Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: apple cider sales and high street bloodbath

The news, reviews and trends from July 7-8, including The Co-op's failed Costcutter takeover and a review of street-food-stall-turned-restaurant Ugly Dumpling.

9 July 2018
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Food news

Co-op fails to consume Costcutter

The Co-op made a failed £15m bid for Costcutter, the Sunday Times reveals. “The offer was rejected several weeks ago and would have formalised the relationship between the two brands,” according to the article, which notes that the two have had a wholesale agreement since November. The unsuccessful takeover comes in the wake of Tesco’s alliance with Carrefour and recently completed purchase of Booker, while Sainsbury’s is still aiming to secure a £15bn merger with Asda.


2 Sisters shares tiff

Ranjit Boparan, the man behind poultry manufacturer 2 Sisters, “is braced for a clash with his lenders and pension trustees over the use of proceeds from a £200m sale of the Goodfella’s pizza brand,” writes the Sunday Times. An acquisition spree, price cutting by the big grocers and the FSA investigation into 2 Sisters' practices have all had an affect on profitability, with debts at almost five times earnings at the end of last year. “Boparan Holdings told its lenders it wanted to use £125m to repay half of a £250m tranche of bonds due for refinancing next year,” according to the Sunday Times. “The plan has angered holders of almost £600m worth of bonds that are due for repayment in 2021. Some of them believe Boparan has unfairly prioritised the holders of the earlier bonds because he is under financial pressure.”


An apple a day

“Supermarkets say they can barely keep up with demand” for apple cider, writes the Guardian, which notes that the trend for drinking the stuff has contributed to a 60% increase in sales at Waitrose. “Aficionados claim that just one tablespoon of vinegar (diluted with water and sometimes sweetened) is rich in natural minerals, vitamins and enzymes and can help regulate blood sugar levels, boost the immune system, aid weight loss and improve the general health of the gut,” according to the newspaper, which notes that the trend may help revitalise Britain’s languishing apple-farming industry.

A Premier battle

The very public Premier Foods debacle goes on, as Oasis Management’s move to force out current CEO Gavin Darby gains the support of two further investors, including US hedge fund Paulson. Shares of Premier Foods, which owns Mr Kipling and Bisto among others food brands, “are languishing at 40p,” according to the Guardian, “compared with the 65p-a-share offer from McCormick [manufacturing of Schwartz seasonings] that was rebuffed in favour of an alliance with Nissin, a Japanese noodle-maker.” Supporters of Darby says he has been successful in slashing debt, but the Guardian article notes that even if the current boss survives an investor vote next week, the size of the revolt will make his position untenable.


‘Bloodbath on the high streets’

Following the publication of the Grimsey Review, an independent report on the state of the high street, hospitality bosses have attacked the government for not doing more to help struggling pubs, bars and restaurants, reports the Sunday Times. It is estimated that 6,000 jobs have already been lost this year, with 250 restaurants owned by leading brands forced into closure. “What more evidence does the government need of the impact of soaring bills than the current bloodbath on our high streets?” said Kate Nicholls, chief executive of UK Hospitality. “The inequitable burden of business rates alongside spiralling employment costs means that hospitality operators, including many pubs, bars and restaurants across the UK, face a real risk of disappearing altogether.”


Food reviews

Ugly Dumpling, London W1F 7RB

Proving that not all street food concepts are destined for brick-and-mortar greatness, Jay Rayner notes that the ‘Street food classics’ here don’t really hold up against those you’ll find in nearby Chinatown, though the ‘New favourites’ are at least an amusing munch. “Most pleasing is the one which really should encourage eye-rolling: the cheeseburger dumpling,” writes Rayner. “There’s a bolus of beef and cheese inside, a bit of tomato ketchup outside and a flurry of tiny matchstick potatoes. It’s exceedingly silly, tastes just like a cheeseburger and shouldn’t work but does.”

Laurent at Cafe Royal, London W1B 4DY

Another case of innovation done wrong, Giles Coren is completely perplexed by the bill of fare here: “It’s one of those misguided hotel menus you see all over London, which by trying to offer something for everyone, actually offer nothing to anybody.” His meal lurches uncomfortably from cheese-flavoured Yorkshire puddings to sushi. He avoids the blue fin tuna poke bowl only to be confronted with chicken “in a juice so sour that my left eye winced closed for fully five minutes and any more than one mouthful was impossible.” 

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