Week on a Plate

The week digested: Waitrose appoints new executive chef

Catch up on the food news from 3-7 February, including delays to the Just Eat/Takeaway.com merger and a potential EU meat tax.

7 February 2020

Just Eat and Takeaway.com merger on hold

The long-awaited merger between Just Eat and Takeaway.com hit further delays this week after the competition watchdog ordered the two delivery businesses must kept separate pending its investigation. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published a so-called ‘initial enforcement order’ on Tuesday (4th February), despite the shares of the two firms already being combined and trading on the London Stock Exchange. Any interested parties were aske to comment on the merger this week.


Veganuary hits new heights

More than 400,000 people worldwide signed up for Veganuary this year, a significant increase on last year’s previous record 250,000, according to the UK-based movement. The initiative coincided with the launch of a plethora of new plant-based products from the likes of KFC, McDonald’s and Greggs. Toni Vernelli, a Veganuary spokesperson, said: “With the link between animal farming and the climate crisis making headlines nearly every day, we expected Veganuary 2020 to be the biggest yet, but it exceeded all our expectations.”


Martyn Lee joins Waitrose as Executive Chef

Tesco’s senior development chef Martyn Lee has joined Waitrose & Partners as its new executive chef, heading up the retailer’s new Waitrose Food Innovation Studio. Lee will be responsible for leading Waitrose’s development chefs who are based at the £1.5m studio in Bracknell, opened by HRH The Prince of Wales last year.


Arrival of new Tesco CEO delayed

In other people news, the arrival of Tesco’s new chief executive Ken Murphy has been delayed until October due to a non-compete agreement from his former employer Walgreens Boots Alliance. The news means it will be a full year after his appointment was announced that he finally joins Britain’s biggest supermarket chain. Tesco’s Thailand and Malaysia operations are also the subject of a bidding war from three Thai billionaires in an auction that could value the division at as much as $7bn.


Compass Group revenues climb on North American growth

London-listed food service firm Compass Group this week reported a 5.3% increase in Q4 revenues following strong growth from the company’s North American business. The rise was ahead of City forecasts of 5% for the three months ended 31 December 2019, although the group announced weakening trading in Europe.


Australia’s banana production hit by disease

A suspected case of a potentially devastating disease, known as Panama TR4, to banana crops has been detected in a region that supplies over 90% of the fruit to Australia. The disease was detected at a far north Queensland banana farm, with farmers now being encouraged to maintain strict biosecurity practices.


Domino’s UK sales up 4% as international business stutters

Domino’s Pizza Group’s like-for-like UK sales increased 3.9% in Q4 2019, although the pizza delivery company’s international sales were down 5% and said it expects a full-year operating loss of approximately £20m. Earlier this week, the company revealed its hopes of finding a single buyer for its operations in Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden had ended.


EU mulls introduction of meat tax to tackle climate emergency

The European Union (EU) has come under pressure to introduce a levy on meat, which would increase the price of a steak by approximately 25%, to help offset its environmental impact. According to a report from Dutch advocacy group Tapp Coalition, a new tax was needed to help lower meat consumption across Europe and reduce CO2 emissions. 


Size of oysters shrinking

The size of oysters has shrunk by approximately 50% and are becoming increasingly lighter amid fears over climate change, according to the Royal Society journal Biology Letters. An article in The Times claimed shellfish were getting smaller because oceans are absorbing carbon dioxide at an unprecedented rate.


Bumblebees face mass extinction

In other climate change news, a report has found that bumblebees are facing mass extinction due to rising temperatures and are on course to be wiped out in just a “few decades”. Bumblebees, which are the key pollinators of many fruits and vegetables, declined substantially between 2000-2014 and the likelihood of a bee being found in any given place in Europe and North America has fallen by a third since the 1970s.


EU draws red line on fishing rights

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has told the UK that fishing rights, as well as some European regulations, must be on he table if an “ambitious” trade deal is going to be signed. “There will be no trade deal with the British if there is no reciprocal access deal for our fishermen ... I hope I make myself clear,” Barnier told French radio this week.


The implications of a US-UK trade deal

In The Guardian this week, the newspaper looked at what a transatlantic trade deal between the UK and the US could mean with regards to food. Among the topics discussed are chlorinated chicken and the use of glysophate, antibiotics and steroids by American food producers.


Should cows be on a diet?

Cows put on a diet produce milk which is naturally lower in saturated fat, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. As part of the study, researchers fed the animals a vegetable oil with a fatty acid profile similar to that of olive oil, meaning the milk was higher in the healthier monosaturated fat.

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