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02/02/17 Morrisons founder Sir Ken dies, aged 85   Morrisons founder and life president Sir Ken Morrison has passed away at the age of 85. The retail giant led the company for more than half a century, transforming it from a small family business into the country’s fourth-largest supermarket. When he retired in 2008, Morrisons had 375 stores, serving over nine million customers a week. Sir Ken was awarded a CBE in 1990 and was knighted in the Millennium New Year’s Honours for services to the food retailing industry. Among Sir Ken’s many innovations were the development of the Market Street concept and Morrisons’ vertical integration model. He also evolved the culture, values and direction associated with the business. Current Morrisons chairman Andrew Higginson said: “I know that I speak for the whole company when I say how profoundly sad we were to hear of Sir Ken's death. He was an inspirational leader and the driving force behind Morrisons for over half a century. Although he retired several years ago, his legacy is evident every day and in every aspect of our business. “Taking Morrisons from a small Bradford-based family business to a major UK grocery retailing chain is an outstanding achievement in the history of UK business. On a personal level, Ken was an enormous help to me as we made some significant changes to set the business on a new course; his knowledge of retail and his strategic insights have remained as relevant and intuitive as they were when he first built the business. "Ken will be remembered by us all for his leadership, his passion for retailing and for his great love of Morrisons. To honour his memory in the most appropriate way we can, we will continue to develop the company that he built and loved.”   31/01/17 Tesco and Booker unveil surprise tie-up   Tesco and Booker have unveiled plans to merge in a deal that would create the UK’s leading food business. The retail and wholesale giants said their surprise move would bring benefits for consumers, independent retailers, caterers, small businesses, suppliers and staff, as well as significant value for shareholders. The combined group – which some analysts believe could face a challenge from competition authorities – would be a major force in both the in-home and out-of-home food markets. “By bringing together Tesco and Booker’s retail and wholesale expertise, supply chain and digital capabilities, the combined group will be able to provide greater choice, quality, price and service in the food market, whilst improving efficiency and reducing food waste,” the two companies said in a statement. “The combined group will bring together the capacity and capability to generate new growth and deliver significant revenue and cost synergies.”   31/01/17 Own-label growth for Ocado   Ocado has announced a solid set of accounts for 2016, with strong growth in own-label sales. The online retailer said revenue for the 52 weeks to 27 November 2016 was £1.3 billion, a 13.6 per cent increase on the year before. Its active customer base also rose by 14 per cent, with growth in average orders per week of 18 per cent. During the year Ocado began operating from its new Customer Fulfilment Centre in Andover, and made good progress on improving the efficiency and throughput of existing operations, according to chief executive Tim Steiner. Total order volumes grew by 17.9 per cent to 230,000 per week, Steiner added. Own-label sales rose 10 per cent with over six products per average customer basket. “In this ever-evolving retail environment, we look forward to further developing our capabilities through innovation, creating the next generation eCommerce capabilities that will ensure our offer remains compelling for both retail and OSP customers alike.”   30/01/17 Tichbon named as new CEO of Innovative Bites   Food wholesaler Innovative Bites has appointed Peter Tichbon as its new group CEO. Tichbon, who previously worked with Edme and Allied Bakeries, has many years of experience in product innovation and business strategy. He will be tasked with consolidating Innovative Bites’ reputation within the confectionery industry and finding new strategic pathways for business growth. Innovative Bites director Vishal Madhu said: "Peter’s appointment into the business is a key move in our ongoing business strategy. Peter brings with him an impressive CV of achievements within the retail sector and a track record of driving strategic business development, so we are thrilled to welcome him on board." Innovative Bites has seen strong growth since launching in 2008 and last year turned over £25m in sales. It supplies a number of leading supermarkets in the UK and Europe, and in 2016 also acquired Bonds of London.   30/01/17 Co-op ups its tuna-sourcing commitments   The Co-op has unveiled a major new tuna-sourcing policy that both bolsters its own commitments and also holds big brands to account. The convenience retailer – in what it claims is a first – is extending its tuna sourcing policy to include canned branded suppliers Princes and John West. It has set a deadline of the end of 2017 for tuna under the two brands to be sourced from fisheries improvement projects (FIPs) working towards the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard. The schemes are independently checked and ensure stocks are sustainably managed and fisheries do not negatively impact the marine environment. The Co-op’s own-brand tuna pole and line-sourced policy has also been widened to ensure its fisheries are either MSC certified or part of a FIP. “Consumers are rightly concerned about fish stocks and the methods used to catch fish,” said Cathryn Higgs, head of food policy at the Co-op. “We’ve been a leader in sustainable tuna sourcing but have now extended our commitments. We are also setting out clear expectations for branded tuna suppliers because of concern from consumers about protecting tuna fisheries for future generations.”
10/02/17 Aldi overtakes Co-op to become fifth-biggest grocer Aldi has become Britain’s fifth-biggest supermarket after overtaking the Co-op. In a startling sign of how far it has come in a decade, the discounter’s 12.4 per cent year-on-year growth in the 12 weeks to 29 January 2017 saw it gain 0.6 percentage points of share to pass the Co-op. It now has a 6.2 per cent share, compared with the Co-op’s 6.0 per cent. Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel, which compiled the figures, said: “Just a decade ago Aldi was the UK’s tenth-largest food retailer, accounting for less than two per cent of the grocery market. Since then the grocer has grown rapidly, climbing the rankings by an impressive five places to hold a 6.2 per cent market share. Underpinned by an extensive programme of store openings, the past quarter has seen Aldi attract 826,000 more shoppers than during the same period last year.” It wasn’t all bad news for the Co-op though, as the convenience specialist outperformed the market with a two per cent sales increase, driven by a seven per cent rise in own-label sales. The health message saw overall sales of healthy own-label lines increase by three per cent across the market, though there was also a four per cent increase in beer sales and a one per cent uptick for wine. Supermarket sales rose 1.7 per cent over the period – ahead of a year ago – with eight of the nine major retailers seeing positive sales growth. 08/02/17 AmazonFresh expands into Hampshire AmazonFresh has continued its UK rollout across Surrey and Hampshire. The internet giant’s direct grocery arm is now available in 260 postcodes, having started out in just 69 London postcodes at launch last June. “With an extensive selection of quality products at great prices and delivery options suited to fit busy schedules, we are excited to offer AmazonFresh to more Prime members than ever before,” said Ajay Kavan, vice president of AmazonFresh. “We’ve received positive feedback since the service launched, and we will be working hard to make the service even better for our customers.” 08/02/17 Co-op boss Pennycook steps down Richard Pennycook, group chief executive of the Co-op, is stepping down to be replaced by Steve Murrells. Murrells is currently chief executive of the retailer’s food business, and the Co- op said the announcements was “part of transition arrangements for the group as it prepares to move from the successful Rebuild phase of its turnaround to the Renewal phase.” Pennycook joined the Co-op during a tough time for the retailer in 2013 and was credited with leading its Rescue and Rebuild phases. The company has performed strongly in recent sales periods, despite being overtaken by Aldi as the nation’s fifth-biggest retailer. Current chief operating office Pippa Wicks is becoming deputy chief executive, with responsibility for delivery of the remaining aspects of the group’s transformation. And Jo Whitfield, the current finance director of the food business, becomes interim chief executive of Co-op Food. 07/02/17 NFU chief praises retailers over bird flu but calls for more support The National Farming Union has called on retailers to keep supporting poultry producers after anti-bird flu measures come to an end. Following recent avian influenza outbreaks, the government put in place a prevention zone which includes a housing order requiring all free-range poultry to be kept indoors. The measures are due to expire on 28 February. NFU president Meurig Raymond has written to the chief executives of Britain’s top 10 retailers to applaud their efforts in supporting farmers following the outbreak – including engaging with industry and keeping customers informed – and asking for that support to continue. The NFU fears the housing order could be extended without a derogation in place, thus ending the birds’ free- range status. “To date we have welcomed the support and understanding of the country’s major retailers with this situation,” said Raymond. “However these are unprecedented times and I remain very concerned about the future of the free-range poultry sector for both meat and egg products should the housing order remain in place without a derogation that enables producers to market those eggs and meat to market as free-range. “Downgrading these products would have a huge impact on margins in the sector.”
17/02/17 Waitrose gives yoghurts a veggie twist   Waitrose has launched a new line of vegetable-based yoghurts into its own- label range. The supermarket chain had flagged up the growing US trend for veggie yoghurts in its Food & Drink Report last October, predicting it would become a thing this side of the pond in 2017. And sure enough, Waitrose has come good with four new products featuring such ingredients as butternut squash, avocado, carrot and beetroot. The full lineup includes kiwi, avocado and Matcha tea; carrot, beetroot and ginger; pineapple, butternut squash and turmeric; and carrot, mango and guarana. Waitrose yoghurt buyer Melissa Spiro said: “Ingredients such as butternut squash and beetroot are not normally found in the yoghurt aisle so we can’t wait to hear what our customers think. Our aim when developing these yoghurts was to use popular vegetables that are naturally beneficial to everyday health and wellbeing. “Vegetable-based smoothies are now mainstream and we anticipate the trend for this type of yoghurt to follow suit.”   15/02/17 Lidl joins surplus food donation platform   Lidl has become the second major retailer to sign up for surplus food donation programme Neighbourly Food, following on from M&S. Neighbourly is a social platform that matches charities and local causes with companies and individuals that can help, and each Lidl store will be linked to a local food project within a five- mile radius that can collect edible food directly from the store each day. Over the coming year all of Lidl’s 600-plus stores will be signed up to the programme, with the first 100 expected to be active by the end of June and the process completed by March 2018. Neighbourly has been running a food surplus programme with M&S since July 2015, and the two retailers will be using the platform to help reduce the seven million tonnes of surplus food thrown away each year. Lidl has also become the first retailer to sign up to Neighbourly’s #FundaFridge campaign, donating over 100 fridges and freezers to projects that struggle to store the donations of fresh food they receive.   15/02/17 Savvy shoppers’ cash-saving plans   Shoppers are worried that food prices will have a negative impact on their financial circumstances this year, new research has indicated. According to IGD, some 65 per cent of shoppers expect food prices to hit their finances, followed by energy bills (58 per cent), petrol prices (53 per cent), not having a wage increase (31 per cent) and interest rates (28 per cent). Consumers are also using more elaborate means of saving money on groceries, with the main one being cooking from scratch or with leftovers (83 per cent). Some 65 per cent have visited two or more stores on the same shopping trip and 63 per cent have made packed lunches. The survey also revealed that 37 per cent of shoppers have taken products out of their grocery basket, in store and online, before they get to the till to save money. A further 28 per cent have grown their own fruit or veg and over one in five have skipped a meal to save. “UK shoppers are really switched on where personal and wider economic circumstances are concerned,” said Vanessa Henry, shopper insight manager at IGD. “With food and drink prices continuing to show year-on-year price deflation for the time being it’s encouraging to see that consumers are ahead of the curve by adopting such savvy tactics to save money.”   14/02/17 Supermarkets and suppliers criticised over farm standards   Supermarkets and food companies are guilty of paying ‘lip service’ to farm animal welfare by feigning corporate social responsibility, a damning new report has claimed. The research, by Dr John Lever of the University of Huddersfield, argued that by failing to fully understand and embrace the principles of farm animal welfare, large supermarket chains could be causing environmental damage and imperilling the long-term viability of their businesses. He believes that farm animal welfare is currently “unfocussed and separate” from the core business agendas of large global food companies, and that they could do themselves more good in the long run by improving animal conditions and linking to the three pillars of sustainable development – environment, society and economy. “Keeping animals under less intensive conditions, with better welfare, can clearly have an impact in these areas by reducing stress, pollution and environmental damage,” said Lever, whose comments feature in a new book entitled ‘Stages of Corporate Social Responsibility’. He added that poor treatment of animals “can impact human health through the spread of pathogens.”   13/02/17 Dairy Crest on track after branded growth   Branded and own-label manufacturing giant Dairy Crest has released an upbeat assessment for the nine months to 31 December 2016. The company reported that key brands Clover, Frylight and Country Life all grew volumes over the period, while Cathedral City improved its performance in the third quarter. Production of demineralised whey powder and galacto-oligosaccharide (GOS) – which are ingredients aimed at the growing global infant formula market – is continuing to develop well at the Davidstow factory, Dairy Crest said. There have been significant improvements in the percentage level of demineralised whey hitting the infant formula grade, it added, with the aim of over 80 per cent reaching the mark by 31 March. Chief executive Mark Allen said business was in line with expectations, but warned that milk cost inflation and high cream prices meant year-end net debt would be higher than a year ago.