Week on a Plate

The week digested: new allergen data and BK’s plant-based burger

Catch up on the food news from November 11-15, including Galaxy’s vegan chocolate bar range and fish-based bioplastic.

15 November 2019
Christmasdessertfast foodfree-fromrestaurantssupermarketsvegan

Allergen alert

NHS Digital figures have revealed a 72% rise over the last five years in the number of children hospitalised by severe allergic rations. The coroner in the case of Owen Carey, who died after consuming a burger that contained buttermilk while celebrating his 18th birthday, said restaurant menus must be forced to display clear allergen information to avoid future deaths.


Burger King launches plant-based burger in Europe

This Tuesday saw Burger King unleash its plant-based Rebel Whopper in 25 countries, including Germany, Spain and Italy. Dismissing Beyond Meat, Nestle’s Awesome Burger and Impossible Foods (which BK works with in America), the fast-food chain elected to go instead with Unilever’s Vegetarian Butcher brand for its European push. Brits, however, will have to wait till next year for a chance to taste it.


Vegan Galaxy bar heading for the UK

Mars is to launch a vegan version of Galaxy next week, in the first move by a major confectionery brand towards offering plant-based alternatives to mainstream milk chocolate. The new variant will be available in three flavours: smooth orange, caramel and sea salt, and caramelised hazelnut.


Vegan ice cream burger launched by Ben & Jerry’s

Ben & Jerry’s have teamed up with vegan food collective Bosh to create the vegan ‘Im-bosh-ible’ ice cream burger. Available from November 1-30 in Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops across Europe, the burger is made up of a soft vegan brioche roll, topped with speculoos spread, Ben & Jerry’s vegan ice cream and caramel sauce.

image credit: via Ben & Jerry's UK Instagram

Chilango considers administration

The Mexican chain Chilango has employed a restructuring firm to look at various business options for the brand, including a company voluntary agreement or administration. The news has raised concerns that customers who invested in so-called ‘burrito bonds’ may lose their money.


Amazon explores its bricks-and-mortar options

Amazon has confirmed it will be launching a branded grocery store in Los Angeles next year. This store will purportedly include a traditional till system (as opposed to the till-free Amazon Go stores) and have cheaper prices than Whole Foods.


Aldi and Lidl sales continue to soar

German-owned discount supermarket duo Aldi and Lidl accounted for almost three-quarters of the £500m extra grocery sales recorded last month, according to Nielsen, with sales for Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons all dropping.


Bioplastic made from fish offcuts

A 24-year-old graduate in product design has won the James Dyson Award for her biodegradable bioplastic, which is made from organic fish waste. The product, dubbed MarinaTex, was praised for providing a solution to two big environmental concerns: plastic packaging and food waste.


Meal replacement company doubles revenue but makes a loss

Revenue at British meal replacement company Huel more than doubled from £14m to £39.8m in the year to January 2019, but its increased costs – particularly on marketing and recruitment – have resulted in a £3m loss. “I think we’ll see probably over the next year or two that coming steadily back towards the ambition of breaking even and then being profitable,” said Nick Smith, Huel’s chief financial officer. “Everything we spend is with the focus of a return on investment.”


Christmas fare – whose is best?

The Telegraph is ramping up its Christmas taste tests, assessing smoked salmon, Christmas cakes and chocolate yule logs this week. In the fish stakes, Sainsbury’s scored full marks for its Taste the Difference Hebridean kiln-dried salmon, tying with the Tesco Finest ‘strong and robust’ Scottish option. Sainsbury’s also did well with its yule log, taking top spot with Daylesford (available via Abel & Cole) – both had opted for clementine and chocolate iterations. When it came to Christmas cakes, however, Sainsbury’s had to settle for fourth place for its Taste the Difference Iced Holly Wreath, coming in behind Aldi’s Specially Selected version, Morrisons’ poinsettia-decorated centrepiece and Waitrose’s No.1 Richly Fruited – the only cake to score a full five marks.

Veg aversion blamed on genes

Scientists have said that people who have a specific gene are repulsed by certain vegetables. Those with two copies of the gene TAS2R38 taste a “ruin-your-day level of bitterness” when eating the likes of cabbage, broccoli and sprouts.


Sainsbury’s heading for Australia amid lawsuit at home

Sainsbury’s has agreed a deal to sell groceries in Australia, with the supermarket continuing to explore new areas for potential growth in response to increased pressure from competitors and a changing consumer environment in the UK. Symptomatic of the domestic issues, the retailer is currently embroiled in a lawsuit over whether it breached a contract with a property development company in Cambridgeshire in 2015, after it decided not to proceed with opening a proposed site given the turbulent climate.


Greggs continues to rake in profit

Bakery chain Greggs have upgraded their profit forecast for the fifth time in a year, despite fears of a slowdown in trading. Investors had been told just last month of a surprise slowdown in sales growth in the third quarter, but recent trading is said to have held up well against sales from the same period last year. “More and more people are recognising that Greggs is a lot more than sausage rolls,” said CEO Roger Whitesdale, while acknowledging that a lot of the buzz around the brand was due to its, erm, vegan sausage roll.


Mr Kipling announces pre-tax profits

Premier Foods secured £15m of pre-tax profits for the six months to September 28, compared with a £2.2m loss in the same period last year. This is being attributed to rejuvenated sales of its Mr Kipling cake brand, which underwent a relaunch over 2018/2019.


Wet weather causing potato panic

Farmers have been unable to harvest close to half of the annual crop of British potatoes due to prolonged wet weather, according to the president of the National Farmers’ Union, with harvesting machinery useless on sodden ground. Thousands of tonnes of potatoes could be left to rot with Britain facing a shortage in shops.

image credit: Getty Images


Plant-based milk is being delivered via robot in Milton Keynes. The milk round is a test of tech start-up Starship’s six-wheeled gizmos, which can carry up to 10kg of shopping and have previously been tested by Just Eat and Co-op.


What killed America’s biggest milk processor?

The biggest milk processor in the United States has filed for bankruptcy, citing changing consumer tastes and tough competition as reasons for the insurmountable debt burden that has led to its demise. Figures from the US Department of Agriculture show that traditional milk consumption in the country is in decline, as alternatives like almond and soy steal market share.


Pitt Cue Co. returning to London

American-style barbecue restaurant Pitt Cue Co. is to be resurrected this month as a series of pop-ups in London by Tom Adams, co-founder of the original restaurant (which closed earlier this year following a sale and relocation). Adams hopes to eventually return to a bricks-and-mortar location in Soho in the future.


Unilever chairman resigns

The chairman of Unilever, Marijn Dekkers, has resigned a year after a shareholder row broke out over his failed proposal to move company headquarters to Holland, with the 62-year-old to remain in the company as a non-executive director.

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