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All Posts By Dan Stephens, Contributing Editor

5 Ways To Survive The January Blues

January is notoriously a difficult month to navigate. There’s the post-Christmas back-to-work blues, the tightening of your wallet after all that festive spending, and perhaps even a self-inflicted desire to watch those calories after December indulgence meaning no cake in January! There are also short days, bleak skies and bitterly cold temperatures dragging us down.

But fear not, there is a way to beat the January Blues. Here’s five tips from us…

Eat out at a restaurant you’ve never tried before

You might be doing “Dry January” and even calorie watching as you begin 2018 but you’ve still got to eat. Why not treat yourself to a meal at a restaurant you’ve never tried before? Italian, Indian and Chinese food might be regular cuisines in your house but why not give Greek a try, or Mexican, or even Brazilian! There are loads of deals online for discounted multi-course dining experiences to help you watch the pennies too!

A shopping spree while the sales are on

While almost all retailers implemented pre-Christmas discounts to boost sales and take advantage of consumer hotspots such as Black Friday and the Christmas present buying, most continue to promote big price reductions with most running until the end of January. There are big discounts to be had, particularly in the areas of household appliances and furniture.

Take up a new hobby

I bet you had a few new year’s resolutions. One of the most popular is to try a new hobby or pursue a long-held dream such as a sky dive or travelling to somewhere new. You don’t need to spend the earth to make dreams happen. Do you love The Great British Bake-Off and fancy yourself as the next Star Baker? A new cookbook might only cost £15 and it’ll be cheaper if you buy it second hand. Or are you a Strictly fan who wants to try their hand at dance? Taster sessions in some cases are free.

Try a new sport

A bit like our suggestion of trying a new hobby, sport is a great way to stay healthy and get fit. Clubs – from tennis, martial arts and sailing to more adventurous activities like deep sea diving and rock climbing – also often have discounts for new members in January. Keep an eye on what’s local to you. If you’d prefer to stay indoors during this cold weather, you could even download The Official William Hill Android App and play some of its fun games from the comfort of your own home.

Have a holiday abroad

So what if you’ve just had a week off over Christmas. It might not be summer in Europe but, because it’s the low season, you can get some great deals on weekend breaks or even all inclusive week-long stays. And places like the Canary Islands are warm all year round so you might even find time to get a tan despite it being the middle of winter!

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Global Innovation Award For Innoscentia

Innoscentia has won a prestigious international prize following the development of a digital sensing label that can provide information about packaged food. Winning the top prize at EAT, Stockholm Food Forum’s Global Innovation Awards, Innoscentia has based its technology on a sensing ink which reacts to the gaseous waste caused by bacterial activity. Measured electronically, Innoscentia’s technology records this bacterial reaction electronically and, through a process which decodes printed electronics, turns it into a digital signal.

Tackling Today’s Needs

The jury found the product tackled many of the standards needed to ensure food quality, praising its effectiveness. Erik Lindberg, co-founder and COO, says Innoscentia bases its approach on giving users more useful information which can include various data about a food product and supply information about the supply chain to improve security and aid traceability. The label can prolong the shelf-life of food products in addition to discovering pathogenic outbreaks prior to sale.

Lindberg was overjoyed by the award win. He said it was a real feather in his cap after embracing the competitive food tech market. He added that it was particularly pleasing that EAT Stockholm had recognised his product as one of the international market’s leading technological advancements. He said he hopes this accolade will bring the company one step nearer to contributing to the food industry on an international stage.

Importantly, Innoscentia, which is currently bankrolled by grants from the Swedish Innovation Agency, has partnerships with many meat producers across Scandinavia in addition to future suppliers and potential distributors of the product. From day one, Lindberg with his co-founder Robin Thiberg, saw the commercial potential in their idea, working closely with the food and packaging sector in order to get early traction for the product following release. The autumn will see the Innoscentia prototype ready, at which time the company will seek external funding.

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Pottery Designer Emma Bridgewater Raises Money For Cancer Charity

Emma Bridgewater, designer and manufacturer of classy British pottery, has decided to raise money for a leading cancer charity specialising in research and development into the disease’s devastating pancreatic form. Bridgewater has designed a new tea set called Over The Hills and Far Away that includes a teapot (one-gallon) and a number of mugs which will raise cash through an ebay auction for Pancreatic Cancer Action, a UK charity founded to help develop the facilities to better detect the cancer in its early stages.

The tea set’s concept was conceived to commemorate Rupert Lycett-Green’s 125-mile charity walk in memory of his late wife Candida Lycett-Green who passed away as a result of the disease in 2014. Candida was one of Emma’s dearest friends. Rupert’s walk took him and his dog spot on a 10-day walk through the Yorkshire Dales as well as Northumberland National Park. The trek raised thousands of pounds for pancreatic cancer research.

Emma was inspired by what she calls Rupert’s “extraordinary” walk. She says he was helped along the way by a “dear friend” and “hero” Candida whose love of the English countryside and passion to protect it helped her widow complete the challenge. Emma also acknowledges Candida’s bravery in her fight to beat cancer despite her ultimate defeat and says it was important for her to get involved in the best way she can.

Rupert spoke openly about his wife’s battle, which lasted nine months after she was told she had the disease. During her fight she discovered how little research has been conducted into pancreatic cancer compared to other kinds of cancer. This was one of the reasons behind her decision to raise money for charities involved with its treatment. This has formed the inspiration behind Rupert’s charitable activities since, as well as Emma’s now.

The charity which will benefit from Emma’s charitable donation focuses on improving people’s chance of surviving pancreatic cancer which has, over the last 40 years, remained at around 4%. Early diagnosis is crucial to avoid surgery – currently the only cure. Ali Stunt, who founded Pancreatic Cancer Action, said he was very grateful to Emma for providing such “lovely” pieces of pottery.

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A “Cool” Supply Chain Saves Money & Maintains Standards

Across the supply chain there are numerous challenges but food freshness is the most important. Ensuring the customer gets a quality product is vital not just for the brand but the supplier of transportation, packing and storage as well as providers at the earliest stage of a product’s life cycle.

Fresh Is Best

How does a retailer dealing with a brand ensure that the product it sells to the consumer is as fresh as it could possibly be? Well, success is the result of having an uninterrupted cold chain that provides optimum conditions for storage and transport. This can mean utilising the services of one, two or even numerous specialist service providers which means tracking of the product’s journey becomes even more important.

Reliable Technology To Track Storage & Transportation Atmospherics

That’s where a company like PCE Instruments comes in as it supplies reliable equipment to control and record the temperature as required at prices that don’t impact too greatly on margins. Indeed, when it comes to quality control you can’t cut corners and investment in condition and temperature monitoring equipment can save money over the long term.

Tackling challenges such as continuous monitoring of temperature in refrigerated transport, temperature-controlled warehouses, cool boxes and fridges can be costly. But it’s absolutely necessary. PCE Instruments boasts a growing reputation within the food and drink sector for providing relevant, robust and reliable data loggers that can be provided as hand-held devices or wall-mounted. This technology provides continuous monitoring of atmospheric conditions such as relative humidity and air temperature which is vital in warehouses where temperature, humidity and other atmospheric conditions affect food products.

Commercial Endeavours Get A Boost

PCE Instruments says it has developed an approach that “works on things that matter” where its solutions provide industry with the technology to improve commercial endeavour, better understand and monitor the supply chain, and ultimately grow. With a strong presence in sectors such as industrial plants and research laboratories, PCE is now making confident strides into the food and drink industry.

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“Amazon Fresh” Good News For Consumers

Amazon will begin fresh food deliveries in the UK this month. The instantly recognisable online retailer will start to service an ambition to supply fresh food through its Amazon Fresh service and will see the company step up its competitive battle with supermarkets.

Great News For Consumers

The move by Amazon is good news for consumers who should see a new price battle drive prices down. However, it could have an adverse impact on suppliers as margins are squeezed but the diverse range of products Amazon prides itself on should create new opportunities (and already has in some cases, particularly through Amazon’s willingness to stock artisan and independent brands).

Amazon Fresh will begin with an offer in excess of 130,000 products for delivery to customers in north and east London. These groceries include dairy items, fresh produce and bakery products. Amazon Fresh has already enjoyed success in the United States with the UK being the first country outside the US to enjoy the service.

One-Hour Delivery Windows

Groceries will begin to be offered solely to those customers using Amazon’s subscription service “Prime”. A special offer provides a discount on delivery costs. Vice-President Ajay Kavan said the service was founded upon three core principles: delivery to a customer’s door, a diverse product range and competitive prices. One-hour delivery will be provided for 69 postcode areas initially with same-day delivery for those orders placed before 1pm also available. Amazon Fresh is also eager to beat the prices of the UK’s major supermarkets with some products getting notably cheaper prices when compared to the big four.

Convenience At Home

Kavan says Amazon recognises how high the bar is set for grocery retailing in the UK but believes the online specialist can apply its expertise to the market by offering a great value product with the added convenience of shopping from home and fast delivery.

Major Brands & Independent Products

The launch of Amazon Fresh in London follows extensive testing from the retailer’s east London depot. Major brands included in the initial range include Kellogg’s, Yeo Valley, Coca-Cola, Walkers and Warburtons with independent and artisan suppliers such as Gail’s Artisan Bakery, butchers C Lidgate and Konditor & Cook complementing the range.

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Nestlé Welcomes New International Standard On Food Waste

Nestlé says the new FLW standard for food waste is a major step forward for the industry on a global scale. The Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting Standard, otherwise known as “FLW”, has been launched by Global Green Growth Forum (3GF). The FLW standard is the first of its kind and defines the reporting requirements for all businesses operating in the UK and internationally.

It will enable food manufacturers to be more consistent in their measuring, reporting and managing of food waste or loss. The FLW standard is the result of growing pressure on global governments to be more transparent in food waste with a view to reducing the loss of food to waste.

Conforming to FLW through standardised inventory will form the critical foundations to effective strategy in food loss and waste reduction. This can then be monitored with the data used to enhance and improve practices. Commentators also say FLW will better enable companies around the world meet international requirements set out by both the Paris Agreement and UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Nestle welcomes the standard. Michiel Kernkamp, Nestlé’s Nordic Market Head acknowledged FLW as a “massive” step forward on a “global” scale in tackling food waste. He complimented the standard for its “clear targets” and its “full transparency”. He added that it will prove to be an “outstanding” tool to measure and manage progress.

Nestlé has revealed its commitment to continuing its efforts to challenge perceived traditions that have historically seen food wasted on a large scale. Leading by example, Nestlé says its endeavours will also help the supply chain, securing long-term relationships with producers in the agricultural sector of which the company relies upon.

The proof is in the pudding. Nestlé has, since 2005, reduced waste by 62% across 436 factories. Last year, the business revealed that 105 factories recorded zero waste with Nestlé committing to this target across all sites within the next four years.

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Aldi To Transition Its Sale Of Eggs To Solely Free Range

Aldi will make a brand-helpful move to more ethical sourcing of eggs by phasing out its sale of such products from caged animals. The decision has been welcomed by activists and consumers. However, the date of 2025 set by the company as the point at which the sale of caged hen eggs will be completely phased out is considered too far in the future. Critics hope Aldi will bring this date forward once logistical considerations within the supply chain have been figured out.

Aldi has been under pressure to make the change following public outcry at the sale of caged hen eggs. It seems the business has listened to its customers with the decision to change its sourcing policy. But there’s still further pressure that could be put on the business say critics who aren’t overjoyed by the 2025 date set by the budget supermarket retailer.

The change will affect Aldi’s UK stores with the retailer moving to stock free range eggs in their processed range of products. The British Hen Welfare Trust said it was a decision they truly welcome despite the conclusion of the transition being set nine years in the future.

Aldi UK corporate managing director Oliver King spoke to Farmers Weekly and said that the supermarket chain has always runs its business in accordance with UK regulations surrounding the sale of eggs with all its stock meeting British Lion Standards. However, animal welfare is a consideration that must be factored into the equation, and as Aldi looks to improve its supply chain, its move towards free range eggs will be applied. The transition will start as soon as possible.

King argued that the date set of the transition to come into full force was a result of “meaningful commitments” taking time to “plan and implement”. He added that the time frame allows the business to minimise the impact of changes on its suppliers.

Similar public pressure on Tesco has been highlighted by a 14-year-old girl who met Tesco representatives following 279,000 signatures petitioning to ban the sale of caged eggs in the supermarket’s stores.

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“David Bowie Is” Documentary To Be Re-Released In Vue Cinemas

Hamish Hamilton’s documentary film “David Bowie Is”, showcasing the exhibition first seen at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2013 will get a re-release at Vue cinemas across the UK as well as other selected venues. The film, which was called “stylish” and “outrageous” by The Times and a “triumph” by The Guardian, will enjoy a cinematic re-run to celebrate the life of the musician who passed away this year.

Arriving in cinemas from July 14, Hamilton’s film was recorded on the final night of the exhibition and provides a fascinating look at the extraordinary career of one of British music’s most iconic and influential stars.

The exhibition remains the fastest selling exhibit in the museum’s history, showcasing an intimate look “behind the scenes” through Bowie’s handwritten lyrics, fashion, original costumes, photography, music videos, film, album artwork and the artist’s own instruments.

Complementing the documentary are soundbites from friends, colleagues and fellow musicians such as Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker and fashion legend Kansai Yamamoto. Exhibition curators Geoffrey Marsh and Victoria Broackes add further insight into what made Bowie the man and musician he was. Significantly, the exhibition was able to display never-before-seen-items such as album cover art and diary entries. It’s an inspiring and moving tribute as well as a revealing document on creativity and the evolution of Bowie’s persona.

Announcing the re-release of Hamilton’s film, the exhibition’s curators noted their deep sadness at the loss of Bowie who they said was one of Britain’s greatest ever contributors to the world of music and popular culture. Indeed, they said his influence on culture – both in his homeland and abroad – was “unparalleled” and that the film provides an “illuminating” document of the David Bowie exhibition, enhancing its ability to connect to a wider audience.

The David Bowie exhibition is currently on a world wide tour that has travelled to Berlin, São Paulo, Toronto, Chicago, Melbourne, Paris and The Netherlands where it has received universal acclaim.

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Elstree Studios Continues To Evolve With A New Stage In Development

With burst party balloons still to be found dotted around Elstree Studios – a hangover from its 90th anniversary celebrations – the great British film and TV institution can be found busily preparing for the next stage of its evolution. The local authority has unanimously agreed to grant permission for the Borehamwood-based production facility to extend through a newly built studio on a recently cleared four-acre area to the rear of the complex.

The studio, which will be positioned near to the internally renowned George Lucas stage and the famous – some would say “infamous” – Big Brother House, will ultimately be one of the most state of the art sound stages in England. Indeed, it will be as tall as the George Lucas Stage – the setting for production on the original Star Wars films as well as countless others – but offer more floor space at 21,000 sq. ft. The stage will also connect to workshops, warehousing for scenery and props, and production offices.

On agreeing to the proposal, the council of Hertsmere Borough noted Elstree Studios’ world renown, saying that it was the “jewel” in “Hertsmere’s crown”. Councillors said it was important to support its endeavours to enhance its facilities and, crucially, evolve with a fast-moving marketplace.

They’re right to offer it full support, after all Elstree has become one of the UK’s most technically capable and operationally diverse production houses. The studios, under its ambitious managing director Roger Morris, has recognised that it can’t stand still, clinging to past glories. It has moved with the times, adapting to audiences’ changing viewing habits and encouraging production companies to get the greatest value out of their time on the lot. It’s a business model that Morris calls “resilient” and one which attracts some of the country’s biggest film and TV projects.

Chairman of Elstree Studios Cllr Morris Bright explained that the development will form a part of much-needed additional studio space, hinting at it being the start of further physical growth.

Elstree Studios already has clients expressing a wish to use the newly built stage once it is ready. The studios’ managing director said the stage will “probably” be “the best multipurpose film and TV stage” in the country. This latest development comes only a year after Elstree enjoyed record sales with productions such as film The Danish Girl starring Eddie Redmayne, Strictly Come Dancing and The Crown.

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New Leicester Food Park Wins Prestigious Regional Award

A major new food and drink business park which opened for business last year has won a prestigious regional design award. The Leicester Food Park, which since opening has housed 15 food businesses and created more than 80 jobs, took the title of best commercial project in the RICS (Royal Institution of Charter Surveyors) Awards 2016 East Midlands.

The £5.8m food park development was built in 2014 with £3.4m of European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) money, along with £2.4m of Leicester City Council funding.

More than 150 solar panels were installed on the roofs of the buildings to meet the requirement to use renewable energy at the site.

The RICS Awards have been held for more than 10 years and recognises the best ‘built environment’ projects. Leicester Food Park will now go forward to the RICS Awards Grand Final 2016 held in London in October, where it will compete against other regional winners for the overall title of National Project of the Year.

Leicester City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “The food park has proved to be very popular with a huge amount of interest before it had even opened from companies interested in setting up there. The designs and materials used in this development were carefully chosen to be sustainable and energy efficient, so it is good to see this recognised buy these awards.”

Many of the units at the park were let before it was formally opened, in February 2015, and it is currently fully occupied.

Current tenants include luxury wedding, private party and corporate events company Stones Events; Colombian coffee merchant Shelton’s Imports; instant tea manufacturer Royaltea; Moroccan olive oil products manufacturer Alassala; Indian cheese (paneer) manufacturer Ukay Khoa; ice cream and sorbet maker Bawdon Lodge; Chinese meat and poultry producer RJC Trading and sliced and filleted chicken producer The Meat Shoppe.

The site is managed on behalf of the council by East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire) and the Food and Drink Forum.

Chamber Chief Executive Scott Knowles said: “This award caps off a highly successful first year for Leicester Food Park. The food and drink sector in Leicester is extremely vibrant and has a strong capacity to grow. This fabulous facility has demonstrated over the past year they key role it can play in helping the sector to develop, by giving start-up firms the opportunity to take on their own premises and existing firms the ability to upscale.”

Food and Drink Forum’s Commercial Manager Andrew Collinson, added: “The RICS award won by Leicester Food Park is well deserved. The park has set the standard for demonstrating how high quality infrastructure can support the growth of food and drink businesses. It will provide a fantastic platform for Leicester’s industry to flourish over the coming years and help put Leicester on the food and drink map.”

Leicester Food Park project manager Mike Dalzell added: “It is very pleasing to see that the RICS awards have recognised that architectural quality comes in many forms. The new units at Leicester Food Park may not have the sort of fancy glass and steel features that tends to win awards, but clearly the judges have picked up on the excellence of the design, the efficiency of the layout and the superb quality of the finishes. It is no surprise that companies have been falling over themselves to take up the space.”

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