Food and Agri weekly update Friday 18 November

Budget

Jeremy Hunt presented the Autumn statement this week with the introduction that the UK was now in recession. Higher energy prices explain the majority of downward progression. Unemployment is also due to rise. The priority it is stated for the government will be getting inflation down.

Key points and responses from the food sector so far:

600,000 people on Universal Credit are to meet with a work coach in a bid to get more into the workforce. The National Living Wage is set to rise by 9.7% from April to an hourly rate of £10.42

There is a £13.6bn package of support for business rates payers in England to protect businesses from rising inflation the multiplier will be frozen in 2023-24 while relief for 230,000 businesses in retail, hospitality and leisure sectors was also increased from 50% to 75% next year

The British Frozen Food Federation stated the Autumn statement was ‘disappointing’ for businesses in the frozen food industry. Particularly in light of the decision not to extend energy support for their businesses past the end of March.

The Association of Independent Meat Suppliers indicated there was no ‘needs based’ approach to migrant labour outlined, even in the short term.  However it was hoped the work coach approach would include training to get those back in the workforce.

The drinks sector has welcomed news that alcohol duty rates will be deferred but indicated the lack of further relief or clarity will hit pubs, breweries and their customers. Without lower beer duty or detail on whether energy costs will dramatically increase pubs and brewers will still be forced to make difficult decisions.

While the extension of the retail, hospitality and leisure business rate relief support to 75% was welcomed it was stated that small breweries are again likely to miss out.  It was demanded that there be as small and as few  increases in alcohol duty as possible in 2023 by the Wine and Spirit Trade Association.

 The Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts a 7.1% drop in real disposable income over two years.

Inflation and cost of living

The price of some of the most popular branded food products have soared by as much as 107% in the last two years, according to the latest research from Which?  available at: https://protect-eu.mimecast.com/s/hXBwCoYZES4z84ZS1Qtvi?domain=which.co.uk 

The consumer watchdog tracked 79 branded products for its survey, comparing the prices at Asda, Morrisons, Ocado, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose over a 30-day period (from 21 September to 20 October) in both 2020 and 2022..

The study revealed that Heinz Tomato Ketchup saw the biggest average percentage increase overall, with its 460g top-down version increasing by 53% (91p) across six major supermarkets over the two-year period.

Dolmio Lasagne Sauce (470g) saw the second biggest average increase, up by 47% (61p) in two years and as much as 107% (£1.09) in one supermarket.

The data reveals that the cost of some of Britain’s favourite branded products has risen more sharply than overall grocery inflation, which currently sits at 14.7%. It also shows how dramatically pricing of specific products can differ between supermarkets.

The discount retailer, Lidl has reported more than 770,000 additional customers a week shopping in its stores compared to last year.  It claims that 60% of British householders now shop at its stores. 

Full year profits for discount grocer Lidl rose by more than 300%.  Sales at Lidl edged up 1.5%, a 13% rise against a two-year comparison.

Food Waste.

Champions 12.3, UN Environment Programme (UNEP), UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and supported by WRAP, WWF, and Rabobank, have launched a new ‘123 Pledge’ The PLEDGE on Food Waste | The PLEDGE on Food Waste | Champions 12.3 (champions123.org)  which looks to accelerate action to reduce food waste and loss worldwide.

Groups taking the '123 Pledge' must meet a number of requirements designed to ensure impact, progress and transparency toward a worldwide goal of halving food loss and waste by 2030, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3. Commitments must include a climate angle, be timebound, and measurable. Those taking the Pledge must commit to providing annual progress reports to the Food Is Never Waste Coalition or to Champions 12.3. Annual progress reports will contribute to the Global Stocktake (GST), which will conclude at COP28 in 2023.

Commitments must also tie to at least one of five priority areas:

  1. Integrating food loss and waste reduction into country and company climate strategies;
  2. Reducing food loss and waste along supply chains;
  3. Stimulating action at the national and subnational (city) level;
  4. Measuring, reporting and creating policy and regulatory frameworks for food loss and waste reduction; and
  5. Supporting behavior change at the consumer level through awareness, education and enabling conditions.

In addition to promoting a key climate action, the Pledge's organizers hope to ultimately help families save money during times of high food prices

Supply Chain

Asda Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Lidl are limiting the number of eggs customers can buy due to supply chain issues. Lidl has put in place a three egg box per customer rule.

According to the British Free Range Egg Producers Association (BFREPA), a third of farmers have reduced hen numbers due to cost pressures and a quarter have stopped production either temporarily or permanently. This adds to the ongoing restrictions due to bird flu.

The UK’s worst-ever outbreak of avian flu has also affected Christmas dinner staples as more than a third of all free-range Christmas turkeys have died.  As a result, Iceland announced last week that it would be freezing the price of its own-brand frozen turkeys to keep costs low for shoppers during the run up to the big day.

In other supply chain news, Cadbury’s has confirmed it is facing supply chain issues, that has caused it to remove mini-Twirls from some Heroes chocolate boxes and replacing them with two full-sized chocolate bars.

Just before the Christmas period, a spokesperson for Mondelez, which owns Cadbury’s, said “To ensure we can continue to bring our loyal consumers the products they know and love, we have temporarily substituted bitesize Cadbury Twirl in Heroes Tubs, to the slightly larger Cadbury Twirl 21g across a small percentage of tubs produced.”

ASA useful adjudications this week

Direct Wines Ltd t/a The Sunday Times Wine Club

Not upheld  National newspaper (paid ad)  16 November 2022

Direct Wines Ltd - ASA | CAP

A press ad for The Sunday Times Wine Club did not misleadingly claim that a product was “half price”.

The ASA considered that consumers would understand the savings claim in the ad to mean that a bottle of L’Epiphanie de Bordeaux Blanc 2020 was usually sold at £25 per bottle and that, by redeeming the Sunday Times Wine Club offer, they would be able to make a genuine saving of 50% against the usual selling price of the product. The ASA therefore expected to see evidence to demonstrate that the bottle of wine was usually sold at £25.

Firstly, the ASA noted that the offer was available for five weeks, and that it was the only promotion that had been applied to the six-bottle case during the eight-month period. As such, we understood that the six-bottle case had been consistently sold at the higher price of £25 per bottle before the Sunday Times Wine Club offer commenced. Furthermore, the ASA noted that when the offer was live, the six -bottle case continued to be sold at £25 per bottle on the website to those who did not have access to the Sunday Times Wine Club link via the press ad (or the digital ads, which the ASA did not assess as part of the complaint). The ASA therefore considered that the cost of the six -bottle case was sold at the higher price of £25 for significantly longer than the promotional price.

The ASA then assessed the sales data provided by Direct Wines. We noted that there was a total of 271 orders of the six-bottle case of L’Epiphanie de Bordeaux Blanc 2020, and that 62 of those offers had used the Sunday Times Wine Club offer. Therefore, we understood that 23% of the total orders of the six-bottle case had been at the promotional price. Consequently, we considered that the bulk of sales of the six-bottle case occurred at the higher price of £25 per bottle.

The ASA also took the quantity of sales of other case sizes into consideration, along with the corresponding selling price per bottle. Data indicated the majority of 2020 Vintage orders placed were low volume and had been sold at £25 per bottle.

The ASA therefore considered that Direct Wines were able to substantiate that the usual selling price of a bottle of L’Epiphanie de Bordeaux Blanc 2020 was £25 per bottle, and concluded that the claim in the ad represented a genuine saving of 50% against that price.

 

Quick Commerce Ltd t/a Zapp

Upheld Poster (digital static image)  16 November 2022 Quick Commerce Ltd - ASA | CAQuick Commerce Ltd - ASA | CAPP

An electronic poster for a grocery delivery service suggested that alcohol had therapeutic qualities and was capable of changing moods, specifically suggesting that it could accelerate feelings of relaxation.

The CAP Code required that marketing communications must be socially responsible and must not imply that alcohol was capable of changing mood.

An electronic poster for Zapp, a grocery delivery service, seen on 27 May 2022, showed a bottle of gin, two bottles of tonic water and a lime. Text stated, “Friday Feels – in minutes, 24/7”

The ASA understood that the ad appeared on Fridays only for a grocery delivery service and understand that it hinted at the idea of relaxing with a drink at the end of the working week.

The ASA considered, however, that the prominent focus on a bottle of gin in conjunction with the text “Friday Feels – in minutes […]” suggested that alcohol could help accelerate the feeling of relaxation at the end of the working week, on a day typically associated with socialising in the evening.

Although the ASA acknowledged that the line “in minutes, 24/7” was a reference to the advertiser’s 24-hour delivery service, we also considered that “Friday Feels – in minutes, 24/7”, alongside a picture of gin and tonic bottles only, would be taken to mean that this feeling of relaxation could be achieved at any time of day, by drinking alcohol.

The ASA therefore considered the ad implied that alcohol was capable of improving and changing mood and concluded that it breached the Code.

Coop Robots

Co-op and Starship Technologies are set to launch food delivery robots in Cambridge, in partnership with Cambridge County County Council.

Rolling out from 17 November, the service will be available to 12,200 residents in the Cherry Hinton and Queen Edith areas of Cambridge.

Orders can be made via the Starship food delivery app which will be picked in local Co-op stores and delivered via the battery powered robots.

As deliveries can be made in less than an hour, customers can watch the robot travel in real-time via an interactive map and when their order has arrived, residents will be alerted to meet and unlock the robot through the app.

Consultations

Consultation on changes to Legislation relating to Alcoholic Drinks in Great Britain - Defra - Citizen Space ends 23 Nov

The UK signed a free trade agreement with New Zealand on 28th February 2022 (‘the UK-NZ FTA’).  Annex 7A to the Agreement concerns wine and distilled spirits. To implement the agreement, the United Kingdom will make three minor changes to domestic legislation on how wine and alcoholic drinks can be described and marketed on labels. These changes allow producers and sellers more flexibility in the information they choose to include on alcoholic drink labels and will be optional for producers to adopt.

This consultation seeks views on the likely impact of three changes needed to implement the UK-NZ FTA:

  1. first, the UK Government proposes that wine products should be allowed to show alcoholic strength to one decimal place;
  2. second, the UK Government proposes that when several grape varieties are used in the production of a blended wine and are shown on the label, the named varieties must total at least 95% of the volume of the wine;
  3. finally, the UK Government proposes that the term ‘alc/vol’ may appear directly after the alcohol content figure displayed on the label of any alcoholic beverage.

The consultation commenced on 2nd November 2022 and will end on 23rd November 2022. 

Amending the Bread and Flour Regulations 1998 and the Bread and Flour Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1998 ends 23 Nov

This concerns proposals to update and amend The Bread and Flour Regulations 1998 and The Bread and Flour Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1998 which cover specific rules on the labelling and composition of bread and flour. The regulations primarily mandate the compulsory fortification of milled white and brown non-wholemeal wheat flour that are manufactured and sold in the UK for public health reasons with added calcium, iron, thiamin and niacin to protect against nutrient deficiencies within the UK population.

 Requests for a review were largely due to a disparity between the Bread and Flour Regulations and other pieces of food legislation on the levels and specifications of vitamins and minerals added to foods.. The proposals included in this consultation look at ways to ensure that the regulations lead to improved public health, support UK industry, assist enforcement authorities and protect consumers.

This will require the mandatory fortification of non-wholemeal wheat flour with folic acid to help prevent neural tube defects in foetuses. To minimise the impact of this requirement on industry, where possible, multiple changes should be incorporated under one set of amendments. Thus, the addition of folic acid to the list of nutrients which must be added to non-wholemeal wheat flour is being co-ordinated as part of this wider review of the regulations.  Amending the Bread and Flour Regulations 1998 and the Bread and Flour Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1998 - Defra - Citizen Space

Plant Varieties and Seeds (PVS) Strategy – Call for Ideas ends 19 Dec

The policy area of Plant Varieties and Seeds (PVS) covers Plant Variety Rights (intellectual property rights of plant breeders), plant variety registration, setting standards for marketing and certification of seed and other plant propagating material and ensuring that these standards are upheld.  

Defra, Scottish Government, Welsh Government and DAERA are working together to develop a UK PVS Strategy spanning 5 years. This will be the first strategy in the PVS area and will be an opportunity to engage with industry and other stakeholders to set out a shared vision, priorities, and actions to achieve these. 

The call for ideas is open from 26th September until 19th December. Plant Varieties and Seeds (PVS) Strategy - Defra - Citizen Space

EFSA’s first podcast

The European Food Safety Authority has launched its’ first podcast Tune into EFSA’s first podcast, with science on the menu | EFSA (europa.eu) This joins European Commission’s podcast focused on food and agriculture affairs, Food for Europe.

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