Week on a Plate

The week digested: success for low-cal meals at PizzaExpress and vegan takeaways see strong growth

Catch up on the food news from August 27-30, including the first crop of British chickpeas and the future of fast food.

30 August 2019
caloriesfast foodnutritionrestaurant openingrestaurantssupermarketsvegan

Vegan takeaway tops list of fastest growing choices

Vegan food is the UK’s fastest growing takeaway option with orders rising almost five-fold over the last two years, new research has found. Vegetarian orders also rose by 137%, according to the British Takeaway Campaign. Average household spending has increased on takeaways to nearly 15% of food expenditure, up from 11% in 2015. Pakistani, Greek, Persian and Turkish were also popular choices over the last year, while English options like fish and chips recorded the slowest growth at 1%.


PizzaExpress profits fall, but low-cal meals buoy sales

PizzaExpress has put new restaurant openings on hold after reporting that underlying profits have fallen by 7.7% to £32.4m in the six months to the end of June. The chain blamed business rates and minimum wage increases for contributing to the poor results. More vegan options and a menu that provided meals for under 600 calories have proved popular with customers, it said. It will focus on revamping its menu and improving existing sites by creating more sociable pizzerias.


Retailers accused of underhand promotional tactics

Consumer group Which? has accused supermarkets of misleading shoppers when it comes to multibuys by promoting products at a price higher than what they would cost individually. It also criticised the practice of marketing goods at a ‘special price,’ despite the fact that this price was in place for the majority of the year. Which? said supermarkets were flouting rules by offering deals that did not represent a legitimate saving and said it would pass its findings on to the Competition and Markets Authority. Meanwhile, a British Retail Consortium report found that supermarkets have been increasing the number of promotions in recent months on products like sugar, confectionery, bread and cereals to prevent price rises, while meat has become cheaper to buy.


Harry Ramsden acquisition creates largest fish and chip player

Fish and chip chain Harry Ramsden has been acquired by Deep Blue Restaurants. The deal will see the former’s 34 sites join the latter’s existing 26 fish and chip shops, creating the “largest player in the market by a considerable margin,” according to Deep Blue founder James Low. Harry Ramsden’s was previously owned by Boparan Restaurant Group, which has been divesting itself of a number of brands to improve its finances. Earlier this year it closed 20 Giraffe and seven Ed’s easy Diner venues.

image credit: Getty Images

First crop of British chickpeas harvested

Pulse specialist Hodmedod’s will start selling the first commercial crop of chickpeas grown in the UK from mid-September, following the inaugural harvest at a Norfolk farm. Up to 20 tonnes from four UK farms could eventually hit the market in the future.


Plant-based nuggets sell out

KFC’s plant-based fried chicken sold out ‘within hours’ of going on sale, according to the chain. The product, created in collaboration with Beyond Meat, was being trialled at a single store in the States to decide whether to take it national.


Future of fast food

The Telegraph digs into the future of fast food in a long-form article that examines how a broad range of technological innovations is changing the market. These include the usage of robot chefs like Ekim’s pizza-making bots and burger-flipping automatons from Miso Robotic; predictive AI tech, which is being employed by KFC and McDonald’s to speed up the ordering process; and meat alternative companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, as well as food giants that are investing in their own solutions like Nestle and Tyson Foods.


A cultured alliance

On the subject of futuristic food, lab-grown protein companies Memphis Meats, BlueNalu, Finless Foods, Fork & Goode and Just have banded together to form the Alliance for Meat, Poultry & Seafood Innovation. While cultured meat and fish have yet to reach supermarket shelves, a huge amount of investment has gone into making the idea a reality.


Defra adviser says chlorinated chicken is clucking good

"From a health perspective there really isn't a problem with chlorinated chicken.” So said Sir Ian Boyd, the chief scientific adviser at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), this week, adding: “The issue is about production processes and animal welfare, and that is a values-based choice that people need to make. My view is that we need to be allowed to make that choice.” However, the National Farmers’ Union has warned that allowing in lower-quality fowl could affect British poultry production.


Acclaimed chef claims women are weaker in the kitchen

Marco Pierre White has been criticised by his peers after claiming women can't handle the heat in the kitchen. The celebrated chef said female chefs are too emotional, less equipped to handle the pressure and not strong enough to carry heavy pots. However, he did acknowledge women tend to have a better palate due to their sense of smell and cook more consistently. Chefs, including Asma Khan and Neil Rankin, described the comments as disappointing and baseless.


Feeding Britain’s snacking habit

UK consumers average 8.3 snacking occasions a week, according to Nielsen, as the appetite for convenient options that boost energy or workout performance grows. However, The Times suggests that fridge staples like the banana or boiled egg can offer better nutrition than manufactured products like a protein ball or a sports drink.

image credit: Getty Images

Pea protein

Agribusiness Cargill has invested $75m into Puris, a supplier of non-GMO ingredients. Puris offers pea protein, pea starch and pea hull fibre, providing it to plant-based leaders such as Beyond Meat.


Researchers want extreme healthy eating classed as a disease

Dietitians are blaming social media for a rise in eating disorders where people become fixated on eating healthy food, creating dietary restrictions that are so extreme they are leading to weight loss, weakness and decreased bone density. US researchers found most sufferers follow Instagram users showing an idealised lifestyle based on clean eating. As a result, they are looking to get a condition called orthorexia (obsession with eating healthy foods) officially recognised. 


Lewis Hamilton zooms into plant-based chicken

Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton is among the investors into a brand-new plant-based burger chain, Neat Burger, which is set to launch its first outlet on London’s Regent Street next week. The brand will use Beyond Meat’s burger patty and is targeting 14 franchises globally over the next two years. 


Franco Manca and Loungers post profits

Five new Franco Manca sites in the first half of the year have delivered higher revenue, according to restaurant operator Fulham Shore, which also revealed that its The Real Greek chain struggled to match last year’s performance. Over at Loungers, vegan and vegetarian dishes boosted sales, as the business posted a 26% rise in annual revenue to £153m.


Meat kit match-up

The Times tests meal delivery kits to find out whether they are worth the money as a new entrant, Box’d Chef, enters the already crowded market. Gousto, Abel & Cole, Riverford and Box’d Chef rate among the best, while Feast Box, HelloFresh, Morrisons Eat Fresh and Mindful Chef are ranked badly.


Vegans missing key nutrient

People following a vegan diet could be missing out on a nutrient key for brain health, according to a nutritionist, who has called for more focus on the issue. The nutrient is called choline and is mainly found in beef, eggs, dairy products, fish and chicken.


Best new eating out

The Evening Standard highlights the best new restaurants opening in London in September, including Seven Dials Market, Sons + Daughters, Julie's, Haya, Norma, Sweet Chick and Daffodil Mulligan.


Brits opt for roast as final supper

What would you eat for your last meal? For the majority of Brits, the answer is roast dinner and cheesecake, according to a poll by healthcare charity Sue Ryder. Other popular dishes included fish and chips, steak and chips, and Chinese, while on the sweet side people picked ice cream and sticky toffee pudding.


M&S chastised for porn star

Marks & Spencer has been forced to change the name of the its Porn Star Martini cocktail in a can because it breaches rules associating alcohol with sex. It will now be called the Passion Star Martini.


Red wine provides healthy buzz

Good news for red wine drinkers: British researchers have found that those who gulp down a glass are less likely to be overweight, while also being more likely to have lower cholesterol and enjoy a healthy mix of bacteria in the gut. However, it doesn’t mean downing a bottle of wine a night – one drink every two weeks would be enough to deliver benefits.

image credit: Getty Images

Could CBD tea replace wine?

Meanwhile, Botanic Lab founder Rebekah Hall hopes to convince people to swap a glass of wine after work with a cup of CBD tea, as cannabidiol continues its rise in popularity.


Intermittent fasting could aid weight loss

Fasting could be the key to weight loss, lower cholesterol and a healthier heart, according to a new study that saw people eat unrestricted for 12 hours, followed by 24 hours of ingesting nothing. The researchers found that while people attempted to compensate for the days they were fasting, they never made up the lost calories and also benefited from a reduction in blood pressure and no ill effects on bone health or the immune system. However, the scientists warned that more research is needed to see if this method could be used long term.


Fertilisers are affecting quality of water

Run-offs from nitrogen fertilisers used in farming are affecting the quality of water globally, according to a new report by the World Bank, which suggests that the doses are also shortening lifespans. Fertiliser run-off, alongside other factors like bacteria, sewage, chemicals and plastics, are in turn affecting GDP – communities that utilise this polluted water see productivity cut by a third.


Business rates discussion on hold

The British Retail Consortium and nine other trade bodies have expressed concerns that an inquiry into business rates and potential reforms could be delayed by the recent ministerial reshuffle.


African meats could spread Ebola

Over 1,000kg of Illegal meat from threatened species like chimpanzees, elephants and giraffes have been seized at the UK border. Demand comes from city folk as its seen as a cultural tradition in Africa, eaten as a delicacy at weddings and christenings, but scientists have warned it could spread diseases like Ebola


Food banks may run out of nosh

A spike in demand during school holidays could see food banks run out of goods, as more families seek help while donations fall. Stocks of long-life milk, juice, pasta sauce, tinned meat, fish, fruit and vegetables are expected to be particularly affected.


International vegan hacks

The Guardian explores the vegan hacks that cuisines around the world offer, including Chinese, Ethiopian, Indian and Italian. It speaks to chefs like Andrew Wong (chef of A Wong), Tutu Melaku (owner of Tutu’s Ethiopian Table), Mayur Patel (co-owner of the northern Bundobust restaurants) and Salvo's Gip Dammone about meat alternatives and fermented food.

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