What a year!

What a year!

After what has been an absolute scorcher of a summer with record breaking temperatures reached during July and August this year, the cooler, wetter weather has finally arrived.  The unprecedented weather conditions that have been experienced worldwide over the course of 2022 have had a huge impact on our food chain.  The ‘cost of living’ crisis continues to impact heavily on the food and hospitality sector, actively contributing towards a delay in any post-covid recovery and snowballing the number of businesses that can no longer afford to trade.  Multiple economic and environmental factors are creating a domino effect of problems for the food industry as a whole.

The effects of global warming are more apparent than ever before and this has amplified the urgency with which we need to address the reliability of our food supply chain.  Whilst sustainability and a reduced carbon footprint are paramount in the race to save our planet, continuing to meet both consumer necessity and demand cannot be ignored.  There is a drive to remove best before dates from produce to help reduce waste, which is being supported by all major UK supermarkets. Recent research indicates that only approximately 30% of the population strictly adhere to best before dates on produce, with the majority implementing common sense through smell and taste to determine whether goods are safe or spoilt.  This ties in neatly with a need to better educate people how to store food correctly to prolong shelf-life and reduce waste both in terms of food and income.  Interestingly, European supermarket counterparts such as Lidl have never advocated best before dates and have a far more organic approach towards food storage and waste than we do in the UK.

The cost of food has increased since the UK’s exit from the EU which was expected.  A shortage of fertilizer and loss of food import from the Ukraine was however, not and has created a rupture in the supply chain from farm to fork for the UK.  By September 2022 UK food prices had risen by approximately 14.6% during the course of the year, with no cap in sight.  In addition, the Russia/Ukraine situation has dramatically affected energy supply and cost and is indeed having a worldwide impact.  Although the government has acknowledged the impact of the energy crisis on homes, it is yet to offer any substantial long-term support plan to businesses struggling to pay their monthly energy bills.  So how will this impact the food industry in the short term and in the future?  Data at the beginning of this year initially indicated that with a return to pre-covid ‘normality’ there had been a distinct drop in revenue within the fast food/delivery sector, with people returning to restaurants and a more traditional dining experience.  However, as energy and food costs continue to rise this could end up being a temporary blip as restaurants are forced to cut their opening days, hours, staff or even close entirely.  Running a kitchen is expensive in its own right but when combined with the overheads associated with running a dining space become exponential and this is where pandemic-borne food offerings will get a further opportunity to flourish.

Limitations imposed on the food and hospitality industry during covid meant that many workers were left with little choice other than to find alternative employment to maintain an income.  There now appears to be a reluctance to return to the food industry with the risk of future lockdowns not entirely ruled out, and it cannot be ignored that low wages and unsociable hours associated with hospitality are hardly an incentive.  In addition, Brexit has led to a distinct lack of readily available labour – an issue which is also affecting farmers and factories to name a few and needs to be addressed by the government.  The big question now is how will a struggling sector be able to attract the next generation into the profession or encourage people to re-join?

Steve has been busy this autumn hosting at the Speciality & Fine Food Fair (https://www.specialityandfinefoodfairs.co.uk/welcome) back in September which had a great turn out and it was good to see the show up and running at full capacity once again.  Also in September was Lunch (https://www.lunchshow.co.uk/), the multi-award-winning trade show for food-to-go which was well worth attending.  At the Independent Hotel Show (https://www.independenthotelshow.co.uk/) in October – an industry event dedicated entirely to the needs of luxury and boutique hoteliers – Steve hosted a panel discussion about elevating the hotel restaurant.  Sadly, the Takeaway Restaurant show (https://www.takeawayexpo.co.uk/) October did not have a great turn-out and was lacking in comparison.  Great Ormond Street hospital has been popping up on our radar as it does every year, working with long-term sick children to have fun with food and the Halloween themed session proved mightily popular this year.

Coming up; Steve is working with The Jackfruit Company (https://thejackfruitcompany.com/) on some recipe development and video content in conjunction with our friends at Dalebrook (https://www.dalebrook.com/) who not only have great melamine crockery products but also offer a presentation/development/media kitchen for hire.  We are working with local primary schools to educate children about food through taste and explore sessions and Steve will be attending the Plant Based World Conference & Expo in Olympia on 30 November and 1 December (https://www.plantbasedworldeurope.com/), the biggest and most attended plant-based event for food service.  Here he will be pushing the boundaries of plant-based meat alternatives by showcasing products from Unconventional (https://www.unconventionaltaste.co.uk/) who were this year voted the number 1 plant-based burger in the world by consumers on abillion.com.

Finally, there are some exciting opportunities on the horizon as always and we are pleased to be working in conjunction with local business associate Thomas Leatherbarrow at TLC Gourmet (https://www.tlcgourmet.co.uk/) on some prospective projects for 2023/24.

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