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A week in news: the latest food and drink headlines 29 August – 2 September

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5 min read
AUTHOR: Molly Long
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The food industry is experiencing multiple stressors at once – from climate instability and shortages, to energy inflation and the cost of living crisis. Here is a roundup of the biggest food news of the week.

UK food prices see biggest increase since 2008

Food prices rose by 5.1% in August, according to data released by the British Retail Consortium. Fresh food prices were the worst hit, having inflated some 10.5% – this is the highest level of food inflation seen since the financial crash in 2008.

The significant hike in prices is in part due to rise in the cost of fertiliser, wheat and vegetable oils – a result of the war between Russia and Ukraine where large amounts of these goods are produced. Find out which foods are the worst affected.

John Lewis and Waitrose pledge to feed staff for free

John Lewis & Partners and its subsidiary supermarket Waitrose have pledged to feed its staff for free this winter. Depending on how many hours employees – including temporary staff members – work for, they’ll be offered at least one meal for free. The move is an attempt at softening the blow dealt by the increasingly severe cost-of-living crisis.

The news comes as the company announced it would be advertising 10,000 temporary positions over Christmas. This will include 6,000 jobs at John Lewis and Waitrose stores, and a further 4,000 in its supply chain. Read more on the retailer’s plan for the festive period.

Tory Minister and landlord directs tenants to nearby food banks after rent hike

A property firm owned by the family of Conservative Minister Lord Richard Benyon has pointed its tenants in the direction of local food banks after raising their rent. The Benyon Estate owns 371 properties in London, and recently upped the rent in some of its Hackney homes by 3% – equivalent to an increase of about £950 a year. Bosses rejected tenants’ request to reconsider the hike, suggesting that it was justified considering the rate of inflation.

Instead, Benyon Estates offered to send tenants a list of local food banks. According to emails seen by The i newspaper, the property firm said it would be “unable to accommodate [a] request for a rent reduction at this time,” adding that it could send over “a number of links to various services such as food banks etc… should they be of interest”.

Irish farmers could be forced to cull cows to meet climate targets

Ireland may force its farmers to kill their cattle in a bid to meet their climate goals. The country’s agriculture sector is tasked with cutting its greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2030, as part of a country-wide carbon reduction target of 50%. Agriculture accounts for approximately 37.5% of Ireland’s total CO2 emissions and its extensive beef production industry gives it the highest the highest methane emissions per capita of any EU country.

The decision would be a complete about-face from advice given to farmers in 2015, which encouraged investment in dairy following the EU’s scrapping of milk production caps. Find out the justification Ireland is giving.

Tesco seeks plant-based alternatives as it reveals some fruit is unsuitable for vegans

Supermarket giant Tesco said it was “seeking alternatives” after revealing some of its fruit is currently unsuitable for vegans. According to the retailer, its oranges, lemons and limes are non-vegan, because of the application of a post-harvest beeswax coating to peels. The coating is supposed to keep fruit fresher for longer.

Tesco has now said it will work with suppliers to find a solution to beeswax-coated fruit, as well as the coatings of several other fruits which contain shellac, another non-vegan ingredient which is derived from insects. In the meantime, those following a vegan diet are advised to seek out organic-labelled fruit, as this won’t come with the coatings in question.

Food exports exceed pre-pandemic levels for the first time

Data from the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) shows an increased demand for quality British products like chocolate has driven exports to both EU and non-EU markets to pre-pandemic levels for the first time since 2020. Exports of the sweet treat were worth £368 million – up 12% on last year.

Non-EU countries, particularly those which are in the process of agreeing trade deals with the UK, have seen significant increases. Exports to India, for example, are up 81% on last year. Additionally, despite issues at borders, exports to EU countries were also up. Exports to France increased by 33.1%, Ireland by 26.2%, and the Netherlands by 41.1%. Learn which foods and drinks have fared best.

Poundland launches low-cost meat and fish range

Discount retailer Poundland has announced its shops will soon carry a line of low-cost meat and fish products. The Cookit range will be comprised of 11 items, including sausages, ribs, bacon, steak, mince, salmon and cod fillets.

Poundland has worked with Nottingham-based DTS Food for the last six months to develop the budget range. The retailer says it will also use DTS’s ChillerFiller supply app, which allows orders to be made by, and delivered to, single or multiple stores directly in order to manage freshness and quality of the meat, as well as cut levels of food waste and reduce overall carbon emissions. Read about why the company is making the move into fresh food.

Martin Lewis challenges Tory leadership hopefuls to TV interview on cost-of-living crisis

Consumer champion and journalist Martin Lewis took Twitter by storm this week when he used the platform to challenge Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak – the two politicians currently vying to become the UK’s next Prime Minister – to a televised interview, once one of them has been elected into 10 Downing Street. Lewis wants to discuss with the new PM how they plan to tackle the cost of living crisis.

As per his Tweet thread, Lewis hopes to sit down with the new PM in an hour-long, live televised interview which could help “ease people’s concerns” going into the winter months, which some economists say could see inflation rates hit as high as 18%.

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