Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: checkout-free Amazon Go coming to UK and Walkers cleans up crisp packets

All the news, reviews and trends from October 6-7, including the online-offline war and why traditional British food is dying.

8 October 2018
free-frompackagingready mealsrestaurant openingrestaurantssupermarkets

Food news

Allergen alarm bells

A customer with dairy allergies died after eating a Pret A Manger Super-veg Rainbow Flatbread, it emerged on Saturday. The incident took place in 2017 and is being blamed by Pret on former supplier CoYo, which manufactures coconut yoghurt, one of the ingredients used to make the flatbread. The news comes on the heels of last week’s revelation that a 15-year-old girl died after an allergic reaction to sesame in a Pret baguette, prompting the sandwich chain to announce it will include full ingredient labelling on all products, a step not currently required by law, reports the Guardian.


Tesco CEO heaps hopes on Amazon tax

Tesco CEO Dave Lewis has once more expressed his opinion that something should be done about Amazon, telling the Mail on Sunday that the company should be subject to a 2% tax on goods sold online. This would produce an estimated £1.25bn for the government, which Lewis suggested could be used to provide a tax break for retailers.


Amazon Go a go in UK

In other Amazon news, the Sunday Times reports that the company is looking to increase its brick-and-mortar presence in the UK with checkout-free Amazon Go shops, which are currently being pioneered in Seattle and Chicago. “The web giant is seeking stores of between 4,000sqft and 5,000sqft, according to industry sources,” notes the paper, which adds that the retailer already has seven stores in the UK through its acquisition of Whole Foods.

Tax online to spare offline

Elsewhere in the battle between online and offline businesses, a group of restaurant and pub owners responded positively to Chancellor Philip Hammond’s hypothetical “digital services tax,” mooted last week, saying this could allow for a freeze on business rates. In a letter seen by the Telegraph, businesses including Pizza Express and Wagamama suggested such a levy would help slow the avalanche of foodservice closures.


Crisp and clean

After criticism that Walkers’ plans to replace its current crisp packaging with a more easily recyclable alternative by 2025 were not immediate enough, the PepsiCo-owned brand has announced it will launch a “free national recycling scheme to stop millions of empty crisp packets ending up in landfill in the UK every year,” writes the Guardian. Hundreds of collection points will be set up around the country from December, but consumers will also be able to post their packets to recycling firm TerraCycle free of charge.


Dinner for one

Britons are eating a third more ready meals than four years ago, according to figures from Kantar Worldpanel. “Divorce, later marriage and an ageing population mean that more people are eating alone,” writes the Times, which notes that 2bn ready meals were bought last year, an average of one per week per adult – though older consumers drive demand. Part of the reason for this boom may also be down to the fact that the quality of the meals is increasingly good, according to Becky Henry, insight director at Kantar Worldpanel, who said: “More suppliers are also offering vegan and vegetarian ready meals, so there is something for everyone.”


Unilever to stay in Britain

Unilever has abandoned plans to relinquish its British HQ, following a vehement backlash from UK shareholders. “I think the problem is they were too arrogant, they assumed UK shareholders wouldn't do anything,” a top-20 investor told the Telegraph. “It's damaged relationships with shareholders, but that can be rectified with a chief executive that is more friendly.” The Times is also looking forward to the departure of CEO Paul Polman, while wondering whether Unilever’s plans to simplify its Anglo-Dutch legal structure will be abandoned completely.


Filipino fried chicken targets KFC

With plans to open 25 sites in five years around the UK, Filipino fast-food chain Jollibee hopes to elbow its way into the nation’s fried chicken market, according to the Financial Times. “We usually benchmark KFC, and we believe we have a better product than KFC,” said chief executive Ernesto Tanmantiong. “We see that KFC has many stores in the UK selling the same fried chicken, and we think we have a good opportunity to cater to the same market who are already eating fried chicken.” Jollibee’s first British location is set to open in London on October 20.

Food trends

Wave bye-bye to pie

Hipsters and gentrification are killing traditional British food, according to the former manager of 128-year-old AJ Goddard’s Pie and Mash shop, which has closed its doors in Deptford, London. “According to many locals, the closure symbolises how traditional culinary outlets are in decline all over the country, as millennial ‘hipsters’ opt for healthier (and often foreign) alternatives,” notes the Telegraph, which notes that figures from the NPD Group suggest fish and chips as a takeaway option has fallen from 6.4% to 5.6% of the takeaway market since 2009.


Brunch goes global

Brunch is also changing, according to the Sunday Times, which notes that those eating out between breakfast and lunch are ditching the traditional brekkie items in favour of more exotic fare, from mapo tofu hash browns at Black Axe Mangal to wood-roasted Goan pork at Brigadiers. “Brunch, which channels in some crucial extra business in a restaurant that would otherwise be lying fallow, is an economic necessity as much as anything else,” remarks the paper.

Food reviews

The Newport, Fife DD6 8AB

Local produce is high on the agenda here, according to Marina O’Loughlin, from the beetroot with herb oil and linseed crackers to the foraged mushrooms served with Gloucester old spot belly. Equally at home with meat and veg, MasterChef: The Professionals winner Jamie Scott also dishes up pig’s head – “luxuriously fatty meat teased into a golden barrel with a lick of curried sauce, plumped sultanas and charred young shallot, roots and all” – as well as duck: “a Gartmorn bird in stickiest, glossiest reduced duck essences with the liquorice warmth of star anise, crunch of toasted pumpkin seed and crystals of sea salt.”


1251 Restaurant, London N1 1QN

Back in London, Jay Rayner follows in the footsteps of the Telegraph's Kathryn Flett, paying a visit to James Cochran’s new restaurant. An air of “just-managed chaos” accompanies the dishes, which are often “imaginative and fun,” including a “brave and brilliant” jerk-spiced hake with cubes of watermelon and a pork fillet that is topped with “battered and deep-fried smoked eel… with an eel sauce, miso and turnip kimchi.” And just to prove cauliflower is still cream of the fashionable veg crop, there’s “caramelised cauliflower with a heap of crushed walnuts and the savoury stab of ‘fermented bagna cauda’, or anchovy and garlic.”

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