Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: big brands under attack and TripAdvisor troubles

The news, reviews and trends from September 22-23, including more anti-plastic actions and recycled bread.

24 September 2018
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Food news

More plastic pledges

Waitrose might have announced plans to ditch single-use plastic bags by spring 2019 last weekend, but The Co-op will beat it to the punch. Within weeks it plans to roll out “lightweight compostable alternatives” to 1,400 stores, according to the Guardian, before expanding the initiative to the full 2,600 locations. The supermarket also hopes to make all its own-brand packaging easily recyclable by 2023. Lidl, meanwhile, revealed on Friday that it will rid all fruit and veg of black plastic packaging by the end of September, to be followed by fresh, meat and poultry next summer.


Bread bin

Gail’s is set to become the first bakery chain in the UK to sell a loaf made out of leftover bread. The artisan bakery's new product will retail at £4.20 from next month, reports the Sunday Times, and will be created from a mixture of fresh dough and waste bread. Each loaf will taste slightly different, according to the brand, which has locations in London and the southeast.

Are big brands under attack?

In a long-form piece, the Sunday Times examines how the changing retail landscape might impact global manufacturers like Kraft-Heinz and Unilever. While discounters rely increasingly on cheaper own-label products, the merger of Asda and Sainsbury’s as well as the Tesco acquisition of Booker has given the retailers more power to demand reduced prices from suppliers, according to the article. Ged Futter, a former Asda buyer, said that “big brands are finding it hard because everyone is fighting so hard on price. They’re in the crosshairs for retailers,” adding that weaker brands like Premier Foods would suffer most.


More trouble for TripAdvisor

More than a third of reviews on TripAdvisor are fake according to independent analysis, alleges the Times. It also claims to have found evidence that a number of restaurants and B&Bs have paid for five-star ratings. TripAdvisor claims the investigation, conducted for the Times by a website called Fakespot.com, is “deeply flawed.”


Jack’s in the box

Tesco’s discount store continues to feature in the news with the Telegraph sizing up its chances of success. Elsewhere, the Guardian concludes that Jack’s “has won round one in the supermarket discounters price war” based on an analysis of common shopping items.

Sunny sales for Scotmid

“Drinks, barbecue items and ice cream have boosted half-year profits at Scottish Midland Co-operative Society,” reports the Times, which notes that the 200-strong group’s turnover increased by 1.5% to £187.5m, while trading profit rose by 16% to £2.3m.


Food trends

Cheese it!

Fruit cakes are out and cheese wheels are in, at least when it comes to weddings. According to the Telegraph, Waitrose has seen “a huge rise in sales” for its cheese wedding ‘cakes,’ made from varieties such as Stilton, Brie and Gouda. The article notes that the trend appears to be related to an increased consumer desire to cut down on sugar as well as a craving for novelty.


Food interviews

Jon Rotheram and Tom Harris, chef-owners of the Marksman 

The proprietors (and kitchen masterminds) of the Marksman are relying on provenance and bespoke farming for their success, as they tell the Telegraph. Jon Rotheram and Tom Harris say that striking a deal with organic farm Organiclea means they can ask for custom orders of fruit and veg, so that they are less affected by market fluctuations. “It’s picked in the morning and delivered that evening,” says Harris, “and is extraordinarily fresh compared with stuff we get from France or Italy, where it’s been picked five days earlier, then left in a cold store before being brought to us.”


Food reviews

Akira, London W8 5SA

While this Japanese newcomer needs to work on its service, Marina O’Loughlin manages to tear herself away from tearing apart the staff long enough to marvel over an “absolutely beautiful,” “exquisite,” “deliciously outlandish” bento box consisting of 15 compartments, each filled with a different surprise, from sashimi and chawanmushi (savoury egg custard) to tempura and lotus root.

Festa sul Prato, London SE8 5JE

Forget all the fancy, exotic menu items. There is still a place for familiar, high-quality food at a good price, writes Jay Rayner, in between salivating over a big plate of “penne with a long-simmered sauce of ground-down Italian sausages” that sets him back a tenner.

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