Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: the year of faux fish and the fall of Instagram influencers

The news, reviews and trends from January 5-6, including an assessment of the ‘Great Sugar Panic’ and the investment in meal kit makers.

7 January 2019
meal kitsrestaurant openingrestaurantssugarsupermarketsvegan

Food news

Retailers' festive sales

Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Debenhams are all set to release their festive sales figures this week, with several papers predicting who fared poorly and who weathered the declining footfall on high streets. The Guardian writes that Debenhams is expected to post the worst results, while the Telegraph notes that the City has pencilled in a 2-3.5% drop in like-for-like sales for M&S. Tesco is tipped to reveal a small rise but Sainsbury’s will most likely see a slight drop. Morrisons, meanwhile, is expected to show flat sales.


Faux fish

This year will be the year of “faux fish,” suggests the Guardian, writing in the wake of Waitrose’s release of Fishless Fingers, which are made from breaded seaweed tofu, and Sainsbury’s vegan smoked salmon and prawns.


Vegan or not?

The M&S Plant Kitchen vegan range has not been well received by consumers, according to the Sunday Times, which writes that words on the packaging claiming that the products are “not suitable for milk or egg allergy sufferers” suggests they may not be vegan at all.


Is veganism the future of food?

The vegan product releases also appear to have prompted the Sunday Times to write a piece on whether veganism is truly the future of food or merely a marketing fad. The article takes note of veganism’s false health claims, aggressive protests and environmental problems caused by the farming of avocados and almonds, while also admitting that eating meat does lead to increased greenhouse gases and depleted water supplies.


Krispy Kremes are more sugary in the UK

Krispy Kreme doughnuts in the UK contain around 25% more sugar than they do in the US, according to the Sunday Times. A single glazed doughnut has 12.6g of sugar – about half a primary-school-aged child’s daily recommended intake – while in the States it has about 10g.


The Great Sugar Panic

“We are now in the sixth year of the Great Sugar Panic,” according to an article by Christopher Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute of Economic Affairs. Writing for the Telegraph, Snowdon highlights five “inconvenient facts” about the amount of sugar ingested in the UK that go against the message that Brits are becoming more unhealthy: sugar consumption has been falling for decades, sugary drink consumption has fallen dramatically, rates of tooth decay have never been lower, childhood obesity is not spiralling and most obese children aren’t actually obese.


Meal kit moneymakers

As the global market for meal kits edges towards $10bn, the Sunday Times notes that some brands are raking in investment. Gousto has notched up £18m from Unilever Ventures and BGF, while Mindful Chef has accumulated £6m from private equity firm Piper.


Carluccio’s will pay for EU workers

Carluccio’s will pay for its 1,550 EU workers to apply for settled status in Britain if Brexit takes place, reports the Daily Mail – an act that would cost the Italian chain in excess of £100,000.


The fall of Instagram influencers

The days of Instagram influencers being paid by big business may be over, as new research reveals the extent of fraudulent practice on the social media platform. New York marketing specialist Captiv8 has said that around 11% of reactions to posts in 2017 were generated by automated accounts or bots, reports the Sunday Times. Some companies have already enacted spending freezes on influencers, including Unilever.


Sainsbury's boss in jeopardy

The head of Sainsbury’s, Mike Coupe, comes in for a fair bit of criticism from the Sunday Times, which notes that “dealmaking and shopkeeping have proved a difficult balancing act for Coupe, who has a mounting list of problems as he starts a decisive year.” The paper points to deteriorating like-for-like growth compared to competitors, while also highlighting that staffing cuts have led to gaps on shelves and queues at the tills. There are also concerns that the much-touted Asda-Sainsbury’s merger may not go through.


Food reviews

Gridiron, London W1K 1LB

The Tunworth mash with trotter and crackling is an “edible Peter Greenaway movie: rich, deep and intense,” according to Jay Rayner – but it’s one of the few dishes that gets his full approval. While the critic enjoys the grilled pork chop, he’s less keen on the accompanying porcini bread sauce. Elsewhere, a leek cooked over flame is praised for its “soft, sweet, green innards, which have been dressed with pistachios and a lightly acidic beurre blanc,” though Rayner reckons the £12 price is a bit much.


Wulf & Lamb, London SW1X 0BP

The former editor of the Waitrose Kitchen magazine steps on board as the Telegraph’s new dining critic, beginning his tenure by obliterating this vegan restaurant. Digging into a selection of meat alternatives, William Sitwell deplores the reheated, flavourless fare, from the Wulf Burger made of seitan to the mac and cheese created with coconut.

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