Lockdown leads to new wave of food businesses

The financial hardship and job uncertainty experienced by many during the coronavirus pandemic has provided the final push for thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs to start their food collection and delivery businesses, according to new research. 634 new food businesses were created by Britons on furlough, while the number of registrations by those made redundant increased by a third (33%) from last year to create 1,450 new companies. 14% of new food collection and delivery registrations – around 1,270 enterprises – were the result of a need for an extra source of income, according to research published in the ‘Boom or Bust: Beginning a business in a pandemic’ report published by The Accountancy Partnership. Whilst unemployment and money struggles played a significant part in this surge of business registrations, almost half (46%) of entrepreneurs who started businesses during COVID said they had always wanted to be self-employed or own a business. “Our research shows that many lockdown entrepreneurs saw creating their own takeaway food businesses as their only option after being made redundant or facing other financial troubles, but the statistic of those fulfilling longer-term dreams of owning a business is hugely encouraging,” said Lee Murphy, Managing Director of The Accountancy Partnership. “It means that even businesses launched out of necessity have people behind them with a genuine desire to be business owners. This enthusiasm will help fledgling businesses thrive despite the adverse circumstances of their inceptions.” The research shows that an ever-growing interest in side-hustles has also contributed to the new business boom, with more than a fifth (21%) of pandemic-born businesses starting their life in this way. This 40% increase from 2019 is likely a result of people having more time on their hands due to lockdown restrictions, isolation and furlough, with enterprising Britons using their free time to monetise a skill or hobby. “The ‘lockdown-preneurs’ have some difficult waters ahead of them as we navigate the rest of the pandemic and the recovery period, but our research suggests that there are enthusiastic, passionate people behind a significant number of lockdown businesses and that is critical to success,” said Mr Murphy.

Aldi trials packaging-free products

Aldi has launched a trial selling its first packaging-free products to help customers shop more sustainably. The trial is available at one store in Ulverston, Cumbria, but if successful, Aldi will look to develop its refillable options in other stores in the future. Four household staples – basmati rice, brown rice, penne pasta and wholewheat fusilli – are available to buy loose in store. The move could remove more than 130 tonnes – or more than 21 million pieces – of plastic annually from stores. The products are available by weight, and Aldi will provide customers with free paper bags that are fully recyclable and made of FSC-certified material. “Customers at our Ulverston store can now buy the same high-quality items they know and love, while also cutting down on plastic packaging,” said Richard Gorman, Plastics and Packaging Director at Aldi. “We’re always looking for new ways to reduce waste plastic and limit packaging, as many of our shoppers are increasingly conscious of the environment and their impact on it. “We hope local customers embrace the trial and we will use their feedback to inform any future plans around refillable products.”

Ÿnsect accelerates international expansion with Protifarm acquisition

Parisian insect protein specialist, Ÿnsect, has accelerated its international expansion with the acquisition of Protifarm, a Dutch producer of mealworm ingredients for human food applications. The joint offering will accelerate manufacturing capabilities with a third production site, as the company move to deliver on its long-term strategy to offer a healthy, sustainable solution to the accelerating consumption of protein. Following the European Food Safety Authority deeming mealworms safe for human consumption this January, Ÿnsect is expanding into the market of food ingredients derived from insect ingredients for humans. In addition to its sites in France, Ÿnsect now expands internationally with the integration of Protifarm, a Dutch production site based in Ermelo, one hour east of Amsterdam. This solidifies the company’s position as the world’s largest insect food and feed player. “Protifarm is a compelling fit for Ÿnsect, perfectly matching our long-term goals and sustainability values,” said Antoine Hubert, Co-Founder and CEO of Ÿnsect. “Acquiring Protifarm is a strategic next step for us, strengthening Ÿnsect’s leading position in the global market and allowing us to properly address the human and pet food markets with complementary products.” The Dutch state-of-the-art vertical farm produces more than 1,000 metric tons of food ingredients annually. With two Ÿnsect production sites in operation and one under construction, the result is an increase in volume and accelerated production and delivery to customers.

Danish craft brewery taps Leeds agency to launch Game of Thrones beer

Danish craft brewery, Mikkeller, has appointed Leeds-based ilk Agency to handle the UK launch of its new Game of Thrones inspired beer.

The project will see ilk handle UK media relations for the launch of its ‘Iron Anniversary IPA’ – the first of a series of craft beers to be launched by Mikkeller following its agreement of a new, multi-year partnership with Warner Bros. Consumer Products.

Launched to mark the 10th anniversary of Game of Thrones’ HBO premiere, ‘Iron Anniversary IPA’ is a New England IPA (NEIPA ) described as “hazy or juicy… expressive without being too extreme” and will be followed by two further beers in 2021, plus several more over the next few years.

The first release, ‘Iron Anniversary’, will be available in limited quantities in Denmark, Sweden, the UK, and the United States.

As well as adding to a repertoire of lagers, IPAs, spontaneously fermented beers, stouts and non-alcoholic beers by drawing inspiration from the rich Game of Thrones universe, fans of the popular franchise will also be able to purchase a range of Mikkeller merchandise inspired by the series.

Pernille Pang, head of press at Mikkeller, said: “We have done a lot of collaborations but this is without doubt the biggest so far and we are extremely proud to have this opportunity.

“We’re looking forward to working with ilk to share the first of many fantastic beers with Game of Thrones fans and other beer lovers in the UK.”

Nev Ridley, Managing Director at ilk, added: “To say this is an exciting launch would be an understatement. We love our craft beer at ilk, so we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to launch what is arguably the industry’s biggest collaboration to date.”

Online supermarket boss wants of supply chain shortages

A “serious disruption” in the supply chain, driven by Brexit, COVID-19 and increased shipping and packaging issues, could lead to shortages, Approved Food has warned. Andy Needham, MD of the Barnsley-based online sustainable supermarket, said that changes to export documentation requirements introduced after Brexit had already forced the company to stop taking orders from customers based outside the UK. Under the latest regulations, paperwork must include individual product commodity or harmonisation codes, weights and country of origin details for every item in a parcel – with most Approved Food orders containing dozens of items. An additional issue is that most third-party couriers will not allow parcels containing liquids – including drinks, shampoo and perfume – as they are concerned about spillages. By not allowing commodity codes for such products to be entered into the system, Mr Needham said it was virtually impossible to service international customers. In addition, the cost of hiring containers for products being shipped in from the Far East had more than trebled since January 1st. Whereas the cost to import a container was typically around $3,500, this had now gone up to as much as $12,000. With some companies delaying or missing orders for goods, the end result was that fewer plastic household items such as kitchen utensils, pan scrubs and even garden furniture were reaching UK shops from the Far East. The situation, said Mr Needham, was being compounded by the effect of thousands of containers of goods being delayed when a 220,000-tonne container vessel became wedged in the Suez Canal, the world’s busiest shipping lane. The ship, the Ever Given, is carrying 20,000 containers but other boats stuck behind the stricken vessel are estimated to be carrying over 300,000 containers between them, some but not all, destined for the UK. “Brexit, COVID-19, the ship stuck in the Suez Canal – it’s a perfect storm. We might not feel the full effect for weeks but if the movement of ships is delayed then there will be shortages,2 said Mr Needham. “We have also seen ships having to wait to dock as ports are busy with the added paperwork burden and some ports are still suffering with a hangover of substandard PPE deliveries from last year.” He added that the availability of cardboard was a further issue. As businesses have upped their digital offerings during the pandemic, the demand for packaging has risen dramatically. With shutdowns of commercial premises, the flow of cardboard for recycling had decreased. Despite two price increases this year, availability remained an issue. Mr Needham said it was possible that the courier industry could offer a solution to the cardboard shortage by handling returnable transit boxes or offering a premier service, but added: “There’s no easy solution. Unless you can run your own delivery fleet and transport exactly what you need to, in a way that suits you and your customers, there will be an impact as businesses go about their day-to-day operations.”

Richardson International boosts Bedford oat mill capacity

Richardson International, the Canadian agricultural and food industry company, has significantly invested in its oat mill in Bedford, England, increasing capacity by 35%. This latest investment will improve upon all operational aspects of the plant, from intake and warehousing capabilities to logistics and distribution. A full overhaul of the site footprint will result in greater operational efficiencies, modernization, and enhanced storage capacity. When completed, the Bedford mill will boast a high-speed receiving system, providing a fast and effective means for inbound oats delivery. Extensive modernisation of the plant will significantly increase storage capacity and ensure efficiencies in production and processing capabilities. In addition, the site will include a new expanded warehouse to allow for improved transportation and logistical functions. Construction will begin later this spring with no anticipated disruption to current operations and is expected to be completed in 2025. “A significant investment such as this will enable us to fulfil the incremental demand of our customers as we continue to efficiently meet current requirements and anticipate their evolving needs,” said Benoit Soucy, Vice-President, Milling Operations, Richardson International.

Tyson Foods opens $425m poultry complex in Tennessee

Tyson Foods has officially opened its new $425 million poultry complex in Humboldt, Tennessee. The facility, which includes a processing plant, feed mill and hatchery, represents Tyson’s biggest investment in Tennessee. The processing plant, which is expected to employ more than 1,500 team members by 2023, is located within the Gibson County Industrial Park and will produce pre-packaged trays of fresh chicken for retail grocery stores nationwide beginning in late April. “The demand for Tyson chicken products continues to grow and this plant will help us meet the needs of our customers and consumers,” said Donnie King, Chief Operating Officer and Group President, Poultry for Tyson Foods. The payroll and payments to farmers from the new operation, along with the purchase of grain and utilities, is expected to generate an annual economic benefit to the state of Tennessee of $150 million. “With five facilities across Tennessee, Tyson Foods has an enormous impact on our state’s agriculture industry and rural communities,” said Tennessee Governor Bill Lee. “Job creation is crucial to our continued economic success, and I thank Tyson for its investment and commitment to Humboldt and West Tennessee.” The company’s Humboldt feed mill, which will supply feed for approximately 56 local poultry farmers, will employ 30 team members and produce 14,000 tons of finished feed a week when production reaches full capacity. The Humboldt hatchery employs 30 team members and provides chicks for local poultry farmers who supply broiler chickens to Tyson. This is the second major economic development project Tyson Foods has initiated in Tennessee in recent years. In August 2017, the company announced an $84 million expansion of its Union City operations, which has added more than 200 jobs.

Hospitality sector set for £314m boost in first week of lockdown lifting

England’s hospitality sector is set for a £314 million boost in the first week of opening for outdoor service, according to the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). The nation’s pubs, restaurants, bars and cafes have been shuttered for all but delivery and takeaway services for more than three months during the third national lockdown. Pre-pandemic, households across England spent a cumulative £663 million per week on dining and drinking out. In recent months, however, this has gone down to zero apart for takeaways (which are excluded from this analysis). In order to gauge what this figure will rise to is to examine hospitality occupancy rates immediately after the first and second national lockdowns, which ended on 4 July and 2 December, respectively. According to OpenTable figures, which track seated diners from online, phone, and walk-in bookings, in the first week post-lockdown one diner numbers rebounded to 33% of pre-pandemic levels. In the first week after lockdown two, the rebound was stronger with levels at 56% of the pre-pandemic norm. The most likely explanation behind the faster rebound after the second lockdown is increased comfort with socialising and being in busy surroundings, as people became more accustomed to living with the pandemic, despite the epidemiological indicators at the time not necessarily justifying this increased comfort. With more than half of the population at least partially vaccinated, optimism at record highs and a good amount of cash savings and pent-up demand, there are many reasons to believe that demand for restaurants and pubs will rebound even stronger than after the previous two re-openings. Anyone who like me has been trying to get a dinner reservation for this week and found it impossible would surely tend to agree. Longer opening hours and expected price rises will also provide a revenue boost. One factor which will be limiting hospitality revenues is that only outdoor service will be allowed until at least May 17. Research from CGA and Alix Partners puts the share of venues with outdoor space (including gardens and terraces, but also more innovative solutions like car parking) at just under 40%. The shares vary widely between urban and rural settings, but with the relaxation of planning rules even city-based venues can make the most of whatever outdoor space they have and the share of venues opening is set to be somewhat higher than indicated as some busy parts of larger cities convert street space into temporary pedestrianised seating areas. Taking into account all of these factors we expect restaurants and other dining and drinking venues across England to take in £314 million from outdoor customers in the first week post lockdown. This will be on top of any revenue streams from takeaway orders. While this is only a fraction of the normal pre-pandemic levels, it will still provide a welcome boost to one of the country’s most impacted sectors. There is no question however that everyone will be keenly awaiting the confirmation that indoor hospitality will be allowed to resume from May 17, CEBR said, enabling many more venues to reopen and increase capacity.

Diageo collaboration produces most sustainable glass Scotch whisky bottles

A successful pilot project has pioneered the lowest carbon footprint glass bottles ever produced for a Scotch whisky brand. The collaboration between Diageo and glass manufacturer Encirc and industry research and technology body Glass Futures, used waste-based biofuel-powered furnaces to reduce the carbon footprint of the bottle-making process by up to 90%. For the purposes of the trial, Diageo used its Black & White Scotch whisky brand – a popular and growing whisky in key global export markets. The trial produced 173,000 Black & White bottles, also using 100% recycled glass, making the batch the most environmentally-friendly ever produced for a Scotch whisky brand. Further work now needs to be done to develop and scale the trial for future production, Diageo  said, but it represents a significant step forward in the company’s drive to transform the sustainability of our grain-to-glass supply chain. Diageo has agreed a 10-year partnership to accelerate collaboration and innovation in the glass industry. “This trial is just a first step in the journey to decarbonise this aspect of our supply chain and we still have a long way to go, but we are delighted with the results of the collaboration and the platform it creates for future innovation,” said John Aird, Senior Packaging Technologist at Diageo. “We see Glass Futures as a great opportunity to develop new technology and to help deliver net zero glass manufacturing and we are delighted to support them in that mission.” Adrian Curry, Managing Director at Encirc, said: “This is a truly momentous occasion for glass. We have set the standard globally with this trial and now the glass industry needs to work towards realising what we’ve proved is possible. “We now know that glass can be the most sustainable of all packaging types and must all work together to ensure that happens.” The project is part of the UK Government Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Energy Innovation Programme, within which Glass Futures is leading a £7.1 million initiative to explore the most effective routes to switching glass manufacturing to low carbon fuels.

Thailand highlights new normal food production procedure that reassures consumers during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic presents an unprecedented challenge to the public health and society impacting all communities and individuals. People are now adopting a New Normal way of life, in which everyone needs to wear a mask in a public space, maintain social distancing, check temperature frequently for self-monitoring and meticulously select food for consumption than ever before. In fact, how can we be sure that the food comes from the safe source, and follows adequate measures to prevent COVID-19 transmission? Thailand is among the first countries that have realised the importance to deliver safety to consumers around the world. Therefore, Thailand has launched measures to build confidence among consumers with the New Normal manufacturing process through the compliance of COVID-19 Prevention Best Practice in food production for export, the joint collaboration of Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and Ministry of Interior. The goal is to enable manufacturers, exporters, business operators, raw material suppliers such as fish market, piers, wholesale markets, animal farms, fishing boats, as well as logistics and modern trade operators to comply with the same guidelines as follows:
  1. Reduce the risk of contamination from raw materials, ingredients and containers
  Business operators and suppliers involved in the production of goods must control access to the premises, such as signing names to check-in, using an online system to screen and manage employee data as well as data on the freight vehicles, surface cleaning the freight vehicles at risk of contamination after each use, while employees need to wear a mask at all times to prevent contamination.
  1. Strict production control
Every factory must implement quality and safety controls throughout the production line, from receiving raw materials, processing, packing in compliance with Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP). Besides, employees must keep personal hygiene at all times by wearing aprons, gloves and mask, and hand wash frequently during work, while maintaining preventive measures for transporting goods by cleaning and disinfecting the interior of the vehicle container.
  1. Control personal hygiene, work environment as well as location and manufacturing building
The entrance and exit must be controlled while the manufacturing building, meeting room, cafeteria, changing room, toilets should be properly managed to reduce congestion. Business operators should install high-efficiency ventilation systems and air filters in the building.
  • Sanitation: the personal hygiene equipment must be readily available at the work station including a handwashing sink, liquid soap, disinfectant, disposable paper towels and auto lid pedal waste bins, with the clear instructions provided.
  • Cleaning: Strictly clean and disinfect the machinery manufacturing buildings, toilets, floors, walls, as well as common areas which are prone to contact such as door knobs, handrails, elevator buttons, chairs, dining tables, etc., in appropriate frequency and time of day.
  • Personal hygiene of workers: The workers must be screened daily before entering the building, collecting information to trace back and must wear a mask at all times. They are also required to wear gloves, wash hands, maintain social distancing and prevent any contaminations during operation.
  • Training: Employees are trained to prevent themselves from COVID-19 including temperature checking, wearing a mask, social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting, as well as reducing congestion, in order to ensure that their workplace is COVID-19 secure.
Thailand is the food exporter country that can elevate consumers’ confidence by delivering safe food products. Thailand offers a vast variety of main export products from fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, rice, frozen seafood, chicken, shrimp, fish, food and beverage products, snacks, halal food, healthy food, to the ready-to-eat food. Consumers can purchase these products from Thailand at department stores, superstores and various stores with the full confidence and conveniently to the New Normal way of life for people around the world.