RPC Bites #31 - Rugby World Cup win for Japan's Asahi Breweries, Co-op's sustainability drive continues with compostable bags and food past its best before date and Gordon Ramsay calls out Lucky Cat Noodle

13 May 2021. Published by Ciara Cullen, Partner and Ben Mark, Partner

Welcome to RPC Bites. Our aim in the next 2 minutes is to provide you with a flavour of some key legal, regulatory and commercial developments in the Food & Drink sector over the last fortnight… with the occasional bit of industry gossip thrown in for good measure. Enjoy!!

KIND kickstarts HFSS lobbying

Avid RPC Bites readers will be familiar with the future changes to the regulation of foods deemed high in fat, sugar and/or salt (HFSS). In Issue 21 and Issue 24, we reported in detail on proposals to limit the promotion and ban the online advertisement of HFSS products as part of the Government's obesity strategy. Now, with the implementation of the restrictions just under a year away (April 2022), industry lobbying appears to be in full swing.

Nutritious snack bar company, KIND has announced its intention to lobby the Government and launch a public campaign to change the classification of its nut-based products. Although KIND's focus is on providing consumers with "nutritious and delicious" snacks, its entire product offering (excluding its new almond butter breakfast bar range specifically created to avoid HFSS restrictions) would fall under the confectionary / cereal bar category and therefore be caught by the impending restrictions.

To avoid this, KIND is pushing for a change in the classification of nut-based products so that those which are predominantly made up of nuts i.e. 50% or more, will be classed as nuts and seeds and thus fall outside the scope of the HFSS restrictions. The brand claims that its own products have a nut content of 52% to 76%, which is broadly equivalent to the often recommended 'handful' of nuts and intends to use evidence from dieticians and nutritionists to bolster its argument for reclassification.

(Not so) Lucky Cat Noodle

Lucky Cat Noodle, a brand owned by A Rule of Tum, has been forced to re-brand following a trade mark complaint from celebrity chef and TV personality Gordon Ramsay. Ramsay holds a trade mark registration for 'Lucky Cat', which is registered in connection with his eponymous bar in London's Grosvenor Square. A Rule of Tum ran into difficulties when it launched a crowdfunding campaign for its pop-up ramen bar of the same name.

To avoid a legal battle, the Worcestershire based ramen noodle bar has reportedly changed its name to 'Maneki Ramen' after Maneki-Neko, the iconic beckoning Japanese cat-figurine that is believed to bring good fortune to the owner. Head chef Pete Dovaston is reportedly grateful to Gordon Ramsay for pointing out the potential infringement and says it has given the noodle bar a chance to delve into its roots. Rumour has it Chef Ramsay will even be sent a voucher for the noodle bar's new permanent restaurant set to open in June!

2023 Rugby World Cup win for Japan's Asahi Breweries

The 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan exceeded all commercial revenue projections, mostly due to unprecedented interest from Asian brands. It is fitting then, that World Rugby has chosen major Japanese beer, spirits, soft drinks and food company, Asahi to be its global sponsor for the 2023 Rugby World Cup (the Cup).

The new partnership will see Asahi's flagship 'Super Dry' Lager become the Official Beer for the Cup, replacing Heineken, which was the 2019 tournament's Official Beer. With the Cup due to be held in France, Asahi will have to play by the French loi Évin restrictions, which regulate the advertising and marketing of alcohol products, and largely ban alcohol advertising in France. In the past, savvy marketing campaigns have circumvented these rules. For example, by replacing the word 'Guinness' in the Irish stout's popular logo with the word 'Greatness' at the Guinness Six Nations and alluding to Carlsberg in perimeter advertising which simply stated 'Probably…' in Carlsberg's traditional font and colours at Euro 2018.

Asahi expressed its honour at being the first Asian company to become a Worldwide Partner of rugby's most prestigious event, as it joined the likes of Société Générale and Mastercard in the top-tier of partners announced for the Cup. Recognising the potential for the partnership to unite nations and draw in new spectators to the sport, World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said, "we are delighted to be welcoming Asahi Group to the family of Worldwide Partners for Rugby World Cup 2023. Their appointment not only reflects the prestige and truly international appeal of our event, but of the power of a growing and global sport to reach and engage new audiences."

Bag to Rights – out with the plastic, in with the composting

The Co-op recently announced plans to remove plastic 'bags for life' from sale across all of its 2,600 stores, as part of its plans to end single-use plastic. Whilst the introduction of the 'bag for life' has decreased sales of single-use carrier bags by 95% since 2015, the supermarket noticed that customer habits resulted in the so-called 'bags for life' only being used once, rendering them the new single-use bag. Plus, The Co-op claims that the production of 'bags for life' actually uses more plastic than the equivalent process for conventional single-use plastic bags.

Once the current stocks of its 'bags for life' are exhausted, The Co-op plans to replace the current model with a more environmentally friendly and durable equivalent, alongside a certified compostable single-use bag. Initially launched in 1000 stores in 2018, The Co-op's compostable bags can be used in food caddy and home compost bins, giving them a sustainable second life. The supermarket estimates that the compostable bags will remove 29.5 million 'bags for life' from sale each year, saving approximately 870 tonnes of plastic.

Whilst The Co-op acknowledges that from 21 May 2021 the plastic carrier bag charge will increase from 5p to 10p and extend to all retailers, in its latest policy report (which can be found here), the supermarket argues that the measure does not go far enough. To increase transparency, it encourages the Government to require all major retailers to report on their reusable and single-use bag sales and hopes that all single-use carrier bags can be made from certified compostable materials in future.

See RPC's recent Retail Therapy article on eliminating plastic waste here for more information on current and proposed legislation.

There has bean a new discovery

With the demand for high quality coffee and carbon footprint consciousness continuing to rise globally, Nestle's shrewd scientists have used non genetically modified organism breeding to develop not one, but two new low carbon Robusta coffee bean varieties, which deliver "up to 50% higher yields per tree versus standard varieties".

In Nestle's research and development centre, experimental coffee farms are created, allowing scientists to identify the coffee trees with the most beneficial traits such as drought and disease resistance and higher bean yields. Then, new and improved coffee assortments are bred using the favourable trees and Nestle's agronomists support local farmers to grow the new variations sustainably.

According to the food and drink giant, this development could achieve up to a 30% reduction in the carbon footprint of green coffee beans by allowing farmers to grow more coffee using the same resources. The innovation is an exciting move in Nestle's bid to reduce coffee consumption's carbon footprint and is one which will ensure that farmers in regions impacted by climate change can continue to produce high quality coffee beans.

We look forward to seeing what this novel coffee breeding and Nestle's other sustainable developments have to offer as the company continues to work towards its commitment to net zero emissions by 2050.

Late Bloomer – Co-op trials selling food beyond best before date

The Co-op strikes again! As part of its 'Reducing our Foodprint' scheme, Southern Co-op has begun offering customers food which is beyond its best before date. The new anti-waste scheme will run for 12 weeks in 11 stores across the south of England and will build upon the supermarket's successful Hampshire trials in December 2019 and February 2020.

For those that may be shocked to learn of The Co-op's new scheme, according to the Food Standards Agency, products past their best before date are in fact safe to eat, although they may not be of optimum quality.

The Co-op intends to sell fresh items such as soft fruit up to two days after its best before date for 20p, whereas shelf-stable products such as pasta, rice, teas and jams will be sold up to seven days after their best before dates. The supermarket hopes the scheme will raise awareness for the long-forgotten back-of-cupboard items which are often thrown out unnecessarily and prove that certain products are still enjoyable after their best before date.

The Co-op will no doubt be mindful of the need to stay on the right side of use-by dates, following the hefty fine recently imposed on Tesco (as featured in Issue 30 of RPC Bites here). Use by dates are not to be confused with best before dates: The former stipulates the date after which it is no longer considered safe to eat food whereas the latter is an indication of quality, rather than food safety.

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