RPC Bites #45 - Waitrose concerned by Asda's 'Just Essentials' range, HFSS restrictions potentially delayed further and the end of free-range eggs (for now)

Published on 31 March 2022

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!!

Waitrose considers Asda's new range, 'Just Essentials', too similar to 'Essential Waitrose'

Earlier this week, Asda announced that it will be launching 'Just Essentials', a new line of 300 low-cost products, which will be available from May. However, Waitrose believes that Asda's branding is too similar to its own 'Essential Waitrose' range, which launched in 2009. Waitrose has reportedly written to Asda raising trade mark concerns and is currently awaiting a response. A spokesperson for Asda has been quoted as saying: "The word 'essentials' is a generic and commonly used term by retailers to describe their value product ranges."

We'll closely monitor this story as it develops and will provide updates in future issues of RPC Bites.

Sweet relief for HFSS suppliers…?

For some time now, RPC Bites has been closely following the Government's campaign to curtail the promotion of food and drink products deemed high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS). In Issue 36, we reported on the Government's announcement that it would postpone certain HFSS restrictions that were due to take effect from April 2022, until October 2022.

Now, according to DEFRA secretary, George Eustice, the Government is considering whether "now's the right time" to implement the upcoming legislative changes. This may be music to the ears of many; a recent study by GS1 UK revealed that almost 50% of businesses feel unprepared for the new legislation, with 20% completely unaware of the upcoming restrictions.

The minister stressed that the policies behind the legislation, in particular tackling public health issues linked to HFSS products, are still important but that the Government is currently reviewing "a wide selection of proposed legislative changes to mitigate the cost of living crisis amid soaring food inflation, exacerbated by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine."

Growth of food delivery services shows no signs of slowing

Lumina Intelligence has recently published its Foodservice Delivery Market Report 2022 (the "Report"). This describes the use of delivery services by consumers as "habitual", with 12% of adults in the UK now ordering delivery at least once a week.

The total value of the food delivery industry in 2021 was £12.6bn. This is predicted to rise by 5.3% in 2022. The Report shows that food delivery services now make up 12.2% of the total eating out market in the UK, with the top three delivery companies (Just Eat, Deliveroo and Uber Eats) holding a combined market share of almost 70%.

Lumina attributes the growth in food delivery to the continuous on-off restrictions across the hospitality sector over the past two years and forecasts that the share of the total eating out market attributed to delivery services will continue to grow over the next three years.

Lumina's key findings are summarised here.

Farewell to free-range eggs

Since last November, it has been mandatory to keep birds inside due to a severe outbreak of bird flu. A 16-week grace period allowed eggs from hens that would usually be free range, but were being housed to avoid the virus, to continue to be marketed as 'free range'.

That period came to an end last week, meaning any eggs previously marketed as 'free range' must now be marketed as 'barn eggs'. Retailers have indicated that they will be printing fresh boxes and adjusting their signage to reflect the change.

Given that approximately 55% of all eggs produced in the UK are free-range (according to the RSPCA), the measures (which DEFRA says will be in place 'until further notice') are placing a significant number of producers under financial pressure.

Tesco and Amazon Fresh announce their new plant-based offerings

Tesco and Amazon Fresh are the latest food and drink retailers to expand their Free From ranges and plant-based offerings.

Following the debut of the 'Wicked Kitchen Meal Deal' in January, Tesco is launching Wicked Kitchen's first ever vegan Easter range. It will include dairy-free chocolate eggs in two flavours, Fruity Chocolate and Poppin Candy Orange, as well as Benny the Bunny, a plant-based milk chocolate rabbit, and a vegan cupcake range. In addition, its Free From range will also be expanded.

Meanwhile, Amazon Fresh has expanded its Fresh private label by launching its own plant-based range. It offers over a dozen vegan meat and dairy items, including Italian meatballs, chick’n nuggets, meatless patties, sausages and almond milk. The new range aligns with Amazon’s intention to grow its plant-based offering throughout 2022.
Sainsbury’s drives towards a decarbonised future

Sainsbury’s is taking its electric refrigerated trailers to the next level through its recently announced plan to design, develop and deploy smart chargers for the vehicles.

The trailers, which were first trialled last year and have now been implemented into the supermarket’s lorry fleet, run their chiller units from batteries, as opposed to diesel generators. The smart charging system, being developed in partnership with Flexible Power Systems, will allow the batteries to be charged overnight from low-carbon energy sources.

The move will cut carbon emissions associated with the refrigeration units by as much as 20 tonnes of carbon each year and will ultimately help Sainsbury’s to manage its overall energy use in its distribution centres.

Sainsbury’s' investment in such technology accords with its recently announced accelerated target to be net-zero in its own operations by 2035, 5 years ahead of the Government’s intention to end the sale of all new petrol and diesel HGVs by 2040.

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