Colors: Green Color
Colors: Green Color

British potato farmers have been given a helping hand by Tesco after the worst growing conditions since the 1976 drought hampered the growth of this year's crop.

Unseasonably freezing Spring temperatures in parts of Britain followed by the summer drought severely hit potato growers across the country.

For many UK growers it meant a struggle supplying potatoes to supermarkets because of crop specifications set by retailers governing the overall look and quality of fruit and vegetables.

But to help British growers and prevent otherwise perfectly good potatoes from going to waste Tesco widened those specifications to ensure they will still go on sale.

The move has resulted in Tesco, so far, taking an extra 4000 tonnes of potatoes.

And for shoppers it means that a greater variety of different but perfectly good potato sizes will now end up on supermarket shelves across the UK.

Rob Hooper, Tesco's potato expert said:

“We've worked with our potato growers to use as much of the crop and prevent perfectly good spuds from going to waste.

“We want to support our growers wherever we can – and although some potatoes might be smaller and larger they still pack the same great taste our customers expect.

“The situation was so bad in August and September that we had to bring in imports as an emergency measure to make sure we could meet our regular demand.”

Tesco increased the size of baby potatoes by 3mm which allowed its growers to keep these potatoes in the ground longer and get higher yields.

It has decreased the size of other lines by 5mm which has allowed growers to increase their yields of already harvested crops.

The aim of this was to stretch out supplies of British potatoes and avoid the need to import at the end of the season in May and June.

Branston, based in Lincolnshire, are one of the UK's top five potato packers, handling around 350,000 tonnes a year.

Branston Sales and Marketing Director Sharon Affleck said:

“The extreme cold of the Beast from the East delayed planting in the spring, then the extended heat and drought of the summer impacted on crop growth and development.

“Potatoes need a good water supply to help them to grow evenly and bulk up, especially when it's hot.

“This means that the fresh potatoes available to pack are generally smaller, and the shape and skin finish is not as smooth as consumers may be used to.

“Being aware of this, Tesco has worked with their suppliers, who in turn are supporting their growers, to allow a greater flexibility in the specifications of fresh potatoes that are being packed.”

The spec widening is in place until June when the first of the new season's crop comes in.

NFU chief horticulture adviser Lee Abbey said:

“It continues to be critically important that retailers provide flexibility on specifications during difficult growing seasons in order for British farmers to do what they do best – producing food for the nation.

When Tesco signed up to the NFU's Fruit & Veg Pledge in 2017, they committed to a set of principles that are flexible and led by production, including commitments to minimise waste and utilise as much of the crop as possible.

“The 2018 season has been extremely challenging for growers so I am pleased to see Tesco honour its commitments and working with growers to minimise the impacts.”

With veganism the fastest growing culinary trend of 2018 Tesco has increased its range of plant-based Christmas dinner centre-piece dishes.

In 2018, demand for chilled and frozen vegan food at Tesco has soared by more than 50 per cent, helping to swell the UK meat free market to £310 million.

As a result, Tesco has not only doubled its vegan festive main dish offering but has also now launched its first ever vegan party food lines as well as a Christmas vegan sandwich.

The vegan Christmas centre piece dishes are:

  • finest* Roasted Vegetable Galette which encases roast carrots, parsnip and squash with spiced mulled wine in a black pepper and thyme pastry
  • finest* Cauliflower Wellington which is flavoured with turmeric and covered in a festive spiced sauce and wrapped in golden puff pastry
  • Festive Stuffed Butternut Squash* filled with tangy beetroot and apple and finished with a crunchy pumpkin and sunflower seed topping
  • Festive Nut Roast made with carrots, pecan nuts, peanuts, maple sauce, cranberries and spices in a mulled wine and cranberry sauce

With the festive party season coming up the supermarket is launching finest* Thai Inspired Butternut and Lemongrass Rolls as well as Bubble and Squeak Bites.

Other vegan party food treats will include Moroccan spiced cauliflower, sultana, and harissa rolls, roasted butternut rolls seasoned with spiced pearl barley and herbs, and katsu rolls featuring katsu curry vegetables and a katsu crumb topping.

Tesco's Wicked Kitchen range will also launch a festive vegan sandwich in December – a Bubble and Squeak special featuring spiced potato and veg style fritter with chestnut stuffing, tangy cranberry chutney and crisp red cabbage.

A year ago Tesco appointed chef Derek Sarno as Director of Plant Based Innovation to oversee the creation of its own Wicked Kitchen vegan food label.

Derek said:

“People looking for plant centred options for holiday meals no longer need to worry about being considered an afterthought at the Christmas dinner table or party.

In fact the only thing they'll need to consider is making sure these mouth-watering dishes don't get snatched from under their noses by other guests.

“From party food treats to doubling the amount of veg centre pieces, vegans have never had more choice at Christmas than now, how wicked is that!”

Tesco's Christmas new range follows the successful launches of ground-breaking products by European plant-based food brands Oumph! and Vivera earlier this year.

In September, Wicked Kitchen won PETA's 2018 Vegan Food Award for 'Best Vegan Range'.

More than a quarter of a million meals of surplus food are set to be donated to charities and community groups by Tesco this Christmas.

It comes as the supermarket looks to end 2018 with more than 36 million meals given to good causes through its Community Food Connection scheme, which distributes surplus food from its stores at the end of the day in conjunction with leading food charity FareShare.

Festive vegetables are expected to top the donations during the week of Christmas once again this year. Last year Tesco donated more than 14 tonnes of sprouts (around 750,000 individual sprouts in total).

The supermarket also donated 8.7 tonnes of parsnips, 1.7 tonnes of clementines and half a tonne of mince pies in Christmas week last year.

Every one of Tesco's 2,600 stores are able to participate in the scheme, with some 7,000 charities and community groups being supported by the donations.

Tesco's Head of Community, Alec Brown said:

“Christmas is a time of year when people think about others in their community, and our colleagues working in stores across the UK see for themselves the charities and community groups that benefit from the donations.

“These groups support people in need of food throughout the year, and our Tesco food surplus donations really are for life, not just for Christmas.”

One of the groups that benefits from donations as part of the scheme is Look Ahead, a specialist housing association and provider of tailor-made care, support and accommodation services in Newmarket which supports people with a wide range of needs, including mental health issues and homelessness.

Krystle Wade manager at Look Ahead, said:

“Our customers are some of the most vulnerable in society with a range of complex needs.

“The donations from Tesco mean that some people actually eat enough each day, because some people really don't have enough money to feed themselves after paying bills each week. It is a lifeline for many of our service-users.”

Groups that are signed up to the scheme are allocated days to collect food from their local stores. Stores input the details of the food available at the end of the day into an app developed by social enterprise FoodCloud, which generates a text to the charity to tell them what is available.

FareShare chief executive, Lindsay Boswell congratulated the leadership shown by Tesco in tackling food waste from its stores:

“Tesco has really embraced the opportunities available in working with FareShare to provide millions of meals using food that would have otherwise gone to waste; and it is set to have donated an incredible 36 million meals by the end of the year.

“Now FareShare is starting to roll out the technology from FoodCloud that Tesco has pioneered to other retailers, helping us to feed thousands more people in food poverty.”

More than 2,600 Tesco stores across the UK are taking part in the annual Tesco Food Collection from Thursday 29 November to Saturday 1 December, encouraging shoppers to donate long-life foods to The Trussell Trust and to food redistribution charity FareShare.

More than a quarter of the food given out last year by Trussell Trust foodbanks was donated by Tesco customers and the network across the UK is hoping the supermarket's annual collection will provide the food they need to support people in crisis this Christmas.

From Thursday 29 November to Saturday 1 December more than 2,600 Tesco stores across the UK are taking part in the annual Tesco Food Collection. The drive encourages shoppers to donate long-life foods to The Trussell Trust and to food redistribution charity FareShare.

The food donated to foodbanks in The Trussell Trust's network is given in emergency food parcels to people referred because they cannot afford to feed themselves and their families. Donations by Tesco customers are vital to foodbanks across the UK, and a quarter of the donations to foodbanks by Tesco customers will be made in the next three days.

Emma Revie, Chief Executive at The Trussell Trust said:

“This year is set to be the busiest Christmas for foodbanks in our network ever. Foodbanks across the country will be doing all they can to provide the best possible emergency support so people don't go hungry - but to make sure support is there for everyone."

Food donated to FareShare is distributed to charities and community groups who use it to provide meals for vulnerable groups such as isolated older people and those in homeless shelters.

It is the 11th collection to take place, and Tesco is topping up the value of the food donated by the public by 20%, providing additional funds to support the charities in their work this Christmas.

Volunteers will greet customers with a list of items most needed by the charities, with shoppers encouraged to pick up items to donate.

More than 3.34 million meals were donated to the two food charities by generous Tesco customers last year, and the supermarket is hoping that shoppers will be just as generous this time around.

Tesco UK & Ireland CEO Jason Tarry and his counterparts from FareShare and The Trussell Trust are launching the Food Collection on Thursday at Tesco's Surrey Quays Extra store in London.

“Tesco Food Collection is the UK's biggest Christmas food collection, and at Tesco we are glad to be playing our part in helping people in need this Christmas.

“We know that the items that our customers donate can make a real difference to people who really need that little bit of extra help this year - whether it is a food parcel for someone at a time of crisis, or a hot meal which means that a vulnerable person does not feel lonely this Christmas.

“Once again we are topping up all the customer donations by a further 20%, and I'd encourage our customers to put something extra in their baskets to donate.”

Lindsay Boswell, CEO at FareShare said:

“For charities doing their best to feed some of the most vulnerable over the Christmas period, these donations make a huge difference.”

School meal providers in Sandwell have pledged to go further than the government's School Food Standards.

School meals are already offering children healthier options including more fruit and vegetables, food lower in fat, salt, sugar and healthier drinks. More parents and carers will also be given the opportunity to come to taste school food.

Sandwell’s schools have gone a step further by running healthier cooking classes and creating vegetable gardens to engage children and families. They are also sharing Change 4 Life guidance for healthier packed lunches and working to improve the overall lunchtime experience for children.

Councillor Elaine Costigan, cabinet member for public health and protection said: “It’s imperative that children are given healthy meals while at school and I’m delighted the school meals providers already do that.

“It’s great there are plans for more initiatives in partnership with the council, schools and meal providers. This will make sure not only children, but the whole family will get involved and learn more about healthy eating.”

Sandwell Council is working in collaboration with SIPs, Dolce, Autograph, Chartwells, CMC, AIP and Cityserve who provide meals in schools across the borough.

Councillor Simon Hackett, cabinet member for children’s services said: “These initiatives go much further than just providing a healthy school meal. I hope they will help children and families learn about healthy eating so they can use this knowledge at home.”

This November saw the launch of the new Waitrose & Partners Christmas advertising campaign, Too Good To Wait, with the first of a series of light-hearted Christmas adverts aired on TV.

The first advert, which aired earlier this month, depicts a Christmas concert where a pianist rushes through a rather speedy rendition of Jingle Bells as quickly as possible after learning that Heston from Waitrose Chocolate and Cherry Mince Pies would be served afterwards.

In light of this, Waitrose & Partners conducted research* into the nation's obsession with mince pies and results proved they really are 'Too Good To Wait' for.

When asked when they usually eat their first mince pie of the season, over one in ten will take their first bite over two months before Christmas Day – with people from Yorkshire being the most likely to eat a mince pie in October and those from Northern Ireland the least likely to tuck into a mince pie early. Over one in five of those surveyed will eat their first mince pie in November, just 4% will manage to hold out until Christmas Eve and only 3% until Christmas Day.

Looking at the amount of mince pies consumed, the average person will have already eaten 11 of the seasonal favourites by Christmas Day, while 18% eat between 11 and 30 and a further 5% have eaten up to 50 of the delicious mincemeat treats. When asked for the reasons behind breaking the tradition of eating a mince pie before Christmas Day, half of those surveyed said they love them and just can't wait, further verifying the nation's love affair with the baked treat.

A third of respondents said they eat them to get into the Christmas spirit, rising to 51% among the younger generation (18 – 24 year olds), and over a quarter take part in Christmas celebrations before Christmas Day.

It appears other festive treats also prove too much of a temptation to hold off from eating, with 25% of us tucking into a selection box of chocolates and 14% of us choosing Christmas pudding.