Ocado Andover CFC grid

The boss of Ocado has claimed it can build its robotic warehouses “faster and cheaper” after announcing a slew of technological innovations designed to tackle the rise of rapid delivery rivals (The Times £).

The FTSE 100 company said on Wednesday that innovations, including lighter “bots”, automated loading of grocery orders and software improvements, meant the large fulfilment centres that it builds for itself and other supermarket groups would be cheaper to construct and operate (The Financial Times £).

Ocado has vowed to improve its recent record of warehouse fires with a new generation of robots capable of picking and packing more groceries to deliver faster for shoppers (The Telegraph).

The online grocer said shoppers will be able to pick from a supermarket range, at supermarket prices and have groceries delivered in as little as two hours (The Mail).

Tim Steiner, the chief executive of Ocado, said the new technology was a “game changer” that would enable the group’s retail partners to automate picking in smaller local warehouses and provide a “compelling immediacy proposition” that could take on the likes of Getir, Deliveroo and GoPuff, the fast-track food couriers which have grown rapidly during the pandemic (The Guardian).

Gopuff is reported to have chosen investment banks to lead preparations for an initial public offering in America (The Times £). The company is working with Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs on its planned float expected later this year, according to Reuters.

A major overhaul of inflation data by national statisticians will fall short of food poverty campaigner Jack Monroe’s demands for an index of essential items as the cost-of-living crisis mounts, (The Telegraph).

The Office for National Statistics said it accepted that every person had their own inflation rate and it would do more to capture the impact of price increases on different income groups (The Guardian).

Jack Monroe, who is known for publishing cookbooks focusing on “austerity recipes”, criticised the Consumer Prices Index, the headline measure of inflation, for failing to account for the disappearance of value products from stores (The Times £).

Food poverty campaigner and chef Jack Monroe has welcomed changes in the pipeline to how the cost of living is measured (BBC News).

Terry Pratchett’s estate has authorised Jack Monroe to use the “Vimes Boots Index” as the name of her new price index, which is intended to document the “insidiously creeping prices” of basic food products (The Guardian).

Retailers Sainsbury’s, John Lewis and Waitrose will continue to ask customers in England to wear masks in their shops when Plan B rules end on Thursday (BBC News).

Legal measures requiring masks and Covid passes in England have been dropped, but shoppers and commuters in some settings will still be asked to wear face coverings (The Guardian).

Nestlé will triple its cocoa sustainability funding to SFr1.3bn ($1.4bn) over eight years, including direct payouts to African cocoa farmers in a bid to remove child labour from its supply chain (The Financial Times £).

A Big Read in The Financial Times (£) asks ‘as the appetite for plant-based meat already peaked?’.

Pets at Home continued to enjoy strong growth from the animal ownership boom during the pandemic, with the retailer’s annual profit set to come in higher than previously forecast (The Mail).

The company said it had a “record Christmas” with strong growth in sales across its 445 UK stores and its 300 vet and grooming outlets (BBC News).

The boom in puppy and kitten ownership during the pandemic has led to a surge in customers and higher sales at Pets at Home, prompting the retailer to raise its profit guidance (The Times £).

The Tempus shares column in The Times (£) examines the performance of Pets at Home.

Plant-milk brand Oatly has been told not to repeat some of its adverts, after complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) were upheld (BBC News).

The Lex column in The Financial Times (£) takes a look at Swiss chocolatier Lindt as its growth is set to slow down markedly from a pandemic high. “With sales set to fall this year, the group might be wise to reposition itself more upmarket,” the paper writes.

The US regulator has cleared an investigational drug application from Allergy Therapeutics for its novel peanut allergy vaccine candidate, prompting a positive response from shareholders (The Times £).