Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: Sainsbury's hunt for new boss and Lidl tells suppliers to pay import tariffs

The news, reviews and trends from August 17-18, including Deliveroo prepares to campaign against the digital service tax and food giant's chocolate contains more sugar than the 1990s.

19 August 2019

Food news

Lidl’s warning

Lidl has fired the first shot in the battle over who should bear the financial brunt of a no-deal Brexit, reports The Sunday Times.

The supermarket chain has indicated to British suppliers that it expects them to pay EU import tariffs for goods delivered to its Irish business.

Lidl wrote to suppliers last week asking for confirmation that they would be “delivery duty paid-ready” as the chances rise of the UK leaving the single market bloc without a deal on October 31.

If goods are sent with delivery duty paid, the seller bears the costs and risks of transporting them to their destination. That would include tariffs on exports to the EU, which would come into force automatically in a no-deal scenario under World Trade Organisation rules.


Sainsbury’s searches for new boss

Sainsbury’s is kicking-off the search for a new chief executive to replace Mike Coupe as it looks to move on from its failed attempt to merge with Asda, according to The Telegraph.

Three internal candidates have been tipped for the top: John Rogers, the boss of Argos, Simon Roberts, Sainsbury’s retail and operations director who used to run Boots UK, and Paul Mills-Hicks, the food commercial director.

Sainsbury’s is due to conduct a thorough external search as well.


Fish fight

Nearly 300 foreign boats would be fishing in British waters on day one of a no-deal Brexit, threatening violent clashes at sea and chaos at ports, reports The Sunday Times.

According to a leaked Cabinet Office dossier codenamed Operation Yellowhammer – which sets out the most likely aftershocks of a no-deal Brexit rather than worst-case scenarios – this is predicted “to cause anger and frustration in the UK catching sector.”

Any clashes would place extra strain on maritime agencies, which would be further stretched by having to deal with blockades at ports.

image credit: Getty Images


Turning to tech

Technology could solve the problem of illegal fishing activity in the event of a no-deal Brexit, according to The Telegraph.

A no-deal scenario would see the UK become an independent coastal state under a United Nations sea treaty, putting the full responsibility on the Government to ensure fisheries are managed in a sustainable way

Satellites, drones, facial recognition and autonomous boats are all potential options to combat the expected increase in illegal trawling in British territorial waters.


Brexit to hit food production

A no-deal Brexit will cause food shortages, price rises and may even prompt problems with the water supply, reports The Sunday Times.

According to the government’s Yellowhammer document, the supply of fresh food will “decrease” if the UK crashes out, but no-deal will also hit more complex food production, because of the impact on packaging and preservatives.

“It’s not just a question of how much milk we have, but milk as an ingredient like skimmed milk powder, and its use in modern food manufacturing in all its complexities,” a senior food industry source said.

“We may have enough of a basic ingredient, but what’s also important is whether we have it in the forms we need it, and whether we have the right preservatives to give it a long shelf life.”


Chocolate sweeter than in 90s 

Sugar levels in some of Britain’s favourite chocolate brands have soared, despite pledges to cut them back to fight obesity, according to The Sunday Times.

Chocolate confectionery from Cadbury, Nestlé and supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s had sugar levels averaging 44.6% by weight in 1992, but that has risen to 54.7%, say researchers from Queen Mary University of London.

image credit: Getty Images


Britain could save bananas

Colombia’s disease-ravished banana crops could be saved through genetic engineering in a British laboratory, according to The Times.

Panama Disease is a killer fungus that has already ravaged plantations across Asia and could even spell the end of commercial banana production worldwide.

The fruit will not evolve resistance because it cannot evolve, so the banana’s last hope lies in the laboratory of Tropic Biosciences in Norwich where scientists have been genetically editing thousands of microscopic banana embryos to be resistant to the fungus.


Farm with a view

Plans are afoot to create the world’s biggest urban farm – at 1.4 hectares – on the roof of Paris’s exhibition centre, according to The Times.

The Paris Expo Porte de Versailles stands on the edge of Europe’s most densely populated city and near a ring-road used by 1.2m vehicles a day.

But it will soon be home to a rooftop farm where fruit and veg will be grown using aeroponics, whereby the plants will be attached to columns and fed nutrient solutions.


Backing the chair

Airport and train station food retailer SSP Group – owner of the Caffè Ritazza and Upper Crust chains – has backed its chairman after a shareholder rebellion this year, reports The Times.

The group, formerly part of Compass, runs more than 2,600 concessions at 140 airports and 280 railway stations in 33 countries.

More than a third of shareholders who voted at SSP’s annual meeting in February opposed the re-election of Vagn Sorensen, the chairman, over concerns that he was “overboarded” – the term for holding too many directorships – and about the length of his tenure, which goes beyond corporate governance best practice.

But SSP said it believed Sorensen was a “very effective independent chairman, with extensive experience and knowledge of the business and that his dedication and leadership have been invaluable.”

image credit: Getty Images


Deliveroo readies for battle

Deliveroo is arming itself for a campaign against Britain’s forthcoming digital services tax and curbs on the so-called gig economy by investing in new lobbying weaponry, reports The Telegraph.

As a legislative backlash against tech giants looms, Deliveroo has hired a number of political specialists, including Philip Hammond’s former speech writer as director of policy, and the Treasury’s ex-senior policy adviser.

Now it has poached Giles Derrington from lobby group techUK as the head of its public affairs operations across the UK and Ireland.

Deliveroo said in a job advert that it needed someone with “experience growing and managing a team”, as well as “a demonstrable record of success in campaigning and influencing political decision-making in the UK.”

A host of legal changes are expected to come into force next April which would impact hugely on Deliveroo, including giving couriers and drivers more rights to sick pay and other benefits.


Food reviews

OKN1, 40 Hoxton Street, London N1 6LR

The food at this training restaurant attached to New City College is “good” – “not in a knock-your-socks-off way or dazzle-Instagram way, but fine and decent and absolutely worth all of our time,” says Marina O’Loughlin. The “popcorn chicken with charred sweetcorn relish” is “beautifully done, the chicken crisp and tender from a buttermilk bath, the relish sparky and satisfying” while the grilled Wykham Park asparagus comes with “a clever and beautifully executed lovage aïoli that speaks of a strong hand at the tiller”. The menu has “no theme or particular ethos” but that doesn’t matter, as “it means that, again, the relatively simple likes of Suffolk bacon chop with fried egg and a tangy devilled sauce – a dish that’s more about ingredients and timing than technique – is easily nailed. But so is the more complex and sophisticated hake fillet with “Cornish dirties” (potatoes), chorizo and roasted peppers.”


The B&H Garden Room, Assembly Hotel, London WC2H 0LS

The fabulous views were the only saving grace for Jay Rayner when dining at this rooftop restaurant. “The Garden Room view really is spectacular and on a summer’s evening, as the sun dips behind the capital’s glass cliff faces, it feels like a special place to be. Then the nice waiters start bringing the terrible food,” he says. “It is a brutal exercise in portion control and failed staff motivation.” The starter of king prawn and chestnut mushroom skewers with béarnaise sauce turns out to be “four tough and underseasoned prawns and three flabby and undercooked mushrooms. Weirdly, the béarnaise seems to have wandered in from another kitchen; one where someone cares. It’s thick and frothy and rich with fresh tarragon.”

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