up 8bn tonnes a year and human health would improve, the report added. 


Sea urchin a new seafood star in UK restaurants

Food Spark has flagged the use of sea urchin in British restaurants over the past 18 months and The Times reports the creature is swimming into the culinary mainstream. Supplier T&S Enterprise says sales are booming with close to 6,000kg being delivered to restaurants compared to 1,500kg a decade ago, with the proportion of non-Japanese buyers growing by 20%. Michelin-starred restaurant Trinity in Clapham adds sea urchin to pasta and risotto during the season.


Customers could vote to keep favourite Eat products

Eat boss Andrew Walker is stepping down from his role to pursue other opportunities just three months after selling the chain to Pret. Mike Rainer, Eat’s finance chief, will step into the role to lead the integration of the two companies and revealed customers may be able to vote to keep their favourite Eat items, such as its chicken pot pie and Italian meatball soups.


Eggslut opens in London

The Evening Standard charts the growth of Eggslut from street food truck to sites in California, Las Vegas, Beirut and Kuwait, and now London as it opened its doors this week. It talks to the founder about the food, its controversial name and its entry into the UK market.


Ramen slurps its way into popularity

The Times looks at the rise of ramen restaurants in the UK, pondering whether sushi has reached its peak. It talks to ramen operators such as Kanada-Ya, Tonkotsu, Bone Daddies and Shoryu Ramen.


Rise in alcohol-free drinking sees Diageo invest in Seedlip

Diageo has bought a majority stake in the non-alcoholic spirit company Seedlip, predicting the brand will become a global drinks giant, with it already served in more than 7,500 outlets in 25 countries, including more than 300 Michelin-starred restaurants. Its non-alcoholic clear spirit is distilled from herbs, peas, hay and botanicals and is designed to be mixed with tonic as a substitute for gin or vodka. With teetotalism and health conscious drinkers on the rise, the non-alcoholic drinks market is booming.


Atomik vodka produced from Chernobyl grain

Speaking of booze, British scientists have created a new vodka out of rye growing within the 1,000 square mile exclusion zone at Chernobyl – but have used a fermentation process to ensure any radiation is wiped out. Aptly named Atomik, the scientists are setting up The Chernobyl Spirit Company with 75% of the profits set to go back to locals, with hopes to produce 500 bottles of the vodka this year.


Tongue taster to detect fraudulent food and drink

In more research news, scientists have developed an artificial tongue that could help fight counterfeit products by being trained to detect whether a product is fake. The researchers from the University of Glasgow trialled the technology using whisky and initially envisioned it being used for quality control and maintenance on a production line. After testing, they can also see applications further afield like identifying poisons.


Cheeseboard art trends on Instagram

The Telegraph examines the new Instagram trend for making cheeseboards look like art. It’s a growing industry too, with around 150 companies offering the a ‘cheesboarding’ service in the UK, including grazing tables at a cost of £295 per metre.


McDonald’s cardboard straws can’t be recycled

Nearly 2m cardboard straws from McDonald’s have ended up the incinerator as the fast food chain found they could not be recycled. The company blamed the lack of recycling infrastructure in the UK and said it was working on finding a sustainable solution, adding no straws had ended up in landfill.


Is aluminium actually environmentally friendly?

Sales of water in a can have increased fivefold in the past year as people look for environmentally friendly alternatives to plastic. However, environmental think tank The Green Alliance questioned its sustainability credentials as aluminium plants also produce red mud, a toxic by-product that contains heavy metals and is stored in vast reservoirs. The Alliance said if half the UK’s plastic water bottles were replaced with cans, mining the aluminium could generate 162,010 tonnes of toxic waste, enough to fill the Royal Albert Hall more than six times.


Slow delivery growth has analysts quizzing the Marks & Spencer and Ocado tie-up

Analysts have questioned whether the Marks & Spencer and Ocado deal is necessary, given online delivery accounts for little more than 5% of the UK food market and is no longer showing much growth.


Grasshopper pizza on offer as LA is invaded by the pest

A Las Vegas pizza restaurant has introduced a roasted grasshopper topping to the menu as the insects invade the city. The restaurant, Evel Pie, has created the Canyon Hopper, which consists of baked goat’s cheese, caramelised onions, chorizo, rocket and the garlic and lime insect topping.


TripAdvisor reviews questioned

Chef and former finalist of BBC's Masterchef competition Andrew Kojima has accused the former operations manager of The Ivy Collection of negatively reviewing his restaurant Koj on TripAdvisor. The website determined that the review, along with a number of others associated with the account, had breached its guidelines.


Good and bad news for coffee drinkers

Three caffeinated drinks a day from coffee to tea to cola could increase the risk of having a migraine, a new study has found. Meanwhile, another study showed that coffee won't affect a person's sleep, particularly those who are used to a late night brew.


Could guerrilla animal rights activists be counted as extremists?

A farmer has accused animal rights activists of killing hundreds of pheasant chicks when they raided the Kent farm overnight and police are now investigating. Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance which supports game-bird shooting, has written to home secretary Priti Patel, asking her to include animal rights extremism in a commission examining extremism.


Uproar over raising taxes on meat in Germany

The German government has floated the idea of an almost 20% levy on meat to encourage people to cut down on consumption – which would raise the price of a bratwurst from 29c to €2.88 – but the proposal was swiftly shelved after outcry from the opposition party. However, it has raised debate over the way food is taxed in the country, with 7% levied on meat products – contributing to unsustainable farming practices – while baby food, restaurants meals and mineral water are charged 19%.

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