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Morning Briefing for pub, restaurant and food wervice operators

Fri 23rd May 2014 - Propel Friday News Briefing

Story of the Day:

Mitchells & Butlers re-unites Ember Inns division, ends Toby Carvery openings on retail parks and plans to buy more freeholds: Mitchells & Butler has re-united its 100-strong Ember Inns business as part of a drive to simplify the business. Chief executive Alastair Darby told City analysts that the business has been split between Ember Inns and Ember Pub and Dining, with two menus. “It was not efficient and all pubs have been brought back under one Ember Inns format – and we’re making progress,” he said. The company is also ending its trial involving Toby Carvery openings on leisure parks. “Toby Carvery works best on large suburban arterial road sites,” Darby said. “Toby’s biggest day is Sunday and you can’t get the volumes through on a Sunday within retail park sites – the economics don’t work on leisure parks.” Darby said Harvester would be the brand that M&B deploys on retail parks: “You’ve got to be very good on a retail park – we want to be there, but you’ve go to be really hot.” Darby said that expansion by the company in the past had been too skewed towards leasehold sites. There will be “more freeholds’ going forward”, he said. The company plans to spend an average £200,000 a time on 600 remodels of its pubs between this year and 2016 – it has undertaken 97 in the first half of its financial year.

Industry News:

Reflections on US foodservice in Chicago: Attendees on the ALMR and Propel Info study tour to Chicago reflect on the concepts they visited last weekend in today’s special edition of Propel Friday Opinion. Draft House founder Charles McVeigh wonders whether the balance of power may have shifted to the UK despite US chutzpah, Innventure founder Chris Gerard reflects on the long shadow cast by city restaurant entrepreneur Rich Melman, the former retail director at SA Brain, Philip Lay, marvels at US operators gift for employing passionate, gifted staff, and Elliotts’ chief executive, Ann Elliott, reflects on the benefits of spending time with industry colleagues, while Propel’s managing director, Paul Charity, argues that a trip to Chicago is a reminder of the industry’s ability to re-invent and re-imagine. To express a preliminary interest in attending next year’s Chicago study tour, e-mail
Restaurants and pubs to see big boost from staycationers, says Barclays: Research published by Barclays Bank shows that restaurants and pubs around the country will receive a big boost over the next three years from “staycationers”, people taking their holidays in the UK rather than going abroad, with spending in pubs and restaurants by domestic tourists forecast to rise by 26% to £37bn as more people dine out. The research predicts that in three years’ time the value of staycation tourism will grow by a quarter and be worth £108bn to the British economy. Overseas tourism, meanwhile will see spending on eating and drinking out in the UK growing by 33.5%. London will see domestic tourism spending on pubs and restaurant rise by 25.6% by 2017, to £6.17bn, the report says, while domestic tourism spending on accommodation in the capital will rise by 20.9% to £1.86bn. In contrast, overseas tourists’ spending on eating out in London will rise 35.4% over the same period, but only to £3bn. The capital will continue to top the staycation league table, attracting 16.2% of domestic spend by 2017, with 12.9% being in the south east and 12.2% in south west England. In contrast, just 3% of the total spending is likely to be in north east England and only 5.8% in the West Midlands. The north west of England is set to attract 11% of all domestic tourism spend by 2017 – putting it fifth out of all the UK’s regions. Barclays’ head of hospitality and leisure, Mike Saul said: “The economy is improving and confidence is certainly growing, and while this will lead to a gradual rise in the number of consumers looking to holiday abroad again, it is unlikely to precipitate a return to the holidaying habits we were seeing prior to the downturn. With domestic tourism set to be big business for the UK’s hospitality and retail sectors, those with a clearly targeted strategy are set to benefit.”
Danny Meyer to open restaurant at 9/11 museum: Restaurateur Danny Meyer, whose brands include Shake Shack, is to open a restaurant at the 9/11 museum in New York. The Pavilion Cafe is scheduled to open inside the National September 11 Memorial and Museum during the summer. A portion of proceeds from the restaurant is going back to the museum. Meyer has denied that it is an inappropriate location for people to enjoy food and drink. “We’re not doing this for crass or commercial reasons,” he told The New York Post.
Tesco to place healthier foods at check-outs: Tesco is remove sweets next to checkouts, in a ban that will include Metro and Express stores. In January this year Lidl announced it would replace all sweets with healthier alternatives at the tills. Tesco is the first of the four leading supermarkets to follow. The chain will trial a variety of healthier products at the checkouts before implementing the full ban on sweets by the end of December. Tesco’s chief executive, Philip Clarke, said: “We’re doing this now because our customers have told us that removing sweets and chocolates from checkouts will help them make healthier choices.”
Sale of Enterprise Inns pub delayed for six months as Brighton Council makes it an ACV: The sale by Enterprise Inns of the Rose Hill Tavern in Brighton has been put on hold for six months after Brighton and Hove Council listed it as an “asset of community value”. The 144-year-old pub, in Rose Hill Terrace, closed on Sunday (18 May), and it his being marketed by the property agent Fleurets. However, the council has approved an application to delay the sale of the pub made by the Save the Rose Hill Tavern Action Group. The move gives the group six months to put together a bid, although Enterprise is under no obligation to accept it. A spokesperson for Enterprise Inns told BBC Sussex that the pub was not a viable venue and nobody wanted to buy it as a going concern. The company is believed to want to turn the property into flats.
Orderella app to make festival debut: Orderella, the mobile ordering app which allows its customers to order and pay for drinks and food with their phone, will be the first app available for use at UK festivals this summer, as it partners with Love Saves The Day festival, Big Splash 2014 and the Isle of Wight festival, to allow visitors to forget the queue and enjoy the music. Dennis Collet, Orderella’s chief executive, said: “We’re incredibly excited to add another string to our bow and move into the UK festivals market. We’re the first app of our kind available for use at a UK festival, and are looking to expand to other similar events across the country. The Isle of Wight and V Festivals welcome some of the world’s biggest musical acts, including Red Hot Chili Peppers, Biffy Clyro and Calvin Harris, and Orderella means that visitors won’t have to miss out when they’re queuing at the bar – instead, they can sit back, enjoy the music and simply order all the food and drink they want through their phone.”

Company News:

Greenwich Inc venue sold to D&D London for £4.5m: The Madison Bar and Restaurant on the 6th floor of London’s One New Change building has been sold today to the D&D London restaurant group for £4.5m. The sale follows a settlement agreement reached between Frank Dowling, who founded the Madison venue, and the insolvency practitioners who were appointed when Dowling’s Greenwich Inc company fell into administration in November 2013. The proceeds of the sale will be used to meet creditors claims. Dowling said: “The site at One New Change is arguably the most profitable bar/restaurant per square foot in London and I am very proud to have created this vibrant venue. I am sure it will continue to thrive in the expert hands of D&D. We have cooperated fully with the insolvency process and I am now looking forward to moving ahead with a number of exciting business opportunities, not only in London but throughout the UK.”
Alistair Darby – there’s a skills shortage, particularly around food: Mitchells & Butlers’ chief executive, Alistair Darby, has told City analysts that there is a skill shortage, particularly around food that the company “needs to meet head-on”. The company’s level of retail staff turnover stands at 78%, the same as last year, as increased opportunities within the sector flatten out efforts by M&B to improve its retention rate. The company has founded that recruiting under its own name rather than individual brands had shown significantly better results – a trial in London involving “M&B recruitment” had found staff attracted to the benefits of working for a big company. M&B has also invested £2m in induction training to provide a better experience for staff in the key first 30 to 60 days after joining. A total of 6,000 employees have also joined the company’s Pick a Perk scheme, which uses M&B’s scale to provide its employees with access to discounts on purchases.
Alistair Darby – we are focused on food and drink innovation: Mitchells & Butler’s chief executive, Alistair Darby, has outlined the key area within food and drink innovation at the company. Within food, the company is focused on “increased relevance” and “better value”. The former means that country pub customers want to understand the narrative behind dishes. The company has struck a deal with Lake District farmers for National Park lamb that provides the required provenance. At its All Bar One and Castle divisions, where drinking occasions are very important, there is a new emphasis on sharing platters that customers can enjoy wile they stand and drink. Within the Sizzling Pub Company estate, M&B has introduced a range of “ultimate plates” to enhance value .and the Harvester chain has a bundled deal for £9.99 offering a main course, unlimited salad, dessert and unlimited soft drinks that provides customers with certainty on the size of their eventual bill. Drinks innovation includes volume-driving initiatives such as cocktail masterclasses and cask ale clubs. There was also a focus on evolving ranges, with craft beer and “home-made drinks”. Darby said insight research had shown a positive response to items such as home-made cordials in drinks.
Fuller’s buys Portishead landmark pub: Fuller’s has bought the freehold of the Windmill in Portishead, Somerset, strengthening its presence in the south west, after recent acquisitions in Bath. The Windmill, dating from the mid-19th Century, has undergone a transformation during the past 16 years, while in the ownership of Jeffrey Churchill. He has extended the property to provide 250 internal and 200 external covers, with panoramic views across the Severn estuary and Welsh coastline. Jonathon Swaine, managing director of Fuller’s Inns, said: “We are very excited about the purchase of the Windmill, which will help us to continue to build our portfolio in the south west. It fits with our strategy both in terms of location and operation with high food turnover and the most fantastic vista.” Churchill said: “I would like to congratulate Fuller’s on its acquisition and wish the team every success at the Windmill. Personally, it has been a magnificent swansong for me after 37 years in the industry”. The acquisition was handled off market by the property agent Fleurets. Kevin Conibear, an associate at Fleurets, said: “Businesses of the quality and trading levels of the Windmill rarely become available. We approached a select number of parties and received superb levels of interest and bids from a number of operators. Jeff Churchill has spent the past 16 years transforming the Windmill into an outstanding business and the setting of the property is second to none, given the views it boasts.”
Max Property reports losses on its nightclub portfolio: Max Property has reported losses on a nightclubs portfolio acquired in October 2010 for £9.8m. The company said: “At the time of acquisition, three of the 14 clubs were vacant and the initial yield on acquisition was 14.9%. Three properties were sold between 2010 and 2012 and the net income from acquisition to the balance sheet date, including those sale proceeds, was £5.3 million which represents 53% of the original purchase price. Nine of the nightclubs were let to Atmosphere Bars and Clubs Limited, which went into administration in May 2013. All but one of their units, which was sub-let to other occupiers, has now closed. This has led to a £2.7 million (35%) write-down in the value of the portfolio to £4.9 million. Since the year end, contracts have been exchanged on the sale of three properties totalling £1.2 million, with terms agreed on the sale of two others for £1.4 million, prices at or above book value at the balance sheet date, and a further two lettings have been agreed totalling £62,000 per annum.”
Wetherspoon buys Punch Taverns site in North Lincolnshire: Punch Taverns has sold The White Horse Inn in Brigg, North Lincolnshire to JD Wetherspoon. It will become only the second Wetherspoon’s pub in North Lincolnshire. It is intended to have the new outlet open well ahead of Christmas, after a £1.3m investment in the 18th century building at the corner of Wrawby Street and Grammar School Road that is expected to create around 45 full-time and part-time jobs. Wetherspoon’s chairman, Tim Martin, said: “We are delighted that our plans to open a pub in Brigg have taken a step in the right direction. We have enjoyed great success with our pub in Scunthorpe [The Blue Bell] and would be looking to emulate that success in Brigg.” A spokeswoman for Punch Taverns said: “We can confirm that contracts have been exchanged with a purchasee who intends to keep The White Horse as a pub.” The freehold had been on offer via CBRE for £250,000.
Young’s expands acquisitions target area, potential for 150 more bedrooms within the existing estate: London pub operator Young’s has expanded its acquisitions target area to the south-east after success with The Weyside Inn in Guildford, Surrey, a former Heartstone Inns pub it re-opened earlier this year. Chief executive Stephen Goodyear told Propel that the company has around £60m in acquisitions firepower and is looking for opportunities in the right towns in the south east. Meanwhile, the company has expanded its bedroom stock to 443 and by September this year 20 pubs will offer overnight accommodation. Goodyear told Propel that Young’s has identified another 15 pubs that could offer bedrooms, with the potential for as many as 150 bedrooms, subject to planning approvals. The company reported that it has added 250,000 customers to its database in the past two years – it now has 750,000 subscribers and more 150,000 social media followers. The head of the managed division, Patrick Dardis, said all the company’s marketing “energy and focus” is now on engaging customer through social media. The company plans to transfer three managed pubs to the 83-strong tenanted division, which will be re-branded as the Ram Pub Company by the second quarter of the financial year. “We thought it was sensible to give the tenanted estate an identity,” Goodyear told Propel. On trading in London, he said: “London seems to be top of the pops at the moment. I’ve lived and worked in London for 40 years and it’s better than it’s ever been.”
Douglas Jack – Mitchells & Butlers is still a share for 2015 not 2014: Numis Securities leisure analyst Douglas Jack has issued a note after yesterday’s half-year results at M&B, arguing that the company’s shares, on which he has a target price of 525p, are still one for 2015, not 2014. He said: “LFL sales rising 1.1% and ebit margins falling 16bps. We are holding our full-year forecasts, which continue to assume LFL sales rise 1.2%, which is the company’s position after 33 weeks, and margins fall 14bps. Operational progress appears slow, but with net debt falling and the pension negotiations now complete, dividends could resume this autumn. M&B’s 9.4x EV/ebitda rating (8.1x if higher bond yields wipe out the pension deficit, worth £1.39 a share) is not excessive, in our view. The company is under-performing its peers, but is gradually turning around (LFL volumes are now flat, having been down over 5% in H1 2013). A resumption in dividends should now be a priority, in our view.”
Fish and chip chain plans UK roll-out: The Derby-based fish and chip restaurant chain George’s is due to open a new venue in Nottingham in September, with plans to roll out further George’s outlets across the UK. George’s, which was founded in 1967 by George Constantinou, currently runs four restaurants, ten take-away venues and a pub, the Thorn Tree Inn in Woodlinkin, Nottingham. The new restaurant, on Queen Street in Nottingham city centre, will have 140 covers, with booths designed to look like beach huts, and a British gin bar. It will open from 11am to 11pm in a bid to attract Nottingham’s lunchtime, pre-theatre, dinner and post-pub crowds, managing director Andrew Constantinou said. Constantinou, the son of the founder, runs the business with co-director Nick Hogan. He said: “Nottingham has a winning combination of a great bar and restaurant scene mixed with thriving business and student communities so we knew it was the right place for us to open our first city centre venue.”
Inglenook Taverns to open seventh Punch Taverns site next week: Inglenook Taverns, led by James Waddington, will open its seventh Punch Taverns site next week, the Derby Arms, Rainford, St Helens, after a £200,000 joint investment. Inside, the pub has been redecorated in a “stylish but traditional” theme, exposing open fires and beamed ceilings. A new menu has been created featuring home-made traditional pub classics using locally sourced ingredients. The pub will also be holding themed food nights throughout the week. Waddington said: “The pub looks fantastic and I am thrilled with the transformation. We have based this design on one of our other pubs, the Grapes at Goosnargh, which is performing really well.”
Freehold let to Mitchells & Butlers sells for £4.41m at Allsop auction: An Allsop commercial auction this week raised £79m with a success rate of 76%. A total of 115 lots were sold including 19 lots for over £1m, of which seven were over £2m. Notable lots include a McDonald’s drive-thru in Liverpool which sold at £1.14m (5.5%). A listed restaurant in Luton, let to PizzaExpress, sold for £1.36m (4.45%), and a pub in North London let to Mitchells and Butlers sold for £4.41m (3.93%). A total of 27 bank investments were sold, including fourteen on behalf of Threadneedle, reflecting an average lot size of £932,352 (6%). Auctioneer Duncan Moir, said: “There was an energetic atmosphere in the auction room, with many lots attracting strong competitive bidding. The low interest rates, lack of available stock and improving sentiment in the wider economy have contributed to the best market conditions we have seen for some while.”
Belfast entrepreneur plans two new bars and a nightclub: Belfast entrepreneur Paul Langford, who runs bars in the city including the Albany, El Divino and Filthy McNasty’s, is planning three new ventures he says will bring “a significant economic boost to the heart of the city centre bar scene”. An Asian-inspired bar, Shiro, will open next month, complete with secluded roof terrace, in place of the former Irene and Nan’s pub in Brunswick Street. Two other venues, a new nightclub and a bar, in the building housing the recently closed Bar Bacca and La Lea nightclub in Franklin Street, are expected to open by September. Langford, described the three-phase project as “one of the most significant investments within the city centre entertainment industry of the last few years”. He continued: “The area that the venues are based in has some of the most sought-after restaurants anywhere in the UK or Ireland.” A team from the design firm O’Donnell O’Neill Design Associates is overseeing the redevelopment, the first phase of which, Shiro, is due to open on 5 June.
Restaurateur Mario Theo to re-open Simply Seafood: Restaurateur Mario Theo is to re-open the Simply Seafood restaurant in Old Leigh next month. Simply Seafood, in the High Street, was forced to close in February last year after running into financial difficulties. The new restaurant will have space for 36 diners indoors and 44 on two outdoor decking areas, but will also serve passing trade with a takeaway and deli. Theo said: “We want to offer people the best fish possible and will be buying it from just along the High Street. I’ve lived in Leigh for 20 years and have 44 years’ experience in fish restaurants and I like to be involved with my restaurants.”
Miller Brands reports premium brands grew UK volumes by 5% last year: Miller Brands UK (MBUK) outperformed the UK beer market for the 12 months to the end of March 2014, with domestic lager volumes up by 5% compared to the overall beer market in the UK, which was almost level with the prior year, declining by less than 1%. Gary Haigh, managing director of Miller Brands UK, said: “Consumers are increasingly looking for authenticity and a story in the beers they drink. The strong growth of Peroni and Pilsner Urquell in the UK reflect the heritage of our brands and the introduction of innovative ways for people to enjoy and experience our great beers.” During the year MBUK introduced unpasteurised Tankovna Pilsner Urquell to the UK via permanent tanks at two London pubs, the White Horse in Parsons Green, and the Strongroom Bar & Kitchen in Shoreditch. Pilsner Urquell is the only international beer to be offered to the UK market in an unpasteurised form. During the year, MBUK organised more than 200 of tasting events at 250 pubs, bringing over oak barrels of Pilsner Urquell from the Czech Republic, each containing 40 pints of freshly brewed, unpasteurised and unfiltered Pilsner Urquell.
Northcote adds four bedrooms, refurbishes restaurant, adds chef’s table: The Michelin-starred restaurant and country-house hotel Northcote, in Langho, near Blackburn, Lancashire, has unveiled four additional guestrooms and a refurbished restaurant after 11 months of refurbishments. The hotel is headed up by chef patron Nigel Haworth and his business partner Craig Bancroft. The Michelin-starred restaurant now has a chef’s table, bookable for groups of eight. Diners can see kitchen through a sliding glass partition, and the package also includes exclusive use of an adjoining champagne courtyard – also new – together with a dedicated front-of-house team and sommelier.
Cook & Garcia win Best Independent Sandwich bar award: Richmond-based Cook & Garcia has taken the Platinum Award in this year’s British Sandwich Association awards – it’s the award for the best independent sandwich bar in the UK. This year, the winner gets the additional benefit if a ten day trip to Japan to represent the British Sandwich at the ‘Best of British’ fair hosted by Hankyu department stores. Owners Janet and Richard Garcia scooped the award for the second time in as many years. Richard Garcia said: “We are thrilled for Cook & Garcia to have been recognised again, and especially excited to be representing the industry abroad in Japan later this year.” For this award, judges visited independent sandwich bars across the UK and judged them on the basis of their products as well as factors such as innovation, customer service, ambiance and hygiene. Jim Winship, director of the British Sandwich Association, said: “The judges were highly complimentary about on how Cook & Garcia have maintained their excellent standards. Having won last year they had set their own bar to exceed.”
Hook Norton Brewery wins Heritage Lottery Fund support: The Oxfordshire-based Hook Norton Brewery has received £90,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an exciting project, Hooked on Tradition: Accessing Hook Norton’s Brewery Heritage. The project focuses on the Brewery site and unites the staff and volunteers in a range of improvements to the site aimed at making the unique heritage of this Victorian tower brewery more accessible. Work will begin shortly to conserve and repair one of the grade 2 listed chimneys attached to the main brewery building. At the same time a programme of activities and events will be launched to provide new opportunities for volunteering and improve information for people visiting the brewery and its website. The project will run until November 2014. The work to repair and conserve the chimney is the catalyst for improvements to visitor information about Hooky, as it is affectionately known. New opportunities for volunteering will be created on a project to film the chimney conservation and new volunteer roles will be created within the brewery’s museum. A group of level 2 brickwork students from a local college will also be given the opportunity to work on the chimney repairs. The project includes an open day for the museum and improvements to signage around the site.
Liverpool operators open bespoke private bar and venue: A new private bar and venue that harks back to the New York speakeasy era has launched in Liverpool. 83 LTD on Seel Street is a new venture from the team behind the Liverpool venues Salt Dog Slim’s and 81 LTD. The venue, which has a capacity of just 40, is decorated with a pressed tin ceiling and wooden floors and fitted with a slate pool table. 83 LTD is meant for people to create their own bespoke events, with the choice of hiring a bartender, hostess, DJ and other customised features. The space is designed to be used for many different occasions, such as business meetings, away days, networking and corporate hospitality. Chris Edwards, bar manager at 83 LTD, said: “We’re delighted to finally reveal 83 LTD to the public. We created this venue as a space for clients to enjoy and use as they see fit.”
Antic to open new Deptford pub in next few weeks: The London-based pub company Antic, led by Anthony Thomas, is getting its latest venue, the Job Centre, in a former Job Centre in Deptford High Street, South East London, ready for opening in a few weeks. The company describes the new outlet as “a vintage, ’80s style drinking space”. It will have a bar and open kitchen “whipping up modern British grub” on the ground floor, bathroom facilities on the second floor and a community space and bar area on the top floor. New landlord Rob Burrows, who will head a team of 12, said: “There will be a decent selection of artisan craft beers and we will be using as many local stuff as we can. We would like to do infusion spirits but the particular infusions, we haven’t nailed it down – we are only going to have the good stuff in there.” Antic is now up to 35 outlets currently open, with a licence now granted for Knowles of Norwood in Norwood Road, South East London and other openings planned, including the Railway Tavern in Bromley, and the under-construction Hope in Melon Road, Peckham while it is still seeking permission to open a pub to be called the Volunteer in Powis Street, Woolwich. The company is also looking at possible openings in Willesden Green and Harlesden in North West London.
REL Leisure shuts pub blighted by closure rumours: Pub and club operator REL Leisure has shut a popular student pub in Portsmouth in part because it was blighted by closure rumours. REL, which took over the Registry pub in St Michael’s Road last August, said it had been making a loss and it was no longer financially viable to keep the pub open. Manager Andy Quildan said: “Unfortunately when the students aren’t here we don’t make enough money and recently there has been much speculation about whether we were closing down, which has put people off from coming here, as they didn’t know if we were open or not.” The future of the building is currently undecided, but REL has put in a planning application to convert the pub into 41 student apartments. REL, which was founded in 2008 to purchase distressed and under performing development, trading and turnaround leisure opportunities throughout the UK, currently has 25 sites, including clubs in Bournemouth, Southampton and Portsmouth, with five “pipeline” sites for 2014.
Wagamama opens Finchley site: Wagamama is opening a new site in Finchley Road’s O2 centre in North London today (23 May). The opening has created 40 jobs. The restaurant’s general manager, Khalil Agrebi, said: “We hope we can provide the perfect place for busy shoppers and cinema goers to stop off for a bite to eat, and that our fresh and fast dining experience will tempt both Finchley Wagamama fans and new North London diners to visit us.”
‘Gluten-free’, ‘freshly made’ and ‘natural hot dogs’ are top trends at US restaurant show: Peach-flavoured milk, butter with maple syrup, gluten-free dishes, ginger blossom-flavoured drinks, and sriracha chilli sauce were just some of the new foods on taste for the first time at this year’s National Restaurant Association (NRA) show in Chicago. The NRA, one of the world’s biggest food and drink trade shows, is traditionally the launch-pad for weird and wonderful food products, ingredients and flavours many of which eventually make their way to the UK. Peter Backman, managing director of the foodservice consultancy Horizons, visited the show and found the overriding trend this year concerned promoting the “freshness” of foods – whether made from fresh ingredients or freshly prepared – as well as dishes made “personally” for the customer. He said: “There is a new preoccupation with serving food and drinks made specifically for each individual customer – just the way they want it. In many ways this is an extension of Starbucks writing your name on a coffee cup. If restaurants can adapt dishes and drinks to incorporate particular requests, then it makes the customer feel as if they’ve had a personal service.” The annual NRA show, attended by 70,000 people and 2,000 suppliers, can be an indicator of the trends and products the UK is likely to see down the line. Fresh milk flavours such as orange and vanilla cream cloud, cookies ’n’ cream and purrfect peach, were on show for the first time, designed to arrest declining milk sales. The ever-popular cookie also received an indulgent makeover with new varieties ranging from chocolate pretzel crunch with peanuts to rocky road, a calorie-rich chocolate medley of ‘all-natural’ white and semi-sweet chocolate chips and toffee. “Healthy”, “locally sourced”, “containing no additives” and “natural” were also descriptions very much in evidence, “natural hot dogs with celery juice” being one example. The number of gluten-free foods was also on the up, with the likes of gluten-free peanut butter, gluten-free teriyaki sauce and gluten-free hot dogs. “Healthy foods for kids were also on-show, along with new iced tea flavours, coconut water and tropical flavoured teas and desserts,” Backman said. Winners of the NRA’s Food & Beverage Innovations Awards included: the Bonfire Wine Pouch, which is said to keep wine fresh for four weeks and reduces packaging and waste; Deya’s gluten-free flour which uses dried egg whites as a key ingredient; Schmacon, a low-fat, low-sodium alternative to bacon made with smoked and cured beef slices; and Sweety Drop Peppers, a sweet-flavoured pepper than can be added to salads, pizzas or pasta. Another award-winner was Gardein Vegan Fishless Fillets, said to deliver the taste of fish, but with no cholesterol or transfats. “There seems to be two extremes in product innovation – either indulgent, calorie-laden treats or healthy products, ‘free from’ various ingredients and freshly prepared. We seem destined to become a nation of extremes in our eating habits,” Backman said.

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