Week on a Plate

The week digested: the power of the potato and Impossible Foods sets sights on Europe

Catch up on the food news from October 21-25, from the potential Just Eat bidding war to Costcutter’s grocery delivery plans.

25 October 2019
deliveryfast foodfood wastefruitrestaurantssupermarkets

Did the lack of plant-based burger hurt McDonald’s sales?

McDonald's missed its profit forecast over in the US for the first time in two years, with analysts blaming its lack of meat-free burger option and competition from fast-food rivals, including Burger King and Wendy's. However, global like-for-like sales rose by 5.9%, while in the UK the chain has been testing McDonald’s To Go, a takeaway-only store with a limited menu; it is also expanding McDelivery to 950 stores. McDonald’s has boasted that it hopes to become the ‘Amazon of fast food,’ using AI technology to identify customers, what they order and what they might like, while also enticing then to buy more. The technology has already been introduced into 950 stores in the US, where it changes menus based on the weather, time of day, traffic and what the customer is ordering.

 

Impossible Foods sets sights on Europe

Impossible Foods, maker of the plant-based Impossible Burger, has applied to the European Food Safety Authority for permission to market soy leghemoglobin, the protein that gives the company’s plant-based meat its ‘bloody’ flavour and juiciness. Also known as heme, it is made with genetically engineered yeast, which means it must go through regulatory hurdles before it can be sold in the EU. The ingredient was approved safe to eat by the United States Food and Drug Administration last year.

 

Costcutter joins grocery delivery

More than 1,700 Costcutter stores will begin to offer groceries via Uber Eats. The news comes following Asda’s partnership with Just Eat and The Co-op’s tie-up with Deliveroo.

 

Potato power

A recent study by the University of Illinois has found that mashed potatoes are as effective an energy source for athletes as specially designed carbohydrate gels. In homage to the spud, The Telegraph looks at six other beneficial attributes of the humble vegetable, including their nutritional, destressing, gut health and weight loss properties.

image credit: Getty Images

Bidding war may inflate Just Eat price

Tech investment firm Prosus attempted a hostile takeover of Just Eat with a £4.9bn bid, despite the delivery company's planned merger with Dutch outfit Takeaway.com. Prosus already has a stake in German food delivery group Delivery Hero and controls Brazil’s iFood and India’s Swiggy. Just Eat has rejected the offer saying it significantly undervalues the company and plans to bring Takeaway.com's bid to shareholders on December 2, with hopes to have the deal done by Christmas. Just Eat’s biggest shareholders has said Prosus would need to increase its offer by 20% for it to be attractive.

 

Order growth slows at Just Eat

Sticking with Just Eat, the company has seen a slowdown in orders for the third quarter. Though they rose 16% to £62m, the first half of the year saw a 21% increase. Revenues, meanwhile, grew by 25% to £247.5m, compared to 30% growth in the previous six months. The delivery company blamed softer consumer spending and changing preferences for drop-in takeaways, but analysts asserted it was due to competition from Uber and Deliveroo.

 

A rotten business

One hundred tonnes of fruits and vegetables have been left to rot in UK fields already this season due to a shortage of workers from the EU. This amounts to more than 16m apples left unpicked, while one farmer reported 87,000 punnets of raspberries had been lost and another cited eight tonnes of strawberries. Brussels sprouts, carrots, parsnips and broccoli have also been left in fields. There is a 16% shortfall in seasonal workers, according to The National Farmers’ Union amounting to 70,000 people.

 

Tesco’s Finest pop-up

Tesco has announced it will launch pop-ups in major cities to show off its premium Finest range in the run-up to Christmas.

 

Big food businesses may not meet plastic pledges

Research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation suggests that food giants Nestlé, PepsiCo, and Unilever will struggle to meet voluntary pledges to make 25% of their plastic packaging from recycled content by 2025. Even Coca-Cola, which the study estimates to be making the most progress of those analysed, only managed to incorporate 9% recycled content in 2018.

 

Food packaging transforms into detergent

Plastic bags and food packaging could be transformed into make-up or detergent in the future rather than ending up in landfill, thanks to a new technique created by US researchers.

 

Picking up the pumpkin waste

The amount of food waste from Halloween could reach scary heights with 8m pumpkins expected to end up in the bin after carving, the equivalent of more than 18,000 tonnes of edible pumpkin flesh. An estimated 10m pumpkins are grown in the UK every year, 95% of which are used to create lanterns. However, one company is looking to turn pumpkin waste into product. In November, Toast Ale is set to launch the UK’s first commercially brewed beer made from pumpkin flesh. The Guardian also asks chefs and bakers for inventive ways to use pumpkins, from Calum Franklin’s picnic pie to tortelli from Angela Hartnett, along with other ideas like sourdough, jam, stew, chowder, chana chaat and panna cotta.

 

Pumpkin spiced punch-up

Pumpkin spiced products are the gift that keeps on giving. In time for Halloween, The Telegraph rounds up its favourite products using the seasonal flavour, awarding top marks to Hotel Chocolat’s pumpkin pie chocolates, while also singling out Poetic License’s pumpkin spice gin and New York Bagel Co’s pumpkin spiced bagels (available in Asda) for praise.

Love plants, hate vegans

While plant-based eating may be booming, The Guardian explores why hostilities still run high towards vegans.

 

Eating organic may not be environmentally friendly

Research out of Cranfield University has found eating organic food could actually increase people's carbon footprint due to inefficiencies in the farming methods. The study showed that if all available land in England and Wales was used for organic agriculture it would still only produce 60% of the food eaten, leaving the extra 40% to be sourced from overseas.

 

American investor makes play for pubs

It bought Majestic Wines in August and now New York firm Fortress Investment Group is looking to make its move into British pubs, with reports it is set to acquire about 150 leased and tenanted pubs from Marston’s for an estimated £45m. The company may team up with Red Oak Taverns, a pub operator, to manage the portfolio of pubs. Some of the Marston's estate was put up for sale in January as part of a debt-reduction strategy. 

 

The best olive oils on the market

As diseases and weather wreak havoc on olive oil production around the world, pushing prices up by 20%, The Times takes a look at the best on the market at the moment. In the budget category, M&S’ Italian Extra Virgin Oil beats out the competition, with the mid-priced tier oils from Waitrose, Brindisa and Tesco also rate highly, while in the higher end Nicolas Alziari Provence Fruity & Intense Olive Oil takes the crown.

 

Dairy increases risk of prostate cancer

A dairy heavy diet is being blamed for increasing the risk of prostate cancer, with men 65% more likely to develop the disease, according to analysis of 47 studies by the Mayo Clinic. Scientists suggested a plant-based diet would decrease the risk.

 

SquareMeal names female chef of the year

Skye Gyngell has been named Female Chef of the Year by SquareMeal, which praised the sustainability initiatives at her restaurant Spring, as well as her endeavour to provide employees with work-life balance by giving them two weekends off a month and 44-hour weeks.

 

Pasta party

To mark World Pasta Day, The Evening Standard has put together its top restaurant picks to mark the day from well-known favourites like Padella and Lina Stores to higher-end options like Bancone and Emilia.

Pastry chef sues Heston for 2k

Heston Blumenthal is being sued by a chef who is claiming more than £200,000, alleging she developed repetitive strain injury from making thousands of chocolate playing cards and whisky wine gums in the kitchens of the Fat Duck. The court was told that the chef was required to put 400 sweets a day into small bags using tweezers and had to administer hundreds of fingertip pinches to mushroom logs, with her lawyers claiming the company was negligent for allegedly requiring work that was “too fast, arduous and repetitive for her.” But the company denies the claim and says the work allocated was common in patisserie in other fine-dining restaurants. The case will return to court next year.

 

A mushrooming crop

The UK’s wet weather has seen a boom in rare mushrooms appearing around the country with 102 species recorded in a count this month.

 

Deliveroo riders protest director pay-out

The union representing Deliveroo riders has hit out at the company's latest accounts, which revealed its highest paid director, understood to be the co-founder Will Shu, received almost a 57% increase in basic pay and £8.3m in share options last year. The union said costs like equipment and insurance eat into the earnings of riders, leading to a rising number of riders going on strike due to anger about pay and conditions.

 

Asda in standoff with workers’ union

In other union news, the GMB Union is continuing to agitate about Asda’s new employee contract, which ends paid breaks, cuts premium pay on most bank holidays and forces staff to accept variable shifts and switch between departments, while increasing the minimum wage. The union has asked Asda to postpone the changes as it claims 12,000 workers could otherwise face the sack.

 

Lift tariffs on whisky, then we’ll talk

The UK government is being urged to postpone trade talks with the US following Brexit until it lifts a 25% tariff that applies to things like Scottish whisky and biscuits.

 

NZ government steps up the pressure on farming emissions

Over in New Zealand, farmers have been told they will face additional government taxes from 2022 unless they do more to reduce carbon emissions. Farmers have hit out at the plans, saying they are not economically viable as the country aims to carbon net zero by 2050. Early adopters will be given government rewards for estimating and benchmarking farm emissions and mitigation measures such as small plantings, riparian areas and natural cover.

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