Week on a Plate

The week digested: pork supply under threat and a Whopper surprise puts pressure on McDonald’s

Catch up on the food news from April 8-12, including Tesco’s rising profits and Starbucks’ £1m recycling investment.

12 April 2019
burgerchainscoffeemeatplant-basedrestaurantssupermarkets

Imported pork under threat

Pork prices could rise for a prolonged period after China reported a large outbreak of African swine fever affecting livestock. China produces half the world’s pork and the disease has forced farmers to slaughter parts of its breeding herd. There’s a silver lining for UK pork producers like Cranswick and Genus, however, who could see a windfall as companies look to domestic herds to cover demand.

 

A Whopper surprise for livestock farmers

The Burger King trial of a meat-free Whopper in the US has captured the attention of Eric Bohl, the director of public affairs at the Missouri Farm Bureau, who said the realistic taste of the meat alternative illustrated how serious a threat such products are to the meat industry. While BK can be proud to have disrupted the fast-food market with its Impossible-branded release, this week also saw the brand come under fire for a “culturally insensitive” advert showing a Westerner struggling to eat its Vietnamese Sweet Chilli Tendercrisp burger with chopsticks. The chain apologised and removed the ad, which was posted to its New Zealand Instagram account, after outcry on social media.

 

Waitrose apologises over ugly duckling

BK isn’t the only one falling foul of political correctness. Waitrose released an apology this week over its chocolate ducklings, following consumer complaints that labelling the dark chocolate duckling ‘ugly’ was racist. A Waitrose spokesman said: "We are very sorry for any upset caused by the name of this product, it was absolutely not our intention to cause any offence. We removed the product from sale several weeks ago while we changed the labelling and our ducklings are now back on sale."

 

Tesco profits leap

Tesco has reported an almost 29% rise in pre-tax profits, while revenue grew to £64bn across the business. In the UK, like-for-like sales last year were up 2.9%, but the supermarket chain still expects to shed 4,500 jobs. Its CEO, Dave Lewis, declared the turnaround of the business was complete, adding that Tesco had not seen evidence of shoppers stockpiling ahead of Brexit, though the supermarket and its suppliers are storing up non-perishable goods

 

McDonald’s under pressure to roll out vegan protein

McDonald’s is being petitioned in the US to add a vegetarian protein option to its menu. More than 160,000 people have already signing the petition, which comes after trials of the McVegan and Burger King’s much publicised vegan Whopper debut.

Starbucks invests £1m in UK recycling operation

Starbucks and environmental charity Hubbub have teamed up to create a £1m fund to build recycling facilities for paper cups across the UK, including increasing the number of drop-off points for cup collection. In other coffee-related news, Switzerland has declared beans are not vital for human survival and has said it will end the practice of stockpiling raw coffee by 2022.

 

Unions determined to fight Asda contract changes

Asda has sparked the ire of unions after it announced plans to consolidate six contract types into one, which would see an increase in the basic hourly rate but the loss of paid breaks for staff. The new contract would also give workers 28 days annual leave but could force them to work bank holidays if asked by a manager, although they would be paid double time. The union has vowed to fight the changes, which are set to come into effect at the end of the year.

 

Soaring costs lead CDG into loss

The Casual Dining Group, which owns chains like Café Rouge, Las Iguanas and Bella Italia, has reported losses of £242m due to soaring costs. Business rates, rents and the national minimum wage have all been factors, as have tough trading conditions. However, the businesses did report a rise in like-for-like sales of 2.6% over the past 11 months.

 

Patisserie Valerie creditors want their dough

Patisserie Valerie creditors have voted down a KPMG proposal to wind down the company amid concerns they would miss out on being repaid. KMPG must now try and negotiate a deal with creditors or it will be forced to apply to the court to resolve the matter.

 

Dining out spend increases over last year

The latest Barclaycard data shows consumer spending in March rose by 15% in pubs and 12% in restaurants compared to last year, as consumers splashed out on out-of-home meals and entertaining.

 

Supplements linked to cancer

Eating biofortified foods may be better for humans that supplements – at least when it comes to calcium. That’s according to new analysis published in the medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine, which found that adults who took more than 100mg of calcium supplements a day were twice as likely to die from cancer-related causes than nonusers. However, increased consumption of foods containing calcium had no apparent correlation to cancer deaths. There was also evidence to suggest a similar pattern with vitamin D.

 

Diversified meat eating

People are buying more “forgotten cuts,” according to recently released sales data from Waitrose & Partners, which reveals that online searches for beef ribs are 80% higher than 12 months ago. Braised beef gained in popularity by 65%, shin by 59% and beef cheeks by 23%. 

image credit: Getty Images

Rotten eggs

Brits have been urged to apply the water test to see whether eggs are still fresh, rather than relying on best-before dates, as new research found 720m eggs are thrown away each year at a cost of £139m. Egg sales have risen by 4% in the last year, attributed to the popularity of vegetarian and flexitarian diets.

 

London Seafood Festival

The London Seafood Festival has begun announcing speakers for this year’s event, which takes place June 12-16 at Battersea Power Station. Cinnamon Club’s Vivek Singh and Darjeeling Express’ Asma Khan will both be cooking up a special meal as well as participating in a Q&A.

 

Accelerated celery demand

In LA, sales of celery have gone up 400% at local grocery stores as people go bonkers for juicing the plant. The Guardian takes a look at the science around celery to see whether the health claims stack up.

 

Cakewalk for egg-free Cake Box

Cake Box Holdings, which offers egg-free fresh cream cakes, reported like-for-like sales growth of 6.5% across its 114 franchise stores from the year to March.

 

City Pub Group offers weekly incentives

The City Pub Group, which owns 44 pubs around the UK, has introduced weekly bonuses for staff tied to sales in the venue where they work. The move could see a windfall of £2,000 a year for some staff. The business reported a revenue increase of 22% last year.

 

Gingerbread man goes gender neutral

The Co-op is asking customers to help them choose a name for its gender-neutral gingerbread person, which will appear on shelves in September.

 

Thai restaurant wins best scotch egg award

The annual contest for Britain’s best scotch has turned up some fairly innovative ideas, including The Smoking Goat’s winning entry: an egg of pork and offal laab (Thai-style meat salad). Other entries this year included an Indian-inspired spiced quail and lamb scotch egg with onion bhaji crust from The Seafood Pub Company and Mac & Wild’s venison, black pudding and haggis Scotch egg. Calum Franklin from Holborn Dining Room took home the inaugural Most Liked Egg On Social Media accolade for an egg with rare breed Berkshire pork, smoked ancho and chipotle chilli, cumin seed, pickled jalepeno, Mexican oregano, garlic and Kentish organic eggs.

Egged on

Here's a different take on Easter: Mayfair restaurant Boisdale is launching a spring menu that will serve up eight types of eggs in four different ways. Quail, pheasant, Burford Brown hen, duck, goose, gull, ostrich and rhea eggs will all get their turn on the plate.

 

Overweight youngsters damaging their livers

Bristol researchers have found that an alarming number of young people have high levels of fatty liver disease due to being overweight, which could signal a future public health crisis. Fatty liver disease can lead to serious health problems like liver cancer, type-2 diabetes and heart attacks.

 

Restaurants for the over-50s

The Times has gotten grumpy about trendy new eateries with bad lighting, bizarre menus and hipster chefs, and instead offers up its pick of the 20 best restaurants in the UK for over-50s looking for peace and quiet, good service and fine food.

 

M&Ms slots machine pulled from circulation

Mars has pulled a slot-style gaming machine that would dispense M&Ms from sale after concerns were raised it could normalise gambling for children.

 

Game of Thrones mania is coming…

Food brand Stork is cashing in on the anticipation of the final series of Game of Thrones, commissioning three life-size cakes of characters from the cult series. On display at Potters Field, the sculptures are made from sponge cake and took 300 hours to bake and decorate.

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