Farmers encouraged to use new tool to take back control

Farmers are being encouraged to use a new two-minute tool to reassess the health of their business, work-life balance and financial affairs in easy, manageable chunks. Developed in conjunction with a group of farmers in Cornwall, Two-Minute Farmer addresses all the complexities of modern farming life, but in a straightforward and practical way. It allows farmers to assess 10 elements – including paperwork, environment and lifestyle – of their daily lives which affect individual success and wellbeing, identifying areas for improvement and linking to a knowledge hub to help make positive changes. “We started out by holding informal meetings in a local pub and what emerged was that everyone needed different things – the complexity was immense and it is only increasing,” explains Harriet Housam, who led the project with support from Stephens Scown and Agri-tech Cornwall. “What was also clear was the mental element of feeling overwhelmed, so we created the Tractor Wheel of Life to consider the key questions which affect farmers’ business and physical wellbeing. “In this way we can break big complex issues into two-minute chunks so they’re less overwhelming.” Farmers score each element out of 10, with zero meaning that area requires the most work and 10 indicating an area of complete satisfaction. They then plot those scores on a wheel chart to see if it creates a balanced wheel – which will roll easily – or a very spiky one, indicating that there are problem areas to address. “A healthy and resilient business is all about balance,” says Miss Housam. “And the feedback on the tool has been really good. It has helped farmers to step back and make real positive changes – to impact on someone’s life like that is really rewarding.” Having proved the concept in Cornwall, Miss Housam now wants to roll it out across the UK and to create an app. This could also be used to collect anonymous data on regional trends in how farmers are faring, which could then feed into suitable knowledge exchange in regional roadshows. “Farmers are already using the Wheel as a baseline for meetings with consultants and accountants, and we’re working with a range of partners to provide support like the Farming Health Hub.” This brings together private, public and voluntary organisations to provide advice, support and guidance to farming communities on all aspects of their physical, mental and business health.

UK food & drink exports slide despite re-opening of hospitality, travel sectors

Despite sporadic re-openings of the hospitality and travel sectors – both domestically and overseas – throughout the last year, UK food and drink exports in 2020 fell by 9.7% compared to 2019. The results come from an industry report from Santander UK and the Food and Drink Federation (FDF). It found that, despite the decline, a widespread easing of pandemic restrictions coupled with businesses stockpiling products in the EU before the end of the transition period meant our exports fell by just 1.7% in Q4 2020. Exports to both EU and non-EU markets fell by 8.0%, and 12.1% respectively. Most of the top 10 products exported by the UK also fell due to the pandemic. This includes a decline in volume of the UK’s top three products: whisky (-13.7%), chocolate (-2.3%) and cheese (-7.5%). Despite this, pork sales to EU and non-EU markets increased in volume by 6.2% in 2020, with a total value of £629.7m. Sales of breakfast cereals also increased in volume by 12.6% with the top market being the Republic of Ireland. As the UK forges its new identity as an independent trading nation following the end of the transition period, significant growth opportunities remain for UK food and drink exporters, both in the EU and further afield. Significant growth markets detailed in the report include the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The UK’s application to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the third largest free-trade bloc in the world by GDP, will also present new opportunities for food and drink exporters if it is approved. The FDF and Santander UK welcome recent initiatives from the Government to help UK exporters, including the creation of four Trade and Investment Hubs by the Department of International Trade (DIT). The FDF is proud to be a supporting partner on the Government’s Open Doors campaign, helping UK farmers export to the world’s fastest growing markets. However, more can be done to ensure UK food and drink exporters have all the support they need. Government should adopt the export proposals produced and agreed by industry members of the Food and Drink Sector Council that were also backed in the recent report published by the Trade and Agriculture Commission. These include establishing a Food and Drink Export Council to drive UK-wide collaboration, and addressing the critical gap in specialist support for exporters of food and drink that exists in England. “The FDF continues to work in close partnership with the Government and other industry bodies to ensure our sector has the support that is needed to fulfil our untapped export potential. These initiatives are vital to help create new jobs and drive the quick return to growth that is essential to strengthen resilience across our industry,” said Ian Wright CBE, Chief Executive of the FDF. “As the UK’s largest manufacturing sector, food and drink makes a unique economic and cultural contribution in every region of the UK. Now we look forward to the Government demonstrating its commitment to working in partnership with us to accelerate growth in our sector.” Andrew Williams, Head of Food & Drink Sector, Santander Corporate & Commercial Banking, said: “While the food and drink industry didn’t escape the effects of the pandemic and Brexit last year, it certainly didn’t let them beat it. “There is much scope for growth in 2021 and we are proud to support food and drink businesses throughout the UK in making the most of opportunities to expand at home and to export overseas, both to the EU and beyond.”

‘Cuthbert the Caterpillar’ trademark row could have deeper consequences for industry

Aldi is being sued by Marks & Spencer over claims that its ‘Cuthbert the Caterpillar’ cake infringes the latter’s ‘Colin the Caterpillar’ trademark. However, this could have deeper consequences for the industry. Carys Thompson, partner at law firm, Keebles LLP, said: “M&S has three registered trademarks relating to its Colin the Caterpillar cake. The company lodged an action against Aldi in the High Court last week claiming that the similarity of Aldi’s lower priced Cuthbert the Caterpillar cake infringes M&S’s trademark. “M&S argue that despite being a lower-priced product, it leads consumers to believe the Aldi cake is of the same standard as M&S’s Colin the Caterpillar cake and ‘rides on the coat-tails’ of M&S’ reputation. “The verdict will depend on whether the High Court decides that Aldi is seeking to benefit commercially by bringing a confusingly similar product to market.” The case raises questions about retailers selling similar products which are closely related to those sold by competitors but are branded up differently in an attempt to avoid trademark issues such as this. Ms Thompson said: “This will be an interesting case to follow. If M&S is successful, it will be interesting to see whether the company takes action against other retailers that have created their own similar products or whether those retailers remove their products from sale.”

Hovis taps chef Tom Kerridge to launch new range

Historic British bakery brand, Hovis, has partnered with chef Tom Kerridge as it launches its new Bakers Since 1886 range. The new variants include two flavours of half cob loaves, baked using a 36-hour starter dough, as well as Premium Burger Buns and mature cheddar Cheese Topped Rolls. Offering White and Seeded variants, the new loaves will be available in Tesco and Asda in April and in Waitrose and Morrisons from May. The rolls, meanwhile, will be available in Asda and Waitrose in April and in Morrisons from May. Under the new partnership, Tom Kerridge will help celebrate the new Bakers Since 1886 range launch in a number of different ways – from showcasing the Premium Burger Buns in a national alfresco dining roadshow, to encouraging the nation to bring back the beloved toastie using the brand’s delicious new loaves. Moreover, the Premium Burger Buns have been selected to supply The Butcher’s Tap & Grill in Marlow, his premium butcher and grill restaurant. Kicking off the campaign, the chef is set to star in Hovis’ new TV advertisement to support the launch of the range, appearing on screens across the country from mid-May. Hovis is also sponsoring ‘The Pirate Ship’, a new podcast collaboration between Tom Kerridge and radio, podcast and TV presenter Chris Stark – where weekly celebrity guests and plenty of audience participation will see amazing food and drink put at the heart of every episode.

‘Forgotten’ coffee species could help futureproof industry under climate change

A previously “forgotten” coffee species, which grows at higher temperatures and boasts a superior flavour, could help to futureproof the coffee industry under climate change, a new study claims. Stenophylla coffee (Coffea stenophylla), a rare wild species from Upper West Africa, has been found to tolerate much warmer temperatures than Arabica coffee (Coffea arabica), the world’s most popular coffee, whilst boasting a superior flavour. These unique qualities mean that stenophylla could soon be grown commercially, but in much warmer places than Arabica. It also has the potential to be used as a breeding resource, to produce new, climate resilient coffee crops for global consumption. This discovery comes at a crucial time, as up until this point, experts had not identified any robust means of protecting coffee farming from the climate crisis. “Future-proofing the coffee supply chain to deal with climate change is vital – coffee drives a multibillion dollar global industry, supports the economy of several tropical countries, and provides livelihoods for more than 100 million coffee farmers,” said Dr Aaron Davis, Head of Coffee Research at RBG Kew, and lead author of the paper. “To find a coffee species that flourishes at higher temperatures and has an excellent flavour is a once in a lifetime scientific discovery – this species could be essential for the future of high-quality coffee.” Until late 2018 stenophylla had not been seen in the wild since 1954. The term ‘forgotten’ is applied to this species because it was once widely farmed in Upper West Africa. Today, its use as a crop species is non-existent, and only a few examples exist in coffee research collections. So, in December 2018, two of the paper’s authors (Dr Davis and Professor Haggar) travelled to Sierra Leone to work with development specialist Daniel Sarmu, to try and locate the species in the wild. They used historical specimens from RBG Kew to provide details of the last known locality of stenophylla coffee. With support of NGO Welthungerhilfe and the Sierra Leone Forestry Department, they visited the main target location, where they found only a single plant of stenophylla coffee. Moving east, they visited another forest area, and after several hours of trekking through dense forest, they finally located a healthy population. Dr Jeremy Haggar, Professor of Agroecology at the University of Greenwich and co-author of the paper, said: “On average, smallholder farmers in Sierra Leone earn less than £100 per year from coffee production so the rediscovery of this native coffee species might finally offer an opportunity for some of the world’s poorest farmers to grow a crop that commands a decent price.” A coffee that can handle rising temperatures Endemic to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast, stenophylla grows wild in hot-tropical areas at low elevation, only 400 m above sea level. After collecting data for Arabica, robusta, and stenophylla, the paper’s authors set to work to understand their fundamental environmental requirements. They found that stenophylla grows and crops under similar climatic conditions to robusta, but with a higher mean annual temperature requirement of 24.9⁰C (1.9⁰C higher than that of robusta), and a substantial 6.2–6.8 ⁰C higher than Arabica. Stenophylla coffee is also reported to be drought tolerant, although this attribute requires further research. Dr Justin Moat, scientist at RBG Kew, who led on the climate analysis in the paper said: “It is widely known that our beloved Arabica coffee in being impacted by climate change, and so the results of the study are extremely exciting. “Our analysis shows that stenophylla coffee grows at substantially higher temperatures than Arabica, providing the sort of robust differences we need if we are to have any chance of a sustainable coffee sector under climate change.” Stenophylla: The taste test There had been no recorded sensory information for stenophylla for 100 years, due to its scarcity in cultivation and rarity in the wild so it was essential for this species to be properly evaluated. Obtaining a small sample from partners in Sierra Leone, stenophylla was assessed by an expert tasting panel at Union Hand-Roasted Coffee in London in the summer of 2020. The panel awarded the coffee a speciality score of 80.25 (based on the protocol of the Specialty Coffee Association) and identified Arabica-like qualities. To reach ‘speciality’ status, a coffee needs a score of 80 points or higher. Jeremy Torz from Union Coffee said: “Arabica is currently our only speciality coffee species, and so this score, particularly from such a small sample, was surprising and remarkable.” After this initial tasting in London, an additional and much more substantial sample of stenophylla, this time from Ivory Coast, was obtained from the Coffea Biological Resources Center on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. The sample was evaluated at CIRAD’s sensorial analysis laboratory in Montpellier by a panel of judges, and then soon afterwards by coffee experts from companies including JDE, Nespresso and Belco. The 15-strong panel blind tested two Arabica samples (one high quality and one low grade), one high-quality robusta sample, and the Ivory Coast stenophylla. The evaluation revealed that stenophylla has a complex flavour profile, with judges noting its natural sweetness, medium-high acidity, fruitiness, and good body (i.e. its texture; the way it feels in the mouth). Desirable tasting notes included peach, blackcurrant, mandarin, honey, light black tea, jasmine, spice, floral, chocolate, caramel, nuts, and elderflower syrup, as one might find in high-quality Arabica. When asked if the stenophylla sample was an Arabica, 81% of the judges said yes (compared to 98% and 44% for the two Arabica samples, and 7% for the robusta sample). Despite the high ‘Arabica-like’ score for stenophylla, 47% of the judges identified the sample as something new, suggesting a market niche for the rediscovered coffee. Dr Delphine Mieulet, scientist at CIRAD, who led the tasting, said: “These results provide the first credible sensory evaluation for stenophylla coffee, from which we are able to corroborate historical reports of a superior taste. “The sensory analysis of stenophylla reveals a complex and unusual flavour profile that the judges unanimously found worthy of interest. For me, as a breeder, this new species is full of hope and allows us to imagine a bright future for quality coffee, despite climate change.” What’s next? Coffea stenophylla is classified on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as ‘Vulnerable’, so efforts are urgently required to safeguard the future of the species in the wild. Further work is required to fully evaluate its potential as a climate resilient, high-value crop species and breeding resource, including claims of drought tolerance and resistance to coffee leaf rust. This year, the four institutes involved in the paper plan to plant stenophylla seedlings in Sierra Leone and Reunion Island (CIRAD), in order to start assessing its agronomic potential under a range of environmental conditions.

Heineken pledges to carbon neutrality across value chain by 2040

Heineken is aiming to decarbonise its own production by 2030 and its full value chain by 2040. This is the first in a series of refreshed ‘Brew a Better World’ ambitions, which form an important part of the company’s new ‘EverGreen’ balanced growth strategy. “In this Decade of Action, we are committing to accelerating our actions to address climate change,” said Dolf van den Brink, Chairman and CEO of Heineken. “We aim to be carbon neutral in our production sites by 2030 in order to meet the 1.5°C goal set by the Paris Agreement. We will further reduce our emissions through energy efficiency and speed up the transition towards renewable energy. “A large part of our overall carbon footprint beyond production comes from agriculture, packaging, distribution and cooling. “This means we will work in close partnership with our suppliers and partners to reach our ambitious goal of a carbon neutral value chain by 2040.We know that HEINEKEN can only thrive if our planet and our communities thrive.” The brewer aims for all of its production sites to become carbon neutral by maximising energy efficiency and renewable energy use by 2030. In close partnership with suppliers, also by 2030, it aims to cut emissions by 30% across its entire value chain from a 2018 baseline. Looking ahead to 2040, the company said it will be the “first global brewer to aim for carbon neutrality in its full value chain”. The company is taking a science-based approach by working closely with the SBTi to validate its new commitment. Heineken has partnered to build a wind farm in Finland that will inject renewable electricity in the European grid supplying 13 of its operating companies. In Indonesia, the company utilises sustainable biomass made out of agricultural waste to heat its two breweries. In Nigeria, HEINEKEN has recently inaugurated solar panels in its Ibadan brewery, and in Vietnam, the company sources rice husks from local farmers to heat its brewing boilers. In addition, it is supporting a pilot of 500 low-carbon farming projects in eight countries, as well as shifting to zero-emission breweries in Spain and Austria. In Mexico, the company is using smart fridges that leverage software to automatically adjust cooling settings to minimize energy use. Heineken Netherlands is pioneering cleaner inland shipping methods for its beer and cider. In the UK, Heineken has launched an innovative cardboard multi-pack called Green Grip, reducing carbon and saving 500 tonnes of plastic every year. The brewer is proudly becoming a member of the Business Ambition for 1.5C, the Race to Zero as well as RE100.

Molson Coors removes plastic rings from all major brands in the UK

Molson Coors Beverage Company is removing plastic rings on all its major brands in the U, including Carling and Coors. To replace plastic rings, the brewery is introducing sustainable cardboard sleeve for can multipacks. The move sees Molson hit its target to remove all single-use plastic from Carling and Coors packaging by the end of April 2021 Coors’ in the UK, following the introduction of recyclable cardboard large-format multipacks in 2020. Since 2019, the company has removed more than 700 tonnes of single-use plastic from its operations. Produced by paper-based solutions supplier, Graphic Packaging International, the one-piece cartonboard wrap features a shaped interior design that securely holds the cans, as well as a locking mechanism so that adhesive isn’t required to keep the box closed. This proven paperboard solution will ensure the package meets the needs of today’s supply chains and consumers. Made from renewable wood fibres from certified sources, the wrap contains up to 17% recycled cartonboard, alongside virgin fibre for increased strength, improved machineability and stability in the supply chain. Fraser Thomson, Western Europe Operations Director at Molson Coors said: “As one of the UK’s largest brewers, we have a responsibility to champion sustainability in the sector and removing single-use plastic from across our operations is one of the ways we are meeting that responsibility as part of Our Imprint 2025 sustainability goals.” In 2019, Molson Coors joined the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, an initiative led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with UN Environment, and set out a global sustainable packaging strategy. Steve Gould, new product development and marketing director of the beverage division at Graphic Packaging International, said: “Our 100% recyclable wrap allows us to offer a robust option for brewing and soft drinks companies alike. “The package not only offers the sustainability benefits outlined but also offered Molson Coors’ brands further billboarding opportunities to support a brand’s proposition. “By removing unnecessary packaging where possible, while ensuring the contents remain secure throughout the supply chain, this recyclable solution allows us to continue to meet our environmental commitments with a consumer-friendly, fit-for-purpose pack, which places sustainability front of mind.”

SIG to build new production plant in Mexico

SIG will construct a new plant in Queretaro, Mexico to serve North American markets. The plant will further expand SIG’s global production network and will enable the company to build on its strong track record of growth in North America. Through its existing sales and service presence, SIG has been able to forge strong relationships with major dairies in Mexico, a large and growing milk market. In the USA, SIG has a well-established co-manufacturing customer base and is ideally placed to serve innovative and expanding new categories. SIG will invest around €40 million in the new plant over the period 2021-2023. The investment will cover state-of-the art production capacity for the printing, cutting and finishing of carton packs. The plant is expected to open in the first quarter of 2023 and will create around 200 jobs. It will have a highly flexible layout with a focus on ergonomics and the environment. Land and buildings will be financed through a long-term lease with an NPV of approximately €20 million. “We are very excited to announce this project which will enable us to serve our North American customers faster and more efficiently,” said Ricardo Rodriguez, President & General Manager Americas, SIG. “Delivery lead times will be reduced and we will be able to respond rapidly to changes in demand. “Our new plant will further drive growth in the region while demonstrating our commitment to the highest environmental standards.”

SICK goes flat out for performance with mini smart sensors

SICK has launched the versatile W4F family of miniature smart sensors, developed to achieve next-generation detection performance and incorporating powerful new optical technologies, each purpose-designed to master common sensing challenges in food processing and packaging with complete reliability. The SICK W4F family of photoelectric smart sensors packs a choice of class-leading detection technologies and application-specific optics into the same, rugged, 16mm x 40mm x 12mm housing. Each features SICK’s trademark BluePilot push-turn pinpoint alignment and on-sensor status display. Impressing with their resilience to bright ambient light, the versatile W4F smart sensors multiply intelligent machine integration options for almost any application, no matter how tight the available mounting space. “The SICK W4F is really a team of tiny superstar performers, and each is destined to be a future workhorse of the SICK smart sensor range,” explains David Hannaby, SICK’s UK Product Manager for Presence Detection. Superstar performers “Whether you need to detect high-gloss, perforated, transparent, wire-thin or flat products, the W4F has a specialist Optical Expert up to the task,” he said. “At the same time, the W4F’s extended smart sensor features unlock more diagnostics and monitoring, while process information including distance measurement can be output to configure smart automation tasks. “We have had excellent feedback from the first users of the SICK W4F photoelectric sensors. They have told us that they are getting the best-ever ambient light and sunlight suppression performance, as well as maximum immunity to all sources of optical interference.” The SICK W4F family comprises eight different sensor types, split into the Optical Experts together with a range known as Optical Standards, but which deliver performance significantly above the market standard. Optical experts Among the W4F Optical Experts is the new SICK W4F MultiSwitch with two separate switching points, together with a distance measurement output in mm. It is therefore possible e.g. to reliably detect an object both when it is upright or lying on its side using just one sensor, or to enable a robot arm to travel more quickly by allowing it to stop in two steps. Using distance measurement, an automated response can be designed to alert when products drift away from a pre-set detection position on a conveyor, or to measure the width of a roll of paper, for example. Another highlight is the new foreground suppression sensor optic, capable of reliably detecting low, flat objects less than one 1mm in depth on a conveyor. The new W4F ForegroundSuppression sensor excels when detecting flat products, even if they are extremely dark and glossy, such as chocolate bars. The SICK W4F V-Optic features a new V-focused light beam, designed to achieve exceptional accuracy when detecting mirror-reflective or completely transparent products such as plastic films. Low-remission, or tiny components are detected reliably, as well as objects as thin as a single fuse wire. The SICK W4F DoubleLine upgrades SICK’s MultiLine technology adding more power and performance to detect components that have uneven surfaces, recesses, holes, perforations, grids or grooves, such as plastic totes. Even when faced with dirt, vibrations or high temperature, the W4F is designed to self-monitor and will continue to deliver precise results even under tough conditions thanks to its rugged IP66/IP67 VISTAL® housing and highly-reliable optics. Optical standards The W4F Optical Standards sensors have already proven themselves in the field as space-saving and high-performing all-rounders. The through-beam photoelectric sensor has a long sensing range of up to 8 metres, while the photoelectric retro-reflective sensor extends up to 5 metres. Together with two photoelectric proximity sensors with background suppression, the Optical Standards achieve exceptionally reliable object detection. The W4F Narrow-beam sensor uses a highly-concentrated light beam and point geometry to detect jet black objects with a remission of less than one percent. Using SICK’s intuitive BluePilot, precise alignment is easy using the push-turn mechanism guided by the on-sensor LED display.  BluePilot also provides a visual indication of detection quality and enables any loss of detection capability, e.g. as a result of dirt on the lens, to be corrected before causing unplanned downtime. Useful IO-Link features include a ‘current receiver level’ read-out enabling detection to be monitored in real time. Extensive diagnostic functions ensure the system can monitor sensor status and can respond if process parameters such as temperature or degree of contamination deviate beyond pre-set limits. Extensive diagnostic data also enables rapid identification of the cause of failure, e.g. at critical temperatures, the W4F can automatically initiate maintenance, thus preventing failures.

i2r enjoys strong connection with iconic pie brand

Leading aluminium foil tray manufacturers, i2r Packaging Solutions, supply the UK’s number one hot pie brand, Pukka Pies. A long-standing supplier relationship, i2r’s strong connection with Pukka is down to being innovative and anticipating new trends – a trait particularly important in the burgeoning convenience food sector, where the demand for quick and easy meal options continues to surge. Iconic food manufacturer, Pukka, has been making and baking its award-winning pies in Syston, Leicester for over 57 years. The company is a privately owned family business and employs over 360 people, producing over 180,000 pies per day in the UK and overseas. Winners of The Grocer’s Brand of the Year in 2020, Pukka pies are the nation’s favourite. Focusing on new product development, i2r’s association with the pie brand has evolved since 2015 and they currently supply both plain and coloured aluminium trays for Pukka’s grocery range. The trays, which support a variety of recipes, are produced in a number of colour variations including black, red, gold, green, grey, blue and silver, all of which are fully recyclable. Pukka’s pies are stocked in fish & chip shops across the county, as well as more than 4,000 grocery outlets nationwide, including Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Co-op, as well as a range of smaller convenience stores. “We really enjoy working alongside i2r, and have been working with them for a number of years now”, said Pukka’s Gary McCall. “Their excellent service, product quality and help with NPD in particular, are all key attributes in making our supply chain as efficient as possible.” i2r’s Commercial Director, Jon West, added: “Our relationship with Pukka goes from strength to strength. “They trust us to deliver, maintain a streamlined supply chain and provide outstanding customer support; in doing so, we are able to fully anticipate their needs and ensure we fully support Pukka’s development program as well as well as complementing their sustainability ethos.”