Weekend on a Plate

The weekend digested: upmarket shoppers defect to discounters and the buzz around coffee shops

The news, reviews and trends from November 24-25, including PHE’s new calls for salt warnings and the sinking salmon population.

26 November 2018
restaurant openingrestaurantssaltseafoodsupermarkets

Food news

Scathing on salt

Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, tells the Observer that salt is so detrimental to health it should be mandatory to include salt content via a traffic-light-style system. He adds that while companies can currently choose to highlight information on salt alongside fat, sugar and calories, the lethal dangers associated with high blood pressure caused by excess salt mean it should be highlighted separately.

 

Discounters attract upmarket shoppers

Lidl’s lobster and Aldi’s sirloin steak are among the high-end food items that are luring well-heeled consumers away from Waitrose and M&S, writes the Times. Retailers traditionally see an uptick in shoppers during the Christmas season and the discounters hope to attract more of that market by launching a range of innovative festive items, including aged Christmas puddings and French brandy.

Investment in food banks

Sainsbury’s is launching “dedicated shelf-edge labels alerting shoppers to food and drink items that are most useful to food banks,” reports the Guardian. A trial of the system tripled donations, which will now be rolled out as part of the supermarket’s Help Brighten a Million Christmases campaign.

 

Loungers eases into flotation

As Loungers reports a 31.9% rise in revenues to £121.1m, the Times writes that its “resilience in the face of tough market conditions is understood to have attracted interest from several brokers, who regard it as an ideal flotation candidate.” Its CEO, Nick Collins, has said the brand's success is based on an all-day menu that offers something for everyone.

 

Coffee shops are buzzing

The past five years have seen 2,158 coffee shops opened by chain operators and independent owners, according to Local Data Company – and for every new cafe, two pubs have closed. Some commentators quoted by the Sunday Times attribute this to the fact that it’s seen as more socially acceptable these days to spend time in a cafe than in a pub.

 

Indie retailers get West End concierge service

Property company Grosvenor has launched a “concierge service” to help independent retailers occupy high street real estate in the West End. The paid service encompasses everything from store layout to setting up utilities, as well as marketing, PR and facilities management, according to the Times, which adds that it could mean access to fees “cheaper than those offered elsewhere because Grosvenor has negotiated fixed rates for cleaners, window cleaners, pest control and handymen, for example.”

 

Waitrose’s price matching pares back

Waitrose has reduced its Tesco price-match pledge from 8,000 lines to 1,200, focusing only on the most common items shoppers buy, as it seeks to rebuild profits, reports the Times.

 

Salmon numbers sink

The Times doubles down on bad-news stories about salmon, revealing in one article that global warming has led to a dramatic drop in Scottish salmon hauls, while the paper’s Sunday edition focuses on the death of 30% of Loch Duarte’s fish at its Loch Laxford farm in September, partially attributed to a decrease in oxygen levels thanks to plankton and algal blooms.

image credit: Getty Images

Nuts to Nutella

A new product from the world’s biggest pasta maker hopes to challenge the dominance of Nutella, which occupies 54% of the global chocolate spread market. Barilla’s Crema Pan di Stelle is scheduled to arrive in supermarkets in January, reports the Times.

 

2 Sisters sale under siege

The Competition and Markets Authority is assessing whether the sale of a 2 Sisters Food Group site to Samworth Brothers will lessen market competition. The proposed sale of the Manton Wood site, in Nottinghamshire, which makes sandwiches, wraps and rolls, is “important,” writes the Times, because "Sisters needs the money to repay bondholder debts amid soaring losses".

 

Food interviews

Kelly Choi, founder of Sushi Daily

The Sunday Times speaks to Kelly Choi about perfecting her business model for KellyDeli, the company that runs the Sushi Daily kiosks in supermarkets like Waitrose, as well as the launch of her new grab-and-go concept in London, scheduled to open on December 14.

 

Food reviews

Cornerstone, London E9 5LX

Seafood takes centre stage at this restaurant from Great British Menu winner Tom Brown, who is praised by Jay Rayner for his cod brandade with sauteed mushrooms, runny egg yolk and green herbs – “a dish so handsome it almost feels like vandalism to slip in the knife” – and a homemade crumpet “stacked with a generous pile of nutty potted shrimps, dripping with spiced molten butter,” topped with ribbons of kohlrabi.

Two Lights, 28 Kingsland Road, London E2 8DA

There’s no lightbulb moment at this Shoreditch eatery for Marina O’Loughlin, who finds the grilled shortrib with beetroot and pickled walnuts “an unyielding chore,” amid a number of dishes that are straight out of the Cool New Stuff ™ handbook. She does, however, enjoy the grouse sausage – served on coco beans and topped with semi-dried figs – and a “meaty ray wing, roasted and sexily gelatinous, just-charred in the right places.”

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