Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: compulsory calorie counts and delisting dangers

The news, reviews and trends from June 23-24, including why dark kitchens are the future and how retailers are attempting to recycle black plastic trays.

25 June 2018
Brexitcaloriesmenupackagingrestaurantssugarsupermarkets

Food news

The danger of delisting looms

“Hundreds of small suppliers could be placed in the firing line as supermarkets are expected to mirror Tesco’s sweeping product review which has seen scores of brands stripped from its shelves,” says an article in the Telegraph. It quotes industry specialist Bridgethorne as saying some small suppliers are likely to go out of business due to the streamlining of ranges across the board. The joint MD of Bridgethorne, Andrew Cole, said: “The implication of this for suppliers – both branded and own-label suppliers – as part of their ongoing category management will be the urgent need for them to identify both the threats and opportunities for their business, and what steps they need to take to defend themselves against delisting.”

 

Back in black

Black trays and ready meals have gone hand in hand for years – as have black trays and landfills. But that problem is finally being addressed, according to the Sunday Times, which notes that public pressure has led Marks & Spencer, Tesco and Sainsbury’s to develop recycling procedures with waste firm Viridor to reuse the containers. “The trays will be thrown away, shredded and rebuilt into a new tray,” says the article, though due to the highly specific nature of the facilities required to recycle the black trays, they currently have to be transported to three separate locations across the UK to complete the process, leading to questions about the carbon footprint.

 

Weighing up the new obesity laws

The much-anticipated new laws to tackle obesity have been announced, but do they go too far or not far enough? From now on, supermarkets will no longer be allowed to offer products high in sugar, fat or salt near checkouts, while restaurants and takeaways will be forced to show calories clearly on menus. However, the government held back from banning junk food ads on TV before the watershed. “The measures were broadly welcomed by health organisations and experts,” writes the Observer, “but industry leaders expressed ‘deep disquiet’ at the prospect of further regulation from government.” One in three British children is now obese when leaving primary school, while the UK holds the unenviable title of fattest nation in Western Europe.

Will dark kitchens turn the lights off on home cooking?

Why bother making a home-cooked meal when a ready-made one could save you time and money? That’s the not-so-distant future envisaged by investment bank UBS, whose analysts say that the rise of so-called ‘dark kitchens’ – which deal exclusively with delivery and avoid the expense of sit-down restaurants – combined with the advances in food-preparing robots and delivery drones will bring down costs, meaning more competitive pricing. The Telegraph quotes the analysts as saying the situation is similar to the change in how we acquire clothing: “A century ago, many families in now-developed markets produced their own clothes. Purchasing pre-made clothes was prohibitively expensive for most, and the skills to produce clothing existed at home."

 

Premier Foods’ CEO blamed for ‘weak corporate governance’

Premier Foods’ second biggest shareholder hopes to torpedo the re-election of chief executive Gavin Darby. “Oasis Management, which owns 9.3%, is calling for Gavin Darby’s head after ‘years of persistent shareholder value destruction, poor financial performance, consistent missed targets, a lack of strategy and weak corporate governance,’” reports the Sunday Times. Premier Foods is the owner of such brands as Mr Kipling, Homepride cooking sauces, Oxo, Bisto and Batchelors.

 

Play it again, Sam

Both the Guardian and the Sunday Times sing a familiar tune with their Brexit warnings. The former repeats the increasing difficulty of recruiting fruit pickers, while the latter quotes the National Farmers’ Union as saying a ‘no deal’ scenario could bring farms to the “brink of collapse.” Though neither article says anything new, they highlight the continued sense of unease felt across the farming industry as the nation inches closer to leaving the EU.

 

Food reviews

Sabor, London W1B 4BR

Marina O’Loughlin has nothing but praise for this Spanish space and its dishes, from duck with ajoblanco sauce, served with a salad of radish, apple and kohlrabi, to the calasparra rice “enriched with roasted mullet bones, a tamed whisper of smoked chilli and essences of a red army of crustaceans.” Rounding out her meal is cuajada, which is “a little like a posset ramped up by its rich oloroso syrup,” and little doughnuts with white truffle honey ice cream.

St Leonards, London EC2A 4QX

This is a restaurant that treads the line between marvels and mayhem, according to Jay Rayner, who notes that “certain dishes leave you wondering if that was what they intended.” In the genius category is the scallop dish, “sliced up sashimi-style then reassembled and dressed with pickled samphire, elderflower and a lightly acidic broth, dotted with ravishing pools of herb oil.” On the slightly madder side of things are the blackened onions, “dusted thickly with fiery ground red pepper” and set atop ‘tuna bone caramel’ (“formed by doing something complicated with tuna bones, sugar and stock until it forms a sweet, sticky fish sauce”).

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