Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: Walmart looks elsewhere to offload Asda and £9.3bn food and drink tariffs predicted

The news, reviews and trends from February 23-24, including matcha KitKats and new Amazon Go locations.

25 February 2019
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Food news

Walmart shops around for other Asda buyers

Several newspapers have suggested that the provisional verdict on the Sainsbury’s-Asda tie-up by the Competition and Markets Authority may be a killing blow for the merger, which now faces an uphill battle if it is to be approved. Walmart (the owner of Asda) is reportedly looking elsewhere for ways to offload ownership of the business, writes the Sunday Times, including listing it on the stock market and selling a majority stake to a private equity group – KKR (owner of Trainline) has already been mooted.


Japan’s matcha KitKat sweetens UK shelves

Nestlé is bringing its matcha white chocolate KitKat to UK supermarket shelves this month for the first time, reports the Guardian. The green-tea-accented bar is the most popular flavour developed specially for the Japanese market – a market that has experimented with over 350 KitKat options, including sweet potato and wasabi.

Amazon Go checks out more sites

While the UK has yet to get its first Amazon Go, the US will see another 17 of the checkout-free stores open over the next few months, according to the Telegraph. There are already 10 locations spread throughout Seattle, San Francisco and Chicago, with new ones expected in New York City and Philadelphia.


Food and drink industry will be hardest hit by tariffs

If the UK leaves Europe without a deal, the tariff bill on food imports could reach around £9.3bn, according to the Guardian. The government has said it will attempt to mitigate the “price shock,” with Michael Gove promising “protections for sensitive sections of agriculture and food production.” Richard Lim, chief executive of consultancy firm Retail Economics, noted that food and drink tariffs would be higher than those in any other supply chain, adding: “All stages within the food supply chain will experience increased costs, with retailers hit disproportionately as processed goods attract higher duties than raw materials and semi-processed goods.”


The cocoa crisis in Cote d’Ivoire

As Fairtrade Fortnight gets underway today, the Guardian takes an in-depth look at how cocoa producers in the Ivory Coast struggle to survive, despite the nation producing 30% of the world’s cocoa. The report comes as more and more confectionery companies seek to emphasise their ethical commitments on chocolate bars.

Food reviews

Bia Rebel, Belfast BT7 3GP

The Northern Irish capital may not have a branch of the Shoryu or Tonkotsu chains, but it does have this ramen haunt, which won the accolade for best cheap eats at last year’s Observer Food Monthly awards. Hand-made wheat noodles bathe in a broth that is made from 26 ingredients over 40 hours. This is accompanied by a 606 egg (“so called because it is cooked in a water bath for six minutes and six seconds,” Jay Rayner informs readers) that is smoked over oolong tea. Ten different flavours are available, from spicy pork to hoisin BBQ pulled pork, all priced at £8.


Farzi Café, London SW1Y 4BP

Marina O’Loughlin sharpens her talons to dig into this kitschy Indian import, but while she tears apart the decor, the staff uniforms and even founder Zorawar Kalra, she finds the food delicious. Venison Irrachi pepper fry, “humming with assertive spicing,” is flavoured with curry leaves and toasted coconut, while the chicken tikka masala, “rather than the usual collision of woolly meat and tomato-soupy sauce, is a sophisticated number, multilayered, not slick and smooth but almost chunky, genuinely poky with its quantities of fresh chilli.”

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