Week on a Plate

The week digested: tripling shelf life and the AA Awards

Catch up on the food news from September 23-27, including supermarket stores closures and Channel 4's plant-based investment.

27 September 2019
fast foodplant-basedpubsrestaurantsseafoodsupermarketsvegan

Sainsbury’s will shutter up to 15 supermarkets

Closures have been announced by Sainsbury's, including 10 to 15 supermarkets and 30 to 40 convenience stores. That’s being balanced by a spate of new openings, including 10 new supermarket and 110 convenience stores. Around 80 Argos stores will also be converted into supermarkets in the next five years. Grocery sales at the retailer rose 0.6% in the second quarter.


Tesco’s original Jack’s store to close

In other closure news, Tesco has decided to shutter its first Jack’s discount store, located in Rawtenstall. However, it intends to open another three by the end of the year, bringing the total up to 12. The news comes after reports last week that the brand had grown much slower than originally anticipated.


Plant-based zones introduced at Tesco

This week also saw Tesco unveil dedicated plant-based and vegetarian zones in some stores to make these foods easier to find, though certain products will also appear in the meat aisle. The announcement comes as the retailer launches more items under its Wicked Kitchen brand, while also debuting a new range dubbed Tesco Plant Chef.


Canterbury pub claims restaurant of the year

Cornerstone by chef Tom Brown has been awarded London restaurant of the year at the AA Hospitality Awards, as well as receiving three AA rosettes. London’s The Ritz received the Food Service Award, while Jason Atherton was recognised with the Chef’s Chef of the Year accolade. A number of London restaurants also received new rosettes, including Roganic, The Greenhouse, Cornerstone, Petrus, Kerridge’s Bar and Grill, Launceston Place and Ikoyi. England’s restaurant of the year went to the Fordwich Arms in Canterbury.


Channel 4 tunes in to meat alternatives

The Meatless Farm Company has sold a multimillion-pound stake in its company to Channel 4 in exchange for advertising across its main channel and streaming service.

Mars tech increases shelf life

Technology developed by scientists for Mars astronauts that triples the shelf life of food and eliminates the need for aluminium foil or plastic pouches could be applied to consumer goods. Meals using the tech have also been tested by the US army, which found a mac and cheese that had spent three years in storage tasted as good as a version stored for nine months.


Is Amazon poised for fresh bricks-and-mortar assault?

The Times reports that Amazon is building a secret team of British property experts to aid its grocery expansion in the UK.


Cod help us

Sustainability certification of the North Sea cod is being pulled by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) from the end of October, after research showed stocks were depleted. This could make it harder to sell in supermarkets, although fish and chips should be insulated as they use imported fish from Iceland, Norway and Russia. Across the market, 37% of cod eaten in the UK has a blue sustainability tick. The move will have a significant impact on the British fishing industry, which has implemented measures to protect young fish.


Is veganism good or bad for your body?

The debate over whether veganism is truly a healthy choice spiked this week after Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith revealed that they planned a ‘vegan intervention’ for their 21-year-old son Jaden over concerns he was looking unwell and wasn’t getting enough nutrients. The Telegraph followed this story up by quoting a spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association as saying veganism can be “badly followed, especially by teenagers and young people,” adding: “If a young person, curious about veganism, strays onto Instagram or YouTube, they’ll quickly be led down a rabbit hole where so-called Insta-gurus, who have little authority on nutrition, will offer advice that could be hugely damaging to a growing child’s body.” There are also concerns that the diet can mask eating disorders. On the flipside, a recent documentary, The Game Changers, has highlighted elite sportspeople who have gone vegan with no negative effects, including a number of top-tier boxers who no longer consumer meat.


McDonald’s trials plant-based burger in Canada

McDonald’s will be trialling a new plant-based burger using Beyond Meat in 28 stores in Canada. Called the PLT, the plant, lettuce and tomato burger will be available for 12 weeks. Back on British shores, the fast-food chain is tapping into world cuisine as part of its latest limited-edition launch, with additions including an Indian chicken burger that comes with a relish, garlic mayo, red onions, lettuce and cucumber wrapped in a garlic naan (available until October 22).

Customisable KitKats

Nestle is introducing customisable KitKats in time for Christmas. Consumers can choose from 1,500 flavour combinations via a website or 30 pop-up stalls in John Lewis. From a base of milk, dark, white or ruby chocolate, people can then pick flavours like marmalade, Earl Grey, and whisky and ginger, with additions like salted caramel chunks, tiny meringues, toasted coconut flakes, rose petals and cocoa nibs. The eight-fingered 150g bars will be priced at £14 and are designed to take advantage of consumers’ desire for craft and premium products. There will also be a Best of British collection featuring classic flavours such as Eton mess, apple and rhubarb crumble, and Earl Grey, along with special editions like G&T and Springtime in Japan.


Go nuts

Research from Harvard has found that people who eat nuts stay slimmer than others. While walnuts were singled out as particularly beneficial, it’s not just the nutritional make-up of the food, but the physical act of eating them is so energy intensive that it prevents people from eating other things, the study suggested. Nuts have previously been cited this year as reducing the risk of heart-disease-related death and increasing intelligence.


Ocado founders go to war

Ocado is set for a bitter court battle with one of its co-founders, alleging that corporate documents had been unlawfully obtained to steal intellectual property to set a up rival venture. The case isn’t expected to go to trial for another year.


Baby brand focuses on export as Brexit buffer

Piccolo Foods has built a £1.5m export business in the past year to protect itself against Brexit uncertainty, selling into China, South Africa, the Middle East and the Netherlands. Its food is produced in kitchens in Belgium, France, Italy and Spain, which could be jeopardised by border delays. However, it is set to make £7m in turnover this year after winning contracts with all the main supermarkets, as well as broadening its range into teething biscuits and stir-in pasta sauces for toddlers.


Baad blood

Traditional farming in the Lake District, which includes flocks of rare sheep, is under threat as landlords are removing tenanted farmers in the name of conservation, claim the Sheep Breeders’ Association.


Teabags infusing plastic into water

Billions of microplastic particles are being released from plastic mesh tea bags when they are dunked in hot water, more than people are expected to consume in an entire year, a new study has found. The World Health Organisation has said there is no evidence yet that microplastics are harmful to human health, but more research has been called for on this front. The researchers said there was no need to put tea in plastic and the study could help consumers to choose from environmentally friendly options.

image credit: Getty Images

Brewers are making bank

Mitchells & Butlers chief executive Phil Urban said recent pub acquisitions of rivals like Greene King and the Ei Group highlight the value in the brew business, as he reported like-for-like sales growth of 3.3%, with food up 2.1% and drink up 4% in the eight weeks to September 21.


Reduced travel capacity could slow Upper Crust sales

SSP Group, which operates sandwich shops in transport hubs, including brands like Upper Crust, have warned profits could be hit by economic uncertainty and cuts to travel capacity across airlines and trains. However, it expected full-year growth to be just above expectations at about 5.5%.


Noma chef on his new focuses

René Redzepi speaks to the Financial Times about the new iteration of iconic restaurant Noma, exploring the use of insects, flowers, spice and sweetness.


West End restaurant to offer daily Wellington menu

The Gladwin brothers, who are a behind restaurants The Shed, Rabbit and Nutbourne, are opening their first West End restaurant in November, called Sussex. Its menu will include hand-picked ingredients from the family’s farm in Nutbourne and dishes like hand-dived scallops with blood pudding, Jerusalem artichoke and lemon sour cream, as well as pork tenderloin with malted pig’s cheek, rainbow chard, lardo and broken hazelnut English miso. There will also be a rotating menu of daily Wellingtons.


Smoking allowed

California will be the first in the US to open a marijuana restaurant, although there will be no cannabis cuisine. Instead, a team of hosts will advise on food pairings with the drug, with diners able to purchase cannabis to smoke or otherwise consume at the table. The menu will feature a fried chicken sandwich and caramel popcorn as well as healthy salads, but none of them will be infused with cannabis.


Jammie Dodgers maker stockpiling ingredients

Burton's Foods, which counts brands like Wagon Wheels, Jammie Dodgers and Maryland Cookies among its stable, has revealed it has been stockpiling raw materials ahead of Brexit. It reported a 1.2% sales rise to £235.2m for 2018.

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