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A week in news: the latest food and drink headlines 14-18 November

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5 min read
AUTHOR: Molly Long
A table spread of middle eastern vegan food

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt confirmed this week that the UK had entered a recession. In his highly anticipated Autumn Budget, he said “difficult decisions” lie ahead, before announcing a raft of measures to tackle what the Tories have labelled a ‘fiscal black hole’ in UK finances. Tax hikes set out by the chancellor are worth an estimated £24 billion, while the public spending cuts he announced are worth £30 billion. There is no doubt the food industry will be affected by this news.

Elsewhere, the now-familiar issue of inflation is continuing to plague the food industry. Branded products are more expensive than ever, and new data has revealed the scale of the damage that an increasingly volatile economy is having on food industry investment. But fear not, there were some good food news stories this week. One supermarket has foregone the modern tradition of a glitzy Christmas ad in favour of helping those in need this festive season, while a regulatory thumbs-up in the US could be the start of a complete redesign of the global food system as we know it.

Here were the biggest food and drink headlines this week:

The Co-op ditches Christmas ad this year to help hungry communities instead

Christmas ads have become somewhat of a modern tradition in the last decade, with the best known having budgets and teams akin to small Hollywood productions. Instead of spending millions following this trend, the Co-op has pledged to funnel the Christmas ad money into community food projects instead.

The membership-based food scheme Your Local Pantry will be the main beneficiary of the cash. These community hub shops give locals access to food at heavily discounted prices, and are located around the country. The supermarket says the new partnership could help support some 32,000 households in the coming years.

The price of branded food is rising faster than general grocery inflation, Which? data reveals

Increased access to food will be widely welcomed, particularly following news this week that many of the UK’s favourite branded products are increasing in price well above the general rate of grocery inflation. Sliced bread, butter and pre-made sauces were among the worst offenders.

Every product consumer champion Which? examined had increased in price by at least 22% – far above the latest grocery inflation figure of 14.7%. Find out where your favourite products come on the list.

More than 4 in 10 people believe animal-based diets will go ‘extinct’ in the next decade

A considerable portion of consumers believe a plant-based world is on the horizon, according to new data released this week from sustainable food systems non-profit EAT. In keeping with this prediction, the number of people who appear interested in vegetarian, flexitarian or vegan diets is also on the rise.

More than one in five people (22%) said they eat plant-based food – this is up from 17% in 2019. Learn which age demographic is most likely to be vegan-curious.

Seasonal fruit pickers left in debt after being sent home early from UK farms

An Observer investigation this week revealed that a number of seasonal agricultural workers from Nepal are facing considerable debt after being let go early from their position at a Kent farm. Many of the workers had taken on loans and quit jobs to travel to the UK under the promise of better wages.

Workers have been warned that if they act promptly and either find new work or leave the country, their visas will be cancelled and their names blacklisted. However, many have no way of affording further expenses either way. It remains unclear exactly why the working term – six months – was cut short.

Upside Foods gets FDA green light for cultivated chicken

Californian cultivated meat company Upside Foods has become the first to receive a ‘No Questions’ letter from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The document signals that the FDA has accepted Upside’s evidence that its cultivated chicken is safe for human consumption.

There remain some regulatory hurdles ahead, but an FDA green light is an important step on the road to full commercialisation of the product. It is thought news of the food company’s success in the US could be a watershed moment for cultivated meat globally. What steps must Upside now take to reach the market?

Nearly half of manufacturers have cut or halted investment projects as cost pressures bite, reveals FDF

Some 49% of food and drink manufacturers have paused or cancelled capital investment projects, according to a new survey from the Food and Drink Federation. Where there is investment, most of it is targeted at reducing long term cost pressures.

Areas which had the lowest investment priority were logistics and supply chain, and employee training. Explore which business areas companies are most keen to support.

And finally… Scientists develop ‘edible’ drone for use in rescue missions

A team at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology has developed an edible drone which could help deliver life-saving nutrition to ‘disaster survivors’. The small flying aircraft has wings made from hexagonal rice cakes fixed together with gelatine.

Drones can deliver crucial supplies to people in need following natural disasters like flooding and earthquakes, but they can only carry about 30% of their mass as payload. This latest drone design solves that problem by making the wings part of the precious cargo.

Currently, a prototype of the drone is capable of flying 10 metres-per-second. The next aim of the team will be to transform other, currently non-edible, pieces of the drone like the rudder.

image of rice cake drone

Image from Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne

Image from Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne

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