Hard times at Hovis as Co-op signs Kingsmill

The harder they come, the harder they fall. And it’s difficult to imagine a harder blow for Hovis that being delisted by The Co-operative Group and replaced by Kingsmill, as was announced in October.

This was a contract worth £75m to Premier Foods and the move, which will see all Hovis-branded lines disappear from The Co-op’s shelves by mid-2013, prompted a round of swingeing cuts to Premier’s operations that are expected to result in 900 job losses. Premier’s Greenford and Birmingham bakery sites will close this year and distribution operations in Greenford, Birmingham, Mendlesham and Plymouth will also be scrapped to adapt to the lower volumes resulting from the contract loss.

Hovis’s woes have been compounded by Asda’s decision to drop its patriotic British Farmers Loaf launched in April to flag up British provenance on the grounds it hadn’t performed well. While most bakers are free to source wheat from abroad, the brand has also been hamstrung by its commitment to using 100% British wheat, which thanks to the washout summer was drastically reduced in yield this year. Bob Spooner, appointed MD for Premier’s bread and bakery business in October, certainly has his work cut out.

Vince Bamford


We will block you: May fights the badger cull

He may resemble a badger, but so far rock god Brian May has avoided being culled - as have the furry creatures he proclaims to love so much.

The Queen guitarist upset the UK’s farming community by launching a campaign in September to save badgers after the government announced a widespread cull as part of a trial to try and combat the spread of bovine tuberculosis.

Many felt his comments and efforts were misguided and May did little to aid his cause when it was revealed that a cull of deer had taken place on his vast estate.

Rob Brown


Heston’s Fantastical offering… far from fantastic

We had the usual MasterChef and Great British Bake Off talent/food porn shows and BBC2’s The Men Who Made Us Fat certainly got the grey matter ticking, but good-quality TV food fare was decidedly thin on the ground in 2012.

Food Unwrapped (C4), billed as a food/science series that unveiled the industry’s darkest secrets, missed the spot courtesy of incredulous presenters who kept being shocked and appalled by things that were neither shocking nor appalling. But the biggest miss-hit involved baked potatoes masquerading as gigantic baked beans, a giant carton of Um Bongo… and the desperate cries for attention of someone clearly terrified their cutting edge has been blunted by selling out to a supermarket. No prizes for guessing who (Heston Blumenthal, of course). A more pertinent question would be: why?

After seven episodes of Heston’s Fantastical Food (C4), we were left none the wiser. In the absence of anything resembling a good idea, the molecular gastronomist and Waitrose ambassador relentlessly pursued his mission to supersize stuff, making food that tastes of one thing but looks like something else… or ideally, both (giant boiled egg made from yoghurt and mango, anyone?). Pointless.

Rob Brown


Osborne axes pasty tax plans as Greggs kicks up a storm

There are still skidmarks on the tarmac outside Number 11 after George Osborne’s ignominious about-face on the proposed pasty tax last year.

The chancellor’s plans to slap a 20% tax on fresh-baked savouries sold warm - including sausage rolls, steak bakes and the hallowed Cornish pasty - were first unwrapped in March. But by May, following a campaign by an outraged alliance of consumers, manufacturers and retailers such as Greggs and whipped up by The Sun, the plans were toast.

And so Osborne had to swallow the unpalatable truth that while he might be able to get away with taxing the poor, the squeezed middle and the rich (a little bit), messing with our Cornish pasties was a step too far.

An honourable mention in the u-turn stakes also goes to Tesco, which in August dropped years of opposition to front-of-pack traffic light labelling, leaving many suppliers seeing red.

Ian Quinn


Glitch makes red-faced Asda 100% cheaper than rivals

After merrily singing the praises of its 10% Price Guarantee, Asda was not quite so chirpy in October.

For good reason - hundreds of shoppers had figured out a way to exploit a ‘glitch’ in Asda’s software and use ‘trigger’ products such as Ambrosia rice pudding to get the APG website to spit out erroneous vouchers, which some shoppers claimed covered the cost of their entire shop. The 10% Asda Price Guarantee had seemingly become the 100% Asda Price Guarantee, which unsurprisingly, Asda wasn’t too happy about.

So it introduced a £15 cap, which solved the problem until the ASA got involved over concerns that it could not ‘guarantee’ to be 10% cheaper, just £15 cheaper. Cue removal of the cap, which got the ASA off Asda’s back - although Asda claimed it didn’t need it anymore anyway, because the glitch was fixed. Only it wasn’t. And at the time of going to press it still isn’t.

James Halliwell