Colors: Green Color
Colors: Green Color

A new activity bar is set to open in an up-and coming area of Digbeth, Birmingham on Friday July 12.

Dropshot’s entertainment and multi-use activity bar which features music, Olympic grade table tennis tables and deck shuffleboards among its many attractions, also offers specially prepared pizzas cooked in a wood fired pizza oven, especially imported from Italy, as well as a range of craft beers, bar food and some amazing cocktails, both classic and modern.

The licensed entertainment venue, which can cater for up to 250 no of people, is situated 50 yards from the custard factory, in the heart of the redeveloped area of Digbeth Birmingham.

Sanj Basra, entrepreneur and managing director at Drop Shot said: “My family has over 30 years history in the manufacturing trade. We have owned and run several businesses and currently export globally to over 30 countries. I have personally been a local businessman for 12 years.

“Being entrepreneurial I have been recently exploring for ways to enter new markets so that I could diversify my business portfolio, and converting this building that we have owned for over 15 years into an activity bar is opening a new chapter and opportunity for me. One that I am very excited about.”

General Manager Jake Murphy said: “I have worked in several industries since the age of 19, but my passion for hospitality and entertainment has never really gone away. I am keen to provide a safe and engaging multi-use entertainment venue where anyone of energy and enthusiasm can congregate, exchange ideas and thrive. Working alongside Sanjeev, opening Dropshot enables me to do that and being in such a prime location is a bonus.”

Salcombe Brewery Co. boasts an outstanding range of award-winning beers, hand-crafted in South Devon, with Salcombe Pale Ale and Shingle Bay topping the list as the perfect accompaniment for your BBQ this season.

Salcombe Pale Ale (ABV 4.6%) is a great choice for summer dining. It is a fresh, full-bodied and powerfully hopped pale ale with an orange, pink grapefruit and anise flavour. It is the ideal partner for chargrilled food and is best served chilled.

Shingle Bay (ABV 4.2%) is a delightfully easy-drinking golden ale that has a pleasant fruity aroma and a subtle crisp bite. The use of the pacific gem hop adds a complexity to the aroma with notes of blackberry and spiced fruit. Lovingly crafted in this popular coastal retreat, simply add sunshine for maximum enjoyment.

Waitrose & Partners today announces plans to treble the size of its successful online grocery operation to a £1bn business over the next three years, working in partnership with Today Development Partners (TDP).

The move with TDP, which is headed by Jonathan Faiman and Mo Gawdat, will accelerate the development of Waitrose.com through a significant increase in capacity and automation and will see a rapid step change in Waitrose.com's online and digital capabilities. Together, Waitrose.com and TDP plan to develop three state-of-the-art automated Customer Fulfilment Centres (CFCs) while harnessing cutting edge technical capabilities to deliver an outstanding online customer experience.

The Waitrose.com service is currently provided through a combination of from-branch deliveries, and through the Coulsdon Fulfilment Centre, opened in 2015 - as well as via a planned second CFC to serve the North London area.

To lead this growth in online, Ben Stimson - currently Retail Director - has been appointed to the new role of Digital Director with immediate effect. Ben will work across all areas of Waitrose & Partners to lead the delivery of the growth in capacity and sales of Waitrose.com and will manage the new relationship with TDP. The role will build on his previous role, where in addition to holding responsibility for shops and contact centres, Ben led market-beating online growth and significant increases in customer satisfaction. He will make digital integral to the business with the aim of making it easy for customers to shop in the way that suits them - barriers between online and offline shopping will disappear.

Rob Collins, MD of Waitrose & Partners, commented: 'Waitrose.com is a popular and efficient home delivery service that is already growing strongly ahead of the market. The plans announced today represent a clear commitment to achieve rapid step-change in Waitrose.com's capacity and capability as we build a modern, well-invested digital business that is fit for the future.

'The development of our new Customer Fulfilment Centres will triple our delivery capacity, bringing our well-loved service and delicious food to more customers across the UK and setting Waitrose.com on the path to becoming a £1 billion turnover business.'

Jonathan Faiman, Co-founder and CEO of Today Development Partners said: “I am more excited about this new venture than anything I've done in my career. I am delighted and privileged to be back within the John Lewis Partnership family and we will deliver for Waitrose.com customers the world's best digital home delivery service.”

Mo Gawdat, chief business officer of TDP and former chief business officer of Google X, the innovation arm of Google, said: “What we're aiming to build is the kind of platform that touches everyone's life. With the advancement in technology and with Waitrose.com as our partner we aim to make the experience of using this technology a great experience for the customer.”

When people think about a vegan diet they often conjure up images of wholesome plant-based foods like fruit, vegetables, beans, seeds, and grains. However, as the lifestyle choice gains popularity, supermarkets are reacting by stocking fridges and freezers with convenience foods aimed at vegans. This could be seen as a breakthrough as the choice becomes more mainstream, but Simon Bandy, General Manager of Veganicity, warns that some of these processed provisions could actually turn people into junk food vegans.

No matter what diet you follow, everyone should consider eating whole and unprocessed foods. For vegans who don’t want to, or don’t have the time to cook from scratch, Simon explains some of the issues they should be aware of:

• Check sodium levels. Processed foods are often packed with excess salt as it acts as a preservative. Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, which is associated with heart attacks. A high intake can also cause water retention resulting in puffiness and bloating. It is recommended that adults should consume no more than 6g (one teaspoon) of salt a day at most

• Sugar intake. Advice is that added sugars should not make up more than five percent of our daily diet. This is from both food and drink. Too much sugar can lead to weight gain and tooth decay. On packaging, opt for foods that have 5g of total sugars (or less) per 100g

• Fat levels. Fat is important for everyone, as it helps the body absorb vitamins A, D and E. Cutting down on saturated fats like coconut oil (which can contain up to 90% saturated fat) is the importance as it can raise cholesterol levels in the blood. Men should have no more than 30g of saturated fat a day, and only 20g for women. Aim for good fats like sunflower oil as it also contains Omega-6 which can help lower cholesterol. The best option is to choose labelling which states the dish is low fat or fat-free.

Simon comments: “Obviously there are times where we treat ourselves and indulge in our favourite fast food. When doing this, try to have that food as a small portion and boost the plate with a good selection of fresh vegetables and whole grains.

“A balanced diet is always the best option, but if vegans feel their diet is lacking in vitamins or minerals they can opt to boost the body with supplements. Our diverse range is 100% vegan, animal-friendly and registered with the Vegan Society, so it’s one less thing to think about.”

Princess Cruises has announced that its new gin-based 'Sapphire Princess' cocktail is now being served on its main UK ship.

Created in partnership with the Bombay Sapphire Distillery, the bespoke cocktail is named after the returning Sapphire Princess cruise ship. The drink will be served exclusively on the vessel, which will spend April – October 2019 sailing to a variety of destinations from Southampton including the Mediterranean, Norwegian Fjords and Canada & New England.

Inspired by the 2,670-guest ship and its Mediterranean ports of call, the bright blue-hued drink is the newest addition to the ship's cocktail menu and will complement the wide range of beverage options already available onboard.

The drink includes a generous measure of Bombay Sapphire gin, which is itself made with botanical ingredients sourced from several of the countries and destinations Sapphire Princess sails to, whilst the cocktail's mixers include Blue Curacao to evoke the sea, and a splash of Prosecco to signify the fizz and bubbles created by waves in the water.

The line has also introduced a brand new excursion for 2019, to the Bombay Sapphire Distillery located in Laverstoke, Hampshire. Available on the day of disembarkation in Southampton, this in-depth tour offers guests the chance to learn the process of gin production, taste the signature botanicals for which the distillery is renowned and toast their holiday.

Tony Roberts, Princess Cruises' vice president UK and Europe, said: “We are thrilled to welcome Sapphire Princess back for another summer of sailings from Southampton and I really cannot think of a better way to greet her arrival than with a glass of this perfect summer cocktail.

“Guests can enjoy a glass or two of this delicious drink in one of the many bars onboard throughout their cruise and by offering a brand new tour to the Bombay Sapphire Distillery, they have the opportunity to continue their holiday even after they have left the ship.”

Sam Carter, Senior Brand Ambassador for the Bombay Sapphire Distillery, said: “The Sapphire Princess cocktail is a silky smooth, well-balanced libation that takes its inspiration partially from the deep bright blue colour of the Mediterranean Sea and also the countries that the Sapphire Princess sails around.”

Start your day the Beastly way! Opening from 7.30am on weekdays and 8:30am on weekends, the Beast of Brixton's new cafe offers bacon rolls, savoury hot croissants, freshly baked pastries and moreish Alchemy coffee specially blended for the venue. But we think you'll travel for the toasties.

Introducing: The Kimcheese. Korean food is happy food, so imagine how happy co-founders Jimmy and Will were on realising that kimchi is a next level toasted sandwich ingredient! Add ham or tuna, or just have it straight up with their house blend of cheddar, mozzarella and Gruyere cheeses. They've taken an ancient, traditional food and slapped it in a toastie to create the ultimate in East meets West lunchables.

Toasties and sarnies don't stop there. There's also the Pulled Chicken Pesto Toastie with sun-dried tomatoes, an Aubergine & Harissa Houmous sandwich which is vegan friendly, a mouthwatering Tuna, Crispy Seaweed and Wasabi Mayo sarnie, and satisfying classics like the BLT and Ham, Cheese & Spring Onion.

Customers can take their lunches to the next level with Disco Hot Sauce. This scotch bonnet-laden, Panamanian-style hot sauce recipe is blended to the sound of four-to-the-floor disco music locally in Brixton. Small batch Disco Hot Sauce is what Sriracha sauce wakes up and wishes it saw in the mirror. It's your mouth's next best friend, you can have it with your toasties or buy it by the bottle.

It's time for garden vegetable patches to undergo a revival amid fears over the rising cost of food and global warming, according to experts.

Researchers from GardenBuildingsDirect.co.uk have revealed eight reasons Brits should consider starting a veg patch in their backyard today, just like their grandparents generation used to.

As food prices rise and environmental concerns increase, experts are calling for the humble garden vegetable patch to make a swift comeback.

Outdoor specialists froGardenBuildingsDirect.co.uk have called for their return, revealing eight reasons Brits should summon the World War One spirit and start their own veg patch today.

Garden vegetable patches were a cheap and easy source of food for grandparents’ generations, particularly in times of crisis.

Now with food prices skyrocketing, experts say they are the perfect way to reduce the cost of weekly supermarket shops for British families.

The team aGardenBuildingsDirect.co.uk have repurposed Lord Kitchener’s 1914 call to arms and encouraged households to wield their garden spades in support of sustainable food.

Straightforward to set up and an interesting outdoor hobby once established, a backyard veg plot could also lead to healthier diets in UK homes.

Researchers have additionally claimed that organising a source of fresh vegetables in the garden may reduce green-fingered Brits’ carbon footprint.

A spokesman from GardenBuildingsDirect.co.uk said: “Glorious garden vegetable patches seem to have gone out of fashion in recent decades, but there are so many reasons they should be making a comeback as soon as possible.

Grow your own is a cheap, convenient, healthy and environmentally friendly way to feed the family, so we are calling for UK households to get on board with our campaign to remind Brits that your vegetables need you!”

Here is the GardenBuildingsDirect.co.uk list of eight reasons to start a garden vegetable patch:

  1. Straightforward set up - It’s so simple, quick, easy and cheap to get a veg patch up and running. All you need to do is set aside a plot of land in the backyard and get your hands on some basic gardening tools.
  2. Low-cost food - Seeds are inexpensive, finding a little spare time shouldn’t be too costly and even some additional water or nutrients shouldn’t break the bank – in return the household gets fed many times over.
  3. Environmentally friendly - Getting vegetables flown in from around the world is a completely unnecessary use of air miles and truck transportation. Why pump all those harmful greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere if it can be grown at the bottom of the garden instead?
  4. Healthy diet - Having a ready supply of fresh vegetables at the bottom of the garden should encourage all the family to cook fresh dishes from scratch more often and get their five-a-day in more regularly - consuming more veg means meals that are lower in calories and higher in nutrition.
  5. Tastier meals - Having a garden veg patch opens up the possibilities for a wider variety of meals in the kitchen, thanks to the flexibility that comes from having a range of fresh, healthy and tasty produce available without hassle of having to go to the shops.
  6. Reassuring ingredients - If you’ve planted, nurtured and picked your own ingredients, then you can obviously trace their sustainable source and be sure of their organic and vegan credentials. Home grown veg means no artificial additives, preservatives or pesticides and encourages a reductions in food waste and inefficiency.
  7. Natural entertainment - Modern families that struggle to get the children away from their screens may be thankful for the introduction of a way to reconnect with nature, whilst a veg patch can also provide less tech-addicted adults with an interesting new outdoor hobby to pursue.
  8. Lower shopping bills - Every portion you pluck from your garden is something that can be crossed off your shopping list before you even get to the supermarket, so that means taking a lesser hit in the pocket at the checkouts every week.

 

On a crisp evening on the 30th January, the Jamaica High Commission in London was the venue of choice for the launch of an exciting new range of products from Marshall & Brown.

In the presence of His Excellency Seth George Ramocan, CD, High Commissioner for Jamaica, the Honourable Attorney General of Jamaica, Marlene Malahoo Forte, QC, JP, MP, and Deputy High Commissioner for Jamaica Mrs Angela Rose Howell, guests were treated not only to an evening of delights for the eyes, ears and tastebuds, but to the wonderful story of the creation of the Marshall & Brown brand.

Developed by Dr Carlton Brown, a 1st generation British-Jamaican with a love of Caribbean food and his wife Marvely, the inspiration for this premium range of authentic Jamaican foods and beverages came from his ninety-five year old mother and late mother in law, who were both excellent cooks.

After hearing from Dr Brown, and Laurence Jones, the European Regional Manager for JAMPRO, as well as H.E. George Ramocan and an impromtu message from the Attorney General, the attendees were treated to a range of beautiful savoury and dessert canapes created using Marshall & Brown products, including coconut and chilli prawns, ackee and saltfish on sweet potato cakes, and a selection of their amazing rum cakes and chocolates.

The rum cakes are the most moist, light and fluffy cakes that The Phoenix Newspaper office has ever seen, and they went within minutes of them getting to the break room. Absolutely divine.

H.E. Seth George Ramocan said in his opening remarks, “Dr Brown has an insatiable love for Jamaica, and especially in its food! Marshall & Brown has been able to take it from intial engagement with JAMPRO and the High Commission to this launch in a short time. “I implore you to share this brand far and wide.”

It was wonderful to see not only Dr Brown and his wife at the launch, but that his 95 year old mother was also able to attend, and even got up to dance as the music took her!

“I am feeling overwhelmingly proud and happy that this is a product range than spans generations. We also want to see this range in Jamaica, not just created there and exported!” said The Honourable Attorney General of Jamaica, Marlene Malahoo Forte.

Remember the name, Marshall and Brown, Purveyors of Fine Jamaican Fayre, you’ll be missing out if you don’t!

Acclaimed Muir of Ord bakery and café, Bad Girl Bakery, has expanded into Inverness city centre by Eastgate Shopping Centre with the launch of the Cake & Coffee Caravan.

The Cake & Coffee Caravan will serve coffees and hot chocolates alongside a range of the bakery's cakes and gourmet doughnuts in Falcon Square. The selection will change daily to make the most of seasonal ingredients and unusual flavour combinations but flavours like crème brûlée doughnuts; cherry cheesecake brownies; vanilla caramel fudge cupcakes filled with caramel and topped with Orkney Fudge; and apple cinnamon doughnuts; all sold out within a few hours of opening on the days when the caravan was tested.

Jeni Hardie, owner of Bad Girl Bakery said:

“The response to the trial weekend of the Cake & Coffee Caravan has been phenomenal. We sold out around 400 cakes by lunchtime each day so we know there's an appetite for our produce in Inverness! We're really enjoying meeting fellow cake fans and are looking forward to a busy few months.”

The sleek, retro-style aluminium caravan was built to order and will be based in Falcon Square from 10am to 5pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays into the spring.

Bad Girl Bakery opened its bakery and café in Muir of Ord in 2017 and has since built a reputation for its outstanding cakes and customer service. In October, the bakery won the Business Growth category in the Highlands & Islands Food & Drink Awards.

Award-winning, fine dining Indian restaurant, Pushkar, is taking on the vegan diet (Veganuary) for this month only.

 

On through to January 31, there will be a limited edition vegan menu, bringing an exciting fresh and flavoursome interpretation to veganism with Head Chef at the multi-award winning eatery on Birmingham’s famed Broad Street, Vindod Singh creating a Veganuary menu inspired from his childhood to prove how tasty vegan food can be.

Veganuary has become the latest trend for those who were looking to bring in the New Year with a detox, as supermarkets have revealed an increase in demand for meat and dairy free food.

 

Celebrities such as five-time Formula 1 champion, Lewis Hamilton and pop singer, Ariana Grande have both converted to the vegan life style as the trend ever grows.

Pushkar are bringing this new trend to the fine dining market, promoting its nutritional benefits.

Several studies have reported that vegan dietstend to provide more fibre, antioxidants and beneficial plant compounds.

They also appear to be richer in potassium, magnesium, folate and vitamins A, C and E.

Creative Director at Pushkar, Rai Singh, said: "As the New Year approaches, opportunities arise to better yourself and get healthy. By taking part in Veganuary, you will notice the health benefits straight away. Give it a go and see the results!"

2018 will likely be known as the year that veganism turned mainstream as more shoppers continue to adopt vegan, vegetarian and flexitarian diets.

Waitrose & Partners Fish'less'fingers are made from breaded seaweed tofu, with a crispy coating and subtle fish flavour.

When paired with the Waitrose 1 White Sourdough and the new Vegan Tartar Sauce, the Fish'less'fingers make for the perfect comfort sandwich. Made from silken tofu, gherkins, capers, lemon and parsley - the own brand tartare sauce is perfectly 'creamy', vegan-friendly and another first-to-market.

The appetite for vegan food continues to grow with Waitrose & Partners reporting that sales of its new vegan party food range are up 20% since its launch in October.

Chloe Graves, Chilled Vegan & Vegetarian Buyer at Waitrose & Partners says, “After the successful launch of our new vegan and vegetarian range in October 2018 we've been working to see what other interesting dishes and products we can add to the range. The Fish'less'fingers are a great vegan alternative to a much-loved food which we hope our customers will love.'

Believe the hype because it is here. Fridays all-new meat-free vegan burger – one of the most talked about burgers in the USA last year – has landed in the UK.

The burger answers the prayers of those on a vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian diet – or simply wanting to cut down on the meat – as it tastes every bit as juicy and flavoursome as the real thing.

Why? Because this is no normal vegan burger. It even ‘bleeds’ like the real thing. But there is nothing to worry about, as this is thanks to beetroot juice. As well as beetroot, the burger is made from coconut oil, mushrooms, herbs, plant proteins, and spices, and is flame-grilled to perfection by Fridays chefs before being served in a 100% vegan bun with lettuce, onion and tomato, as well as a side salad or fries

It also comes at a pretty tasty price – just £10.99 – making it healthier for the wallet too! The burger launches on 7 January, making it the perfect meal for those giving Veganuary a go. It’s addition to the menu now means vegan guests can dive into and enjoy what Fridays is famous for – the juiciest burgers in town. And we challenge anyone to see if they can tell the difference between the meat-free burger and the real thing. Yes, it’s that good!

Terry McDowell, TGI Fridays’ Head Chef said: “Fridays flame-grilled, hand-crafted burgers are one of the most popular dishes on our menu and now everyone can enjoy their legendary taste, whether they are vegan, vegetarian, trying to cut down on meat, or anything in between! We launched our vegan burger in the States last year and have been inundated with messages asking if we planned to bring it to the UK. So, it is here by popular demand!

“We’ve put a lot of research and effort into ensuring we offer the best vegan burger in town, as well as one that comes with a 100% vegan bun. With high protein, zero cholesterol – yet all the flavour of a real burger and with a succulent and satisfying meaty ‘bite’ – the question is, why wouldn’t you give it a go?”

It’s not just the meat free burger Fridays offers – check out the menu online for a whole host of other delicious vegan-friendly dishes.

The John Lewis Partnership has announced a three-year trial with the Small Robot Company to test its revolutionary farmbots at the company's farm in Leckford, Hampshire. The Leckford Estate, which grows produce for Waitrose & Partners including mushrooms, rapeseed, apples and many other products, will see three small robots - Tom, Dick and Harry - learn and test their state-of-the-art farming technology on a one-hectare wheat field.

The field trial will start with a prototype Tom robot, which is fitted with cameras and will get the lay of the land by gathering topographical data. Weighing just ten kilos, the robot is able to move autonomously to obtain a pin-point accurate, plant-by-plant view of the wheat field, leading to higher efficiency.

Through this data collection, the Small Robot Company will develop its machine learning in a variety of scenarios, such as differentiating between weeds and terrain, while building new prototype machines in the process. The trial will also provide the John Lewis Partnership's Room Y innovation team with valuable insight to support innovation at Leckford, and inform how robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be used further in other areas of the business.

With farming costs rising by almost 8 per cent year on year, this new technology could help relieve some of the pressure and costs within the agriculture sector, improving yields, reducing the use of chemicals and helping to apply big data in agricultural practices to drive efficiency. This type of innovation has the potential to increase revenues by up to 40 per cent and lowering costs by as much as 60 per cent.

Field robotics: how small robots will evolve to help British farming

The data gathered by the prototype Tom robot will be used to develop an AI system called Wilma, which will eventually guide the three robots to farm autonomously. The trial at the Leckord Estate and other farms will be used to create and test prototype versions of Dick, the precision weeding robot, and Harry, the digital planting robot. Dick will use machine vision to differentiate between weeds and crops, thereby enabling it to kill weeds with lasers. Harry will accurately punch-plant seeds individually in the ground at a uniform depth, creating a plant level map showing the exact location of each seed.

In addition to increased precision, efficiency and productivity, the small robots are expected to deliver considerable environmental benefits. As the robots are much lighter than traditional farming tractors, they reduce the damage caused to soil by current farming practices. The small robots will also be able to take care of every single plant on an individual basis, giving them the perfect level of nutrients and support, with no waste.

Andrew Hoad, Partner & Head of the Leckford Estate, says:

“We are very excited to trial Tom, Dick and Harry at the Leckford Estate. The Waitrose & Partners farm has a long history in producing a wide variety of high quality crops. We work hard to farm in harmony with the environment and our vision for sustainable farming is aligned to what the Small Robot Company is trying to achieve.

“This new technology could be revolutionary for British farming. It is not designed to replace human labour but instead boost productivity and increase accuracy, freeing up the agricultural workforce to focus on other important tasks. We want to be at the forefront of this, and ensure we leave our soils and environment in great shape for future generations.”

Sam Watson Jones, co-founder of Small Robot Company and a fourth generation Shropshire farmer, says:

“We're positively thrilled to have the John Lewis Partnership and Waitrose & Partners farm on board to help us develop our robots. Together, we will be working to reimagine food production. We're on the cusp of a fourth agricultural revolution, taking farming into the digital age: and with British ideas and British technology at the helm. Our Tom, Dick and Harry robots will completely transform what's possible on the farm. We will be able to use gardening tactics such as companion planting, but for broadacre crops. Different crops could be planted alongside each other in the same field, and harvested at different times. It's the ultimate sustainable farming model.”

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.”

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.”

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.”