Food industry trends – buying closer to home

Market vegetable stall copyright 2021 www,thesaferfoodgroup.com

According to 2021 research, British consumers are increasingly looking for British produce; great news for the environment and the economy.

Unsurprisingly, following food shortages in 2020 and 2021, savvy British consumers have been considering alternatives to their supermarket shop.

As well as supply chain issues, consumers have been driven to local producers by concerns about quality, citing a deeper trust in British farmed goods than in imported foods. High profile news stories regarding imported meat containing high levels of antibiotics and chlorine have forced consumers to think more carefully about food quality and production and processing methods.

And environmental concerns have also led shoppers to think about buying local – farms shops and markets have proved a great way to buy direct from producers, as well as providing genuinely seasonal foods.

Record breaking consumer numbers buy British food

This article published by Speciality Food Magazine cites OnePoll research that claims, ‘73% of the public often or always looking specifically for British food when shopping’.

It also revealed a strong level of support for British farming and its quality standards, with the vast majority of respondents wanting trade deals to protect British farmers from being undercut and welfare standards of imported meat to match that of domestically produced food.

The unprecedented challenges caused by the pandemic highlighted the need for more secure supply chains – and local businesses responded to support their communities. Producers found creative ways to get their food directly to consumers, through farm shops, co-operatives and box schemes. The benefits of open air markets became clear as a safer shopping environment.

Rising success of the small food business

The economic situation continues to be tough for some food businesses, especially those without a corporate safety net to keep the cash flow going. However, the pandemic has demonstrated how agile and adaptable small businesses have been and continue to be as the rules and landscape shift on a monthly business

Some great examples of small business agility have been:

  • Food retailers taking their sales out into their community, using church halls, delivery services, or even repurposed ice cream vans to get supplies to vulnerable people
  • Businesses recognising and solving community problems – including the micro brewery who provided a reciprocal collection service for food bank items donated by customers of their delivery service. Community engagement has been a strong theme for a lot of food businesses, giving them the opportunity to really get to know and build relationships with their customers, and there is no doubt a number of these initiatives will continue and thrive once the threat of the pandemic has lessened.
  • Artisan producers joining forces to create ‘lockdown luxury’ boxes – sharing storage, packing and delivery resources to reduce cost and environmental impact and increase customer base

Small businesses can suffer from higher proportional overheads, without the economies of scale enjoyed by larger companies. However, they often have the benefit of entrepreneurial spirit, an adaptable and loyal staff body and the agility to change direction quickly and make change happen. In adverse times, these skills will continue to be invaluable and as circumstances develop, the rise of small businesses is very welcome .

Useful links

Food safety training from The Safer Food Group

Produce and Provide – network of local farms and producers across the UK accessible to consumers

National Market Traders Federation – supporting market traders

Love your local market campaign hosted by NABMA

Calorie menu labelling – our free guide

What does your food business need to do to meet April 2022 calorie labelling regulations?

Calorie labelling regulations logo

The government has announced that calories will be labelled on menus and food labels in certain ‘out-of-home food businesses’ from April 2022. Out of home refers to business that prepare food for immediate consumption by its customers, such as cafes, restaurants, pubs and take-aways.

What businesses does this affect?

The new legislation means that large businesses with 250 or more employees in England, including cafes, restaurants and takeaways, will need to display the calorie information of non-prepacked food and soft drinks that are prepared for customers. In some circumstances, franchisees are deemed to be a part of their franchisor’s business and therefore employee numbers are calculated across the whole business.

When does it come into force?

The legislation comes into force from 6th April 2022, for the businesses outlined above

How must calorie information be displayed?

Calorie information will need to be displayed at the point of choice for the customer, such as physical menus, online menus, food delivery platforms and food labels

Businesses are also required to display the statement ‘adults need around 2000 kcal a day’ on their menus where food is chosen from a menu, or otherwise on a label where it can be seen by customers when making their food choices. Children’s menus are exempt from displaying the statement referencing daily calorie needs as the calorie requirements of a child vary with age and are less than that of an adult

Why is calorie labelling legislation being brought in?

The measures, which form part of the government’s wider strategy to tackle obesity, are planned to help to ensure people are able to make more informed, healthier choices when it comes to eating food out or ordering takeaways

When must smaller businesses comply with the new calorie labelling legislation?

At the present time, no plans to introduce this legislation into smaller food businesses have been announced

What are the penalties for non compliance?

This has yet to be announced

Are there any exemptions?

Specific exemptions applying to food include:

  • • Temporary menu items on sale for less than 30 consecutive days and a total of 30 days in any year.
  • • Food which is ‘off menu’ and made available or prepared differently to the way it is normally prepared, at the request of the customer.
  • • Alcoholic drinks over 1.2% alcohol by volume.
  • • Condiments which are provided to be added by the consumer (not including condiments which are part of the food served).

The Regulations also specify exemptions for food which is served:

  • • On an international aircraft, train or ferry to or from a country that is not part of the UK.
  • • By a charity in the course of its charitable activities.
  • • At an institution providing education to children under 18 years.
  • • To patients (not for payment) at a hospital or other medical establishment or to residents of a care home or other social care institution.

Anything else we need to know?

At the moment, guidance is still being written. As updates are available, The Safer Food Group will update and add to this post. Our training courses are regularly updated to capture the latest relevant food safety regulations – check out www.thesaferfoodgroup.com for more info. If you would like to learn more about calories and menu planning, have a look at our Level 2 Nutrition course.

Natasha’s Law in health and care settings

What does your setting need to do?

The UK Food Information Amendment – Natasha’s Law – came into force in October 2021. An important development in helping prevent the serious effects of food allergies, this law amendment deals with labelling products that have been packed on premises ready for sale. It was brought into force to strengthen the 2014 Food Information to Consumers legislation, and followed a period of dedicated campaigning by the parents of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse, who tragically lost her life after eating a sandwich containing the allergen sesame. At the time, foods prepared in house and packaged for later sale were not required to be labelled individually.

What is Natasha’s Law and who does it affect?

Natasha’s law applies to any business or food operation that is preparing, packing and then later selling food from the same premises, or from a mobile stall or vehicle. This includes: cafes and coffee shops, takeaway and fish & chip restaurants, sandwich shops, farm shops, as well as work, school and hospital canteens. Voluntary and charity organisations who undertake fundraising events such as bake sales will also need to consider how they package their goods and whether they need to apply the new rules.

How does Natasha’s Law apply in a care or health setting?

Within care and health settings many foods are prepared and served directly to residents and patients – the new rules do not apply to these foods, although they will be covered by existing food safety regulations, including those relating to allergens. Some settings prepare, sell and distribute meals to customers off-site (e.g. ‘Meals-on-wheels’ services); these will typically be covered by regulations for distance selling of food. Where settings prepare and pre-package food for sale to customers – for instance to visitors to their café or restaurant – they will need consider Natasha’s Law and how to apply the correct labelling to those foods.

When does it come into force?

Natasha’s law was created in September 2019, and came into force in October 2021 throughout the UK.

What foods are covered by Natasha’s law?

Any food which is Pre-Packed for Direct Sale (PPDS); that means prepared in-house, wrapped or placed in packaging, ready for the customer. This includes food that customers select themselves, as well as pre-wrapped items that are kept behind a counter.

What are PPDS foods?

Examples of PPDS items include:

  • Sandwiches, pies, burgers, ready meals or cakes/baked goods prepared and packaged by a food business before the consumer selects them
  • Foods prepared and packaged and sold at a market stall
  • Wrapped deli counter goods such as cheese and meats, and boxed salads placed on a refrigerated shelf prior to sale
  • Freshly made pizza or boxed salads from a supermarket deli counter which are packed on site and refrigerated prior to sale
  • Mixed bags of sweets which are made up, packaged and sold on the same premises or from a mobile unit such as an ice cream van.

For further help, use this tool created by the FSA.

What must we do?

All PPDS products will need to be clearly labelled with the name of the food and a full list of all ingredients. Any named allergens (from the 14 named allergens list) must be highlighted within the ingredients list, for example by printing them in bold, italics or a different colour. An exception to this rules is products with a surface area of less than 10cm2 – if this applies to your products, have a look at the FSA website to understand your responsibilties.

What are the penalties for non compliance?

Businesses failing to follow the new rules could face a fine of up to £5,000 per offence. But more importantly, the damage to the reputation of your business if a serious allergy incident occurs is almost impossible to calculate.

What else should I think about?

The death of Natasha Ednan-Laperouse highlights the importance of food allergen awareness within all food businesses and operations. As well as considering the physical labelling requirements, food businesses should also take this opportunity to think about their production process and staff training implications. It is vital that your food operation has a clear allergen policy, which allows both staff and customers to understand any risks that are present to allergy sufferers. Staff must fully understand any processes that they are expected to undertake when creating meals that fulfil any allergy-free claims you make, and those who communicate with customers must be able to do so truthfully and confidently.

All Safer Food Group training courses that contain allergy awareness advice include guidance on Natasha’s Law – and our all new Level 2 Allergy Awareness course for food handlers has been entirely updated and relaunched in September 2021, to comprehensively cover this subject.

Whilst Natasha’s law makes information more readily available and therefore easier for staff to communicate accurate ingredients information, the key message for all staff in food preparation is the importance of consistency in and clear communication of ingredients and recipes. Allergen training, whether in-house or with certified training courses, is a vital step in keeping your customers, staff and your business safe.

Our Customers: KSB Recruitment

Safer Food Recruits – Providing quality candidates for catering and hospitality

Birmingham based Catering and Hospitality Recruitment agency KSB Recruitment established by Dawn over 30 years ago. Dawn’s experience in the industry drove her to create an agency that operated differently, offering flexible, tailored solutions for both businesses and candidates.

To this day, KSB pride themselves on offering an outstanding service to both clients and candidates. Being able to send fully trained staff to a client’s establishment is a key part of that service, demonstrating their commitment to providing high quality candidates who can fit neatly into existing teams with high service standards and customer service skills.

We asked Dawn why she wanted to work with us: ‘The Safer Food Group was recommended to us and I was really impressed by what they had to offer. The ease of access for our candidates to undertake the training was a key point for me. Our candidates are busy people and we needed a course that wasn’t too complicated or that took too much time for them to complete; we also needed to ensure they were well equipped with the knowledge to undertake a role where food hygiene is of the utmost importance’

If you are looking for quality talent to support your Catering or Hospitality business, contact Dawn and the team at KSB Recruitment.

Our Customers: Care South

Safer care: providing food, fun and friendship

Care South is a not-for-profit charity and leading provider of quality nursing, residential and dementia care, with 16 care homes as well as Care at Home services, across the south of England.

Care South chose The Safer Food Group to help ensure staff were trained to a high standard, requiring a quality accredited course.

“We know that our residents have led rich and fulfilling lives and we want to keep it that way and ensure there is plenty of food, fun and friendship along the way.

As a Care Provider, we wanted to access Accredited L2 & L3 Food Hygiene and Allergen courses for our catering staff.  Quite a bit of online research took place and The Safer Food Group caught our eye. 

We reviewed the courses and found them informative and engaging.  Marcus and Nick kept us focused throughout the learning process, which we enjoyed.  We knew this would suit our staff group.

The Safer Food Group ticked all the boxes in providing quality, accessible courses at a cost that suited us.  Options to bulk buy courses at discounted prices gives us flexibility to meet the needs of the business.  The platform dashboard is clear and easy to use and the team at customer services are always happy to help and very responsive to emails.

The comfort, safety and well-being of our residents is of paramount importance to us and care is at the heart of everything we do. Making sure are staff are trained to help them do their job to the best of their ability makes this possible.”

Our Customers: Smith’s Community Support

Safer Communities – How CICs are empowering volunteers through training

‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’… whilst the pandemic has been incredibly tough, it has also shone a spotlight on some brilliant volunteer work, undertaken by teams and individuals within communities across the UK, working hard to support community members who need some extra help. At The Safer Food Group, we are very lucky to work with some of these fantastic groups and organisations – including Smith’s Community Support in Ayr.

Smith’s Community Support is a drop-in centre and café, created by Agnes Smith and her team to provide a hub for those who need support and advice, cake and cuppa or just a chat and friendly face. Smith’s Community Support is based within the Tsukure Hub CIC, itself an innovative community project which takes a creative approach to engaging local people and giving them the opportunity to learn new skills. The centre has had many roles during the last year, including a food redistribution point, a cookery school for families on low budgets, an advice centre and a space for community members to volunteer and learn in a working kitchen environment.

The centre is financially self-supporting, running regular fundraising activities in order to continue providing its essential services – which is why The Safer Food Group were keen to help with training courses to enable the volunteers work safely in the kitchen. Once Agnes had tested our courses for herself, she set her team the task of passing their Level 2 Food Safety and Allergy awareness courses. These courses not only enable the team to operate safely within the centre, but they also provide accredited certificates for the volunteers to demonstrate their skills as they seek paid employment.

Like many volunteer organisations, Smith’s and Tsukure have grasped the opportunity to give something back to their volunteers, by focussing on the employment and life skills that they can pass on. We wish Smith’s Community Support , Tsukure Hub CIC and all our voluntary sector partners the best of luck with everything they do, and hope they can continue with the vital work they are doing in rebuilding and strengthening their community.

Our Customers: Farmhouse Biscuits

Safer Food manufacturing

Diversification from agriculture into food production and retail feels like a very modern way for farming businesses to adapt and thrive. However, the McIvor family of Higher Oaklands Farm spotted this opportunity in the 1960s, when Farmhouse Biscuits was born.

Growing successfully from tiny roots, Farmhouse Biscuits still operates using the same family values and traditional methods – and the manufacturing business has also embedded a culture of food safety, and a dedication to the wellbeing of its 300-strong team. The staff tell us it’s a great place to work, and their hard work is reflected in a Grade A+ Certification to the BRC Global Standard for Food Safety, for continuous  improvement in food safety, hygiene and quality procedure.

Carel van Bentum, Facilities Manager of the Lancashire based production facility explained how Safer Food Group training is woven into the working lives of their team members. Food Safety and Allergen Awareness are tackled as part of a comprehensive induction programme for new staff. Making use of the flexibility of Safer Food Group training, courses are delivered both online and with the help of tutors in a classroom setting.

And Safer Food Group systems benefit the management team too. Carel can keep a track on learners’ progress, as well as spotting certificates due for renewal using the admin system in his business account – vital when you have a big team to support.

It’s always rewarding to play a small part in the success of a brilliant business – and we love supporting Carel and his team almost as much as we love eating their biscuits! Why not visit their shop and make sure you’re stocked up for National Biscuit Day (yes, really!) on 29th May?

Our Customers: Jilly’s Cupcake House

Home based baking business

In our third post looking at food safety training from the perspective our customers, we talk to Jilly Shah, of Jilly’s Cupcake House, whose charity cake baking turned into a business more than 5 years ago. Jilly started raising money for the A-T Society in 2015, but as orders flooded in, her hobby became her business.

It was at this point, Jilly told us, “I realised I needed to get professional and get Level 2 Hygiene certified. I found the Safer Food Group in a Google search and I’m so glad I did. Studying the course videos gave me so much encouragement and motivation. Not to mention how entertaining Marcus and Nick were throughout the course; it was so enjoyable!

Completing the course helped me so much in my business. I run my bakery from home, so all the tips and guidance I learnt from the course really helped me to transform my home bakery into a professional environment.”

As someone affected by A-T, Jilly continues to run her business with all profits going to the A-T society. We’re glad we have helped just a little in Jilly’s journey, and wish her lots of baking success in the future.

Marketing your credentials – the hidden benefits of good food hygiene

A recent report by the BBC has highlighted concerns expressed by the FSA over newly formed ‘at-home’ food businesses, who fail to register with their local authority. And in turn, this has prompted increasing numbers of consumers to consider whether the food products they buy from small online food operators is actually safe to eat.

Your legal requirements

Remember, food business registration can be as simple as completing an online form via your local authority website, and is a legal requirement for any business that:

  • sells food
  • cooks food
  • stores or handles food
  • prepares food
  • distributes food, including:
    • restaurants, cafes and takeaways
    • catering businesses run from home, B&Bs, mobile catering and temporary businesses
    • marquees, food stalls, food pop ups and food vans
    • nurseries, schools and care homes
    • distance selling, mail order and food delivery including online

Registration as a food business is free in the UK.

As a food business, you are also legally required to ensure that you, and anyone else working with food receives adequate supervision, instruction and/or training in food hygiene for the work that they do.

Use your credentials as marketing tools

As a food professional, how do YOU judge a restaurant’s food safety standards? You know what to look for, so when you are visiting a new food business, you probably check out the FSA Hygiene Star Rating (Food Hygiene Information Scheme rating in Scotland) in the door or window, and seek evidence of staff training certificates once inside.

You can use the same tools to market your online food business. If you are paying for food safety training, as well as nurturing skilled, knowledgeable staff, you should also look for other ways of making a return on your investment; that is to say, use it as a marketing tool. Talk about any training successes you’ve had via your social media accounts and website. This proactive approach shows customers that you care about their safety, and your team’s development.

At The Safer Food Group, we love to see customers celebrating training success. Tag @TheSaferFoodGroup in your social media posts, and we’ll give you a virtual pat on the back – increasing your audience reach and underlining your commitment to producing food safely.

You can also promote your official food hygiene rating – especially effective if you gain a 5 star / Pass rating. The FSA have created a media page and resources to help you advertise your rating virtually – it includes a great little toolkit with some invaluable ideas

You can also provide a link to your official business rating, so your customers can see for themselves – click here for Welsh and English listings and here for Scottish listings

Be proactive – talk about food safety

You might feel uncomfortable talking about food safety on your social media page but remember – it shouldn’t be a taboo subject, and if you uphold high hygiene standards in your business, you should be proud to talk about them. You can guarantee that some of your potential customers want to know – and are too shy to ask – so make it easy for them to choose you!

Our Customers: Case and Brewer Fish and Chips

Takeaway Restaurant

Established in 1963, this independent chippy on the South Coast prides itself on quality – and this is reflected in their customer service, their 5 star hygiene rating – and of course their food! Staff training has changed significantly since those early days, but has always been a key factor in getting things right for their customers.

David, the shop owner told us, “When our local authority originally introduced food hygiene training, it was face to face – we rearranged rotas and spent afternoons in the classroom to get our certificates. Whilst it was great to know our staff were competent, it was always tricky arranging sessions around opening times.

Using Safer Food Group online training has be great for us – it’s much easier to fit in around shifts, and the video lessons feel similar to the classroom course we used to take. The SFG website gives us an up to date record of our staff training, which helps keep a track on our seasonal staff, and all the courses we need are available in one place, including the Level 3 Supervisor, Health & Safety and Allergy Awareness courses.”

Case and Brewer are justifiably proud of their team’s achievements; if you manage a trip to beautiful Dorset this summer, why not pop in and enjoy some freshly cooked fish and chips and some great customer service.