Market Report: Autumn 2014


Welcome to our quarterly newsletter.

Food Allergens: Addendum

We devoted our last newsletter to the new regulations surrounding food allergens and now, with them in force, we wanted to provide some insight on how caterers might make things work in practice.

“As we know, catering establishments will need to have a system in place to ensure they can tell consumers what allergens are in foods on sale. In this respect, caterers will rely heavily on suppliers to provide them with accurate information which they will then need to collate for every ingredient and dish served to customers. Not knowing what is in the food will be an offence.

Caterers will also need to feel confident about accuracy and consistency of specifications, provenance, safety and quality of food and therefore choosing the right supplier is of paramount importance. After all, if you buy poor food, it will not get any better before it gets to the customer.

So what can caterers do?

  • Choose your supplier carefully – check it’s external audit status, visit the premises or send an experienced auditor who is used to digging into records
  • Obtain specifications and insist that there are no deviations unless you are informed Specify exactly what you want – not just “fish” but exactly what fish.
  • Check deliveries – are you getting what you asked for?
  • Check the labels on every batch, just in case there are substitutions
  • Retain labels and transfer information to your in-house documentation and allergy labels if decanting
  • Check cross-contamination risks – are raw and ready-to-eat foods next to each other? Are allergens all kept together – a common rookie error – you don’t want all your allergens contaminating each other – someone allergic to hazel nuts may safely eat almonds – but not if they are stored together!

Above all, if the price of a food is too good to be true, then it probably isn’t what you thought it was.

In relation to the rest of your premises you will need to:

  • Review your existing food safety management system to include details on how you deal with allergen information
  • Train staff
  • Gather allergen data from suppliers and put into some easy to use format for reference
  • Use allergen labels on decanted or made-up dishes to alert staff

Dr Lisa Ackerley Hygiene Audit Systems

RPI Summary

Annual RPI for September 2014 stood at 2.3%, down slightly from 2.6% in June and the lowest since November 2009 (0.3%).

Other than pork, which is showing only a marginal increase (0.7%) since our last reported figures (June 2014), all commodities posted a decrease in their RPI annual movements.


The latest data from HMRC has shown that demand from the smaller European markets has driven strong export growth for UK beef during August with shipments up 25% (1,800 tonnes) on the same period last year (9,000 tonnes). Year to date the figures are showing a healthy 5% uplift year on year. In addition to the UK’s main export markets of Ireland and the Netherlands, strong export growth was also reported in smaller markets, which included Italy, Belgium, Greece and the Czech Republic – and even Hong Kong. (Eblex)

At Eblex’s annual conference the message was positive for beef (and lamb) due to the increasing global demand for meat – this driven by an ever growing world population and, within one of the largest markets, China, the taste of its “burgeoning urban middle classes” is shifting toward western diets and meat. Against this optimistic backdrop the conference emphasised that price volatility was here to stay and would need to be managed – fully exploit the highs to compensate the lows. (Meat Info)

Once again, beef comes in for some more barracking from research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which reveals beef production is 10 times more damaging to the environment than any other type of livestock. Whilst long known to be bottom of the meat table, this latest study shows it to be “consistently the least resource-efficient of the five animal categories ” and “beef cattle need 28 times more land and 11 times more water than poultry, pork, dairy, or eggs”. So, from an environmental perspective, it would seem we need to both curb our appetite for beef and improve its production efficiency. (The Independent)


After a tough year for beef farmers things are beginning to look a little more positive and with a tightening of supplies, better returns are expected in 2015.


According to Rob Newbury, the chief dairy adviser to the National Farmers Union, the current UK dairy market conditions are “torrid” and whilst milk prices rose in the spring, they have fallen 20% since then. (BBC) 

Within this context, the farmgate price paid for liquid milk is, in many circumstances, falling below the cost of production following price cuts from many processors. Comparisons are being made to 2012 when massive upward pressure on feed prices left little opportunity to manage margins. However, this time round, feed prices are significantly lower and forage shortages are not expected this year – this means there’s far greater opportunity to mitigate the price cut impact through the careful management of feed margins. (Farmers Weekly) 

If further proof were needed of the difficulties with the UK dairy marketplace, Dairy Crest sold its milk operations after profits at the UK’s largest dairy food company fell 95% to £900,000 in the six months to September. (BBC)

Challenging times indeed.


No immediate respite for the dairy industry but any expected movement more likely upward than down in the next quarter.


After the demise of DAPP (Deadweight Average Pig Price) following which a brief respite whilst new contracts were organised, the downward trend in the price of pork continued with the Standard Pig Price falling an “eye watering” 1.64p/kg in October. (The Pig Site) 

However, all is not bleak according to BPEX director, Mick Sloyan, as there is huge potential for British pig producers. With only 50% of the UK’s demand for pork being met domestically therein lies a real opportunity for UK producers to eat into the remaining half. Yes, there are challenges and competition from EU counterparts but evidence from the last 3 years where output has increased steadily without adversely impacting the market shows this can be done. Efficiencies just need to be continually sought and lessons learnt. (The Pig Site)


After the low experienced in October there’s little to suggest an imminent recovery.  An increase in consumer demand to match supply is the challenge for 2015 to escape downward pressure on prices.


Overall seafood landings climbed a positive 6% during August helped by an impressive 50% increase in mackerel landings by UK vessels during the period according to recent MMO’s (Marine Management Organisation) statistics. The same source showed average price for landings in the UK in the eight months, January to August 2014, were up 4% compared to the same period in 2013. Driving this increase were haddock (up 25%), mackerel (up 16%) and shellfish (up 14%) whilst negative impacts were cod (down 1%), sole (down 6%) and herring (down 27%). ( 

With fraud constantly in the headlines – whether home, retail or internet based – fish fraud is not one of the more expected crimes. However, in the US, this has become a very big issue being addressed at the very top. A recent study found that ” between 20 per cent and 32 per cent by weight of non-farmed seafood imported into the United States is caught illegally” and in addition ” as much as one-third of seafood tested in the United States is mislabelled”. It’s not clear to what extent this is reflected in the UK but it would seem the road from net to dish is not as transparent as it should be. (fishupdate)


After a continued downward trend during 2014, limited global supply during the last quarter could drive up the price of fish.


For wheat and barley, the UK 2014 harvest has delivered, both in quality and quantity – the overall good quality being confirmed in the final results of AHDB/HGCA’s Cereal Quality Survey 2014. For wheat, this is good news as the UK to looks to once again become a net exporter. For barley, a large grain size and low nitrogen content may support it in the distilling sector. (HGCA)Assessment

Despite the promising harvest we’ll have to wait to see how the sector prices fare in the coming months.

Other markets

Potatoes … 

Autumn is a both crucial time for consumption and main crop harvesting and Potato Week (6-12 October 2014) is deliberately timed to coincide with these two factors. “Potato Week is all about celebrating the potato …” says the Potato Council’s chair Fiona Fell and as growing conditions have been positive in 2014 there’s increasing certainty of a good supply of potatoes to celebrate this season. (Potato Council)

Eggs … 

Key facts from Defra (Nov 6) shows that egg production is on a continuing upward trend with some 6.9 million cases of eggs packed in UK during Q3 of 2014 representing a 2% increase on Q2. This is predicted to stabilise during the coming quarter in line with chick placings.

At 82.3 pence per dozen (Q3), the average UK farm-gate egg price continued the steady decrease seen since the peak of 92.2 pence per dozen in Q1 2013

Chicken … 

The life of a chicken before it hits the supermarket shelves has come under the spotlight. People’s perception is still of “chickens scratching around in a farmyard.” says Dil Peeling, campaigns director at charity Compassion in World Farming (CWF) where the truth, they say, is far less picturesque. Whilst much progress has been made over recent decades with most UK poultry meat coming from birds reared under assurance schemes, which go beyond the legislative requirements (British Poultry Council) – more can be done for standards to catch up with those being achieved in egg production. (BBC)

Lamb … 

Lamb is to get a €7.7 million (£6.17m) boost from a 3 year programme secured by EBLEX with the European Union, Ireland and France which seeks to increase consumer awareness of the importance of European lamb production.

As part of what is a matched funding deal which sees England, identified as a target market having significant potential, receiving a share of an annual investment of €1.5 million (£1.19m) from the EU (matching a similar sum provided EBLEX, Bord Bia and Interbev). Good news for the demand for lamb. (EBLEX)

Greengrocery … 

It is expected that the good weather conditions will deliver a good crop of fruit with, in particular, a higher output of apples.  Some concerns though hover over avocados (Chile), bananas (local weather) and citrus fruits (Spanish drought).

For vegetables – potatoes, onions and root harvest predicted good – UK brassicas impacted by weather with Kenyan and Egyptian legumes remaining stable. (Reynolds, The Marketplace)

In other news …

Remember the days before the arrival of beautiful coffee in the UK – before the high street was awash with ‘real coffee’ chains with their lattes and cappuccinos? Spare a thought for our astronauts in the International Space Station who have been living in this pre-coffee awakening and have been waiting for the arrival of a ‘proper’ coffee! Well, the wait is over – a new zero-gravity ‘ISSpresso’ coffee machine is set to boldly go to the orbital station this weekend – will they get chocolate sprinkles with that? (The Guardian)


As long ago as 2009 a report for the Nuffield Agricultural Trust on Food Provenance, described the importance of knowing where your food comes from and how traceability in the supply chain can broaden a product’s appeal to a wider range of customers. However, this thirst for greater knowledge can open our vulnerability to food fraud. Supply chains have become long and diffuse and our goal of trust, traceability and transparency appears to be still some way from our grasp.

It is not just understanding the journey and provenance of the products we buy and eat – as we know from the recent food regulation changes – it’s the ingredients and composition that make up the complete picture of what we are putting into our bodies. The need for reliable, consistent and accurate information has never been greater. Suppliers and caterers alike have the burden of responsibility to deliver the confidence expected by customers and legislation will continue to be implemented to back this up.

So, from production to plate, we all have a real opportunity to ‘clean up’ the whole supply chain and truly differentiate the value between ‘premium’ and ‘adulterated’ foods, eke out the fraudsters and truly help customers make properly informed choices about the value and commensurate price of what they eat – an ultimate goal!

What about 2015 – how is that looking? Well, the usual mixed bag is predicted but the plummet in oil prices to below $60 a barrel (the first time since 2009) will certainly create an impact heading into the new year. As for food, overall the index is predicted to continue falling, not hugely, for a few months before heading upwards at a similar pace to the end of the year.