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News Roundup – September 2019

Recession to follow no-deal Brexit
A no-deal Brexit will send Britain crashing into recession and shrink the economy by two percent, the UK’s official economic forecaster has warned.
Since the 2016 referendum, there have been endless warnings about the repercussions of leaving without a deal. But now the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has officially spoken up, predicting a period of widespread misery that would impact on wages, employment and house prices.
In a five-year forecast, it predicts the economy will decline next year and enter a recession. The country would also have to borrow £30 billion a year
to get by, pushing debt levels 12 percent higher by 2024. In its report, the OBR said: “The big picture is that heightened uncertainty and declining confidence deter investment, higher trade barriers with the EU weigh on domestic and foreign demand, while the pound and other asset prices fall sharply.” The OBR’s prediction is based on models from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Young’s Seafood snapped up by pork processor
British pork processor Karro Food Group has purchased Young’s Seafood. The enlarged business, to be overseen by Karro owner CapVest, has combined annual sales of around £1.2 billion and employs more than 5,000 people across the UK and Ireland. Karro and Young’s will operate as two separate entities and Di Walker, current Executive Chair of Karro, has been appointed CEO of the new Group.

ASDA’s festive vegan treats
Christmas is still a long way off but that hasn’t deterred ASDA from unveiling some of the festive vegan food it will be releasing. Its plant-based offerings will include a vegan Wellington for mains, featuring a chickpea, cranberry, apricot and festive spices stuffing, and topped with a cranberry sauce. Sides will include meat-free pork cocktail sausages and cranberry & apple stuffing balls. 
“This year, we’ve really considered customer feedback – creating products based on needs and desires…particularly for those looking for more inclusive options but still seeking delicious flavour and great value,” said a spokeswoman.

It’s chocolate – but not as we know it
Nestlé says it’s invented a new, unique, sugar free chocolate.
The product, made entirely of cocoa beans and pulp, is void of refined sugar and according to the company, does not compromise on taste, texture or quality. It said it had taken years of research to realise the potential of pulp’s natural flavouring following a chance discovery in 2006.
Patrice Bula, Head of Strategic Business Units, Marketing and Sales at Nestlé, said: “This is a real innovation which uses the natural sweetness of the cocoa pulp to provide a pure, novel chocolate experience.”
Nestlé plans to introduce the first samples in Japan, as part of its KitKat Chocolatory range, in the autumn. A further roll out with then follow in other countries next year, through some of Nestlé’s other signature brands.

Kipling cakes rise with TV push
Premier Foods has posted a much needed sales boost thanks partly to the performance of some of its big name brands. The group, which is still searching for a new CEO, reported that revenues in the 13 weeks to June 29 were up 1.1 percent compared with the same period last year, with branded sales up 2.9 percent. Total UK turnover, meanwhile, rose 2.6 percent in the period while sales of Mr Kipling, Premier’s flagship brand, soared 10 percent higher.
Alastair Murray, acting Chief Executive, said the increase could be traced back to investment in marketing: “Both Mr Kipling and Batchelors have already benefited from TV advertising campaigns in the first quarter.”
The company also revealed that to support the demand growth in Mr Kipling, it would launch a new range of ‘Signature’ cakes in the second quarter. However, it wasn’t all good news with international sales tumbling 18 percent as sales in Ireland slowed due to the unwinding of Brexit related stock in customers’ supply chains.
“The international business is, however, expected to return to sales growth in subsequent quarters,” it said.

Coffee cups become card collection
Premium Paper maker James Cropper is transforming disposable coffee cups into a special card collection designed by Hallmark. Through its pioneering ‘CupCycling’ facility, James Cropper saves take-away cups from landfill and incineration, upcycling them into beautiful papers. The project will help to reduce some of the 2.5 billion take-away cups that are estimated to be thrown away in the UK each year.
The 44 card series will be available in stores from October.

Bosch confirms packaging division sale
Bosch has agreed to sell its packaging machinery division to buyout firm CVC as it seeks to streamline its activities and fund investment in areas such as digitilisation. Based in Luxemburg, CVC is a private equity and investment advisory firm with 24 offices in Europe, Asia, and the United States. It currently manages more than US$75 billion of assets. The packaging technology firm, along with its pharma and food units, will remain intact, according to a joint statement by both parties. The sale fulfils Bosch’s aim, flagged more than a year ago, that the division’s 6,000 strong workforce and locations be retained by the eventual buyer.

GSK cancer breakthrough
GlaxoSmithKline has received a major boost after its cancer treatment Zejula achieved positive trial results in helping patients with advanced ovarian cancer live longer without the disease worsening. GSK acquired the drug when it purchased American company Tesaro for $5 billion in December. The fee caused speculation among nervous investors that perhaps the company had forked out too much. Following successful phase three trials, however, those fears have calmed. Almost 300,000 women around the world are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year and the “exciting data” could potentially lead to Zejula being approved in a broader population of patients. The full trial results will be presented at an upcoming scientific meeting.

WPO Lifetime Achievement Awards
Nominations are now open for the World Packaging Organisation’s Lifetime Achievement in Packaging Awards.
The initiative has become an integral part of the WorldStar program and was established with the aim of acknowledging and rewarding excellence in all aspects of packaging science, technology, design and application, around the world. 
“WPO is in a unique position to identify leading practitioners across the globe,” said WPO President Pierre Pienaar. 
In May this year, WPO honoured three highly qualified recipients during the WorldStar Awards ceremony in Prague, Czech Republic. Those winners were Shahid Sheikh OBE (UK), Gillian Loubser (South Africa) and Keith Chessell (Australia). Annually, each WPO voting member is able to make one nomination through an online registration form.
The first group of 2020 honorees will be selected by December 2019 and will be recognised during the WorldStar Awards Ceremony in Düsseldorf, Germany, on May 8, during Interpack 2020.
For further details, email Rachel Bayswater at: rachel.bayswater@iom3.org

Lidl pounces on Waitrose store closures
Waitrose has announced plans to close seven of its stores by the autumn, putting almost 700 jobs at risk. Three supermarkets, in London, Oadby in Leicestershire and Wollaton in Nottinghamshire, have been sold to Lidl. A fourth store, in Sandhurst, Berkshire, has been bought by an unnamed buyer. Mark Gifford, Waitrose’s Director of Shop Trade, said: “We haven’t taken this decision lightly but we have to do what’s right for the business as a whole.”

Baby food brands contain “unacceptable” sugar
Commercial baby food frequently contains too much sugar and is wrongly marketed as suitable for infants under six months of age, says a new World Health Organisation (WHO) report. WHO examined almost 8,000 food and drink products from 500 stores across Austria, Bulgaria, Israel and Hungary between November 2017 and January 2018. The study didn’t disclose company or brand names but found at least half provided more than 30 percent of their calories from sugars. About a third listed sugar, concentrated fruit juice or other sweetening agents as an ingredient. Up to 60 percent of inspected products were labelled as suitable for infants under six months old, which is at loggerheads with WHO recommendations “that infants receive exclusively breast milk for the first six months of life”. WHO said the situation was “cause for concern”. It added: “Careful thought is needed on how to inform parents or caregivers about these issues in a clear and understandable way while encouraging food manufacturers to reformulate their products.” The warning follows a recent paper from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health which called on the UK government to introduce mandatory limits on the amount of free sugar, including fruit sugars, that can be used in baby foods.

Iceland boss says ditching plastic is “damn hard work”
Iceland has rebooted its plastic-free packaging trial following the failure of two previous projects earlier this year.
The budget retailer’s first trial saw paper-band packaging for its bananas introduced, as well as a plastic-free greengrocer in Liverpool earlier this year. Both initiatives, however failed to inspire customers and led to significant sales slumps. Determined to eliminate plastic from its own-label products by 2023, it has now reintroduced both trials in selected stores.
Iceland head Richard Walker said: “It’s damn hard work and it’s costing us a lot of money.” But he added: “This is all part of the process…we’ve got to keep experimenting.”
Walker said that while striving to reach its plastic free target, it cannot afford to push up prices and alienate shoppers. “We serve five million customers a week and some only have £25 a week to spend on food – it’s very important our prices are sharp.”

Are you being secretly recorded?
Covert workplace recordings by staff do not necessarily amount to gross misconduct, according to new employment tribunal guidance.
The British legal system has witnessed a spike in cases involving secret recordings, by employees, of workplace meetings and other significant exchanges. Common examples involve unfair dismissal claims – and taped conversations from subsequent internal hearings. During a recent dismissal case between a charity and former employee, the ongoing question of victimisation suddenly turned to whether, or not, it is dismissible conduct to covertly record an exchange with your boss. Following the conclusion of the Phoenix House Limited v Stockman case, the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) has issued guidance that potentially impacts on all businesses. It found that while usually amounting to misconduct, such recordings do not automatically give employers the right to dismiss, adding tribunals should analyse the reasons why they occurred – and equally important, what they contain.

Sweetener safety report contained “puzzling anomalies”
Experts from the University of Sussex have sounded the alarm over artificial sweetener Aspartame. The product appears in everything from diet soft drink brands to chewing gum – but remains one of the most controversial food additives on the market. The most recent official report on its use came in 2013 when the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) stated it was not of safety concern. However, after looking at each of the 154 studies that EFSA had assessed, professors Erik Millstone and Elisabeth Dawson claim that review was flawed. In their paper, it is alleged the body relied on “very weak studies” and discounted the results of 73 studies which were more reliable and flagged aspartame as being harmful.
The two authors also refer to the existence of “puzzling anomalies” in the EFSA report, arguing it makes “inconsistent and unacknowledged assumptions.”

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