Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: Debt fears for 2 Sisters and luxury food fraud

The news, reviews and trends from August 10-11, including calls for more food to be grown in Britain and the rise of vegan fish products.

12 August 2019

Food news

Debt places pressures on 2 Sisters

Traders have warned of potential debt problems for 2 Sisters Food Group as it struggles with a raft of issues from the hygiene scandal in 2017, a squeeze from supermarkets and crumbling consumer confidence, according to The Times.

To tackle debt, the company's owner Ranjit Boparan has been on a selling spree of his businesses, including Goodfella’s pizza and Donegal Catch, and has put his Matthew Walker Christmas puddings business up for sale.

But the company said its business turnaround is well on track with recent reports showing positive profit generation.


Faking luxuriousness

Organised gangs and fraudsters are targeting the luxury food market with fake products including champagne and caviar, according to The Times.

Fake items include “beluga” caviar being sold in upmarket shops, as well as Périgord truffles shipped from China, Moët made in Italy, Parmesan bulked out with wood pulp, and olive oil created with sunflower oil mixed with chlorophyll and soya oil.

Trading standards in West Sussex said after a two-year investigation they had seized £750,000 of adulterated saffron, while other frequently faked items include wagyu beef, manuka honey, fine wines and spirits.


The future’s looking rosé

Rosé wine has gone upmarket as French vineyards create more expensive varieties, reports The Times.

British wine merchants have said that French makers are creating drier and more “structured” rosés, and the average bottle has increased in price over the past year because of its “premiumisation”.

While sales of red wine in French supermarkets fell by 5% late last year, rosé sales grew by 6% which is partly being attributed to its lower alcohol content, as well as the colour making for prettier photos on Instagram.

image credit: Getty Images

Something fishy about vegan food

Vegan shoppers who love the taste of fish needn’t miss out thanks to the rise of fake fish products on our supermarket shelves, according to The Times.

Sainsbury’s has introduced eight fish-alternative products in its stores since January and a spokesman said they had exceeded sales expectations by 50%.

In Britain as a whole, the number of stores selling Tuno, a fishless canned tuna, has expanded from 300 to 2,000 in the 11 weeks since it was introduced.

Quorn launched its fishless range, including vegan fishless fingers, two years ago and said it had contributed to a 12% year-on-year increase in sales of its meat-substitute products.


Smyth’s backyard sale

A tiny car park squeezed behind two Michelin-starred Core in Notting Hill has become possibly London’s most pricey backyard after going on the market at £2m, reports The Evening Standard.

The tennis court-sized plot has provided parking spaces for chef patron Clare Smyth and head chef Jonny Bone, but is now up for sale with planning permission for a four-storey town house that could be worth more than £10m.

image credit: Getty Images

Fry-up threat

A no-deal Brexit could spell disaster for the traditional British fry-up, reports The Telegraph.

In the event of a messy withdrawal from the EU on October 31, Britons could quickly see a shortage of bacon, tomatoes and mushrooms – although bangers should still be on the menu thanks to a sausage surplus.

With almost a third of the UK’s food coming from the EU it is likely that supermarkets will be unable to fill their shelves with certain popular staples in the event of a no-deal exit. 

Fresh produce such as fruit and vegetables is likely to be in shortest supply as it cannot be stockpiled, while supermarkets have warned it will be more difficult to stockpile when warehouses are already at or near capacity in the run-up to the busy Christmas period. 


Grow our own call

The president of the National Farmers’ Union has told The Sunday Times that Britain needs to grow more food because its supply for 2019 would have run out this weekend had it relied on homegrown produce.

Minette Batters, who farms in Wiltshire, said the country is producing only enough food to be self-sufficient for 61% of the year.

“Our self-sufficiency has declined over recent years and our political leaders need to take this seriously,” Batters said.

“We need a clear pledge from government that it will not let our current self-sufficiency levels fall below today’s 61%.”


Marinate for health

Marinating meats before grilling them on the barbecue can cut the risk of cancer, according to The Sunday Times.

A coating left on the meat for half an hour before barbecuing can help to stop the cancer-causing chemicals in the flames and the smoke from getting into the meat.

image credit: Getty Images

Milka TV ad below the belt

A casting call seeking a thin young girl with “very good teeth” to star in a Milka chocolate Christmas TV ad has been criticised by health campaigners, reports The Telegraph.

The request for child actors to play the role of Mia asked for “no red hair” and insisted “no overweight children as this is advertising chocolate”.

A spokesman for campaign group Action on Sugar said it was “sure the Advertising Standards Authority would not stand for this”.


Food Reviews

Pilgrim, Liverpool, L1 5AS

“Iberian and hugely appealing dishes from a kitchen thoroughly plugged into current restaurant trends,” is how Marina O’Loughlin describes the food at this newcomer to the Liverpool restaurant scene. Located on the mezzanine floor in Duke Street Market, a vast former warehouse turned food hall, the menu is full of “some great ideas: taut little Jersey royals blackened from their coal roasting and squiggled with a sauce of Cabrales, that Asturian blue cheese of such evil nippiness it could strip the roof of your mouth and you’d be happy to let it. Or a play on croquetas that ditches the béchamel and just rams the crumbed carapace with quantities of fatty suckling pig, served with an electrifying guindilla pepper salsa.”


Nandine, London, SE5 8TR 

“Every plate is a vivid rush of saturated tones, worthy of Technicolor in its pomp. Colours like that promise flavour; the promise is not broken,” says Jay Rayner of this Kurdish family-run café in Camberwell. “Huge plates of big-flavoured Kurdish food” is the order of the day here, and all at very small prices. The mezze dips come with “warm pieces of lightly oiled, spice-dusted and quilted flatbreads – an extremely diverting plateful for just £5.50.” From the brunch menu the shakshuka of “long-cooked tomatoes, onions and spices, with baked eggs, their yolks still runny” comes with “pieces of crisp-crusted, springy bread baked at their other site.” The most expensive dish of the day (£12) is the lula kebab of boldly spiced minced lamb, “but that money gets you a trayful.”

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