Greggs 300x286 Greggs: They actually sells things that arent bad for youGreggs have been performing well, but it isn’t all cheese and ham slices and steak bakes. No. Greggs is trying to be a bit healthier, which is very distressing news for all concerned.

With more seating in shops and a bunch of salady things and butties that are under 400 calories, they’ve got one eye on becoming a budget version of Pret or something. And they’re doing something right, because half-year profits up nearly 50%.

Greggs’ finance director, Richard Hutton, said: “We want to make sure we keep pace with changing taste. People have developed a taste for good coffee and healthy food.”

However, the good people of Britain are still great enough to know the value of deliciously greasy food, with Hutton adding: ”We still sell more sausage rolls than anything else, more than 100m a year. You will still see the sausage roll as a snack. It has 350 calories. There’s nothing to worry about for the sausage roll.”

Next up for Greggs is new fresh soup and hot sandwiches in the Autumn. Basically, they’ve noticed that everyone likes coffee shops, so they’ll be better than them by being a coffee shop that sells pasties.

“Greggs has a similar model to Pret. We have a similar supply chain, although we own our own bakeries, Pret don’t. Both are about good food made fresh.”

Just don’t remove too much salt and grease from your food though because, really, that’s the reason why people still shop there. If it doesn’t pass Dr Nick’s see-through food test, it isn’t worth bothering with.

Instagram launches Bolt. Eventually.

July 30th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

bolt logo 300x160 Instagram launches Bolt. Eventually. Instagram has unveiled a new messaging app thing.

Called Bolt, it’s a ‘one-tap photo-messaging app’ which allows users to send photos or videos that disappear once they have been seen by the receiver.

Which is good news if you’re a spy or a terrorist or possibly having an affair.

Bolt is manning up to be a competitor for Snapchat, which basically allows people to do the same thing.

This news follows users spotting a Bolt app logo within their Instagram, and thinking “Oh”. Although as soon as Instagram got wind of people noticing it, they took it down.

Bolt is only available in New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa for iOS and Android devices at the moment as those countries were chosen – according to some Instagram waffler – “for their geographical diversity, but also for their tight-knit communities”.

Fear not! There are plans to conquer the rest of the planet soon.

That is unless New Zealand, Singapore and South Africa go “nah, yer alright” and Instagram quietly drop the whole idea.

Yes, because that is what will happen.

HOWEVER, there is another similar app also called Bolt, which is a free replacement for Android’s default phone app. So it will be interesting if the Facebook-owned Instagram Bolt will change its name, or the other one – not owned by Facebook – will wither away sadly.

Sounds like a fight is a-brewing.

tomatoes 300x225 When salads arent the healthy option...Last year we all discovered that sometimes things lurk in our food, or in some cases, replace our food entirely (Findus Lasagne anyone?) Of course, unidentifiable meat in processed products will always contain an element of risk, but you can’t get more risk-free than a salad can you? There’s nowhere for any nasties to hide. Or so you’d think. New research from the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) shows that some ‘healthy’ high street salads contain more salt than two and a half Big Macs.

CASH surveyed 650 ready-to-eat salads available for purchase from supermarkets, restaurants, cafés and fast food restaurants and found almost four out of five, 511 products,  contained more salt than a packet of crisps (0.5g/portion).

Of the eating out salads:

Pizza Express’ ‘Grand Chicken Caesar Salad’ contains an astonishing 5.3g salt/serving, the equivalent of two and a half Big Macs, which is almost a whole days’ worth of salt (6g) in just one meal.

Pizza Express’ ‘Warm Vegetable & Goats Cheese Salad’ containing 5g salt/serving – four fifths (83%) of the maximum recommended daily intake.

Wagamama’s ‘Lobster Super Salad’ contains 4.5g salt/serving – three quarters (75%) of your salt limit for the day in just one meal.

Nando’s ‘Mediterranean Salad with Chicken Breast’ sounds healthy, purely by dint of including the word ‘Mediterranean’ but still contains a whopping 4g salt/serving.

A McDonald’s ‘Crispy Chicken & Bacon Salad’ has MORE salt (1.3g vs 1.2g), fat (19g vs 8g) and calories (380kcal vs 250kcal) per portion than a McDonald’s Hamburger. Although why anyone would expect to see a vegetable in a McDonald’s anything is the bigger mystery.

Of the supermarket salads, examples of those with the largest amount of salt/serving include:

Morrisons ‘Chicken & Bacon Pasta Salad’ 2.8g salt/290g serving

Marks & Spencer ‘Chicken, Bacon & Sweetcorn Pasta Salad’ 2.58g salt/380g serving

Boots ‘Delicious Simply Tuna & Sweetcorn Pasta Salad’  2.25g salt/300g serving

John West ‘Light Lunch Moroccan Style Salmon Salad’ 2.2g salt/220g serving

CASH found that, despite what you might otherwise think, over one in ten (15%) salads would get a red (high) colour for salt, and two thirds (69%) would receive an amber (medium) colour.

Victoria Taylor, Senior Dietitian at the British Heart Foundation, says: “It’s not unreasonable to think that if you pick a salad it’s going to be a healthy choice. But this survey shows in some cases what you see might not always be what you get. A colourful salad full of vegetables may look like a healthy way towards your 5-a-day but what you can’t see is the salt content which, in some cases, could amount to almost a whole day’s worth in one portion.”

Sonia Pombo, a nutritionist at CASH added her cheery two penneth, “Say the word ‘salad’ and you tend to imagine a bowl of healthy stuff nestled amongst some leaves, but…food manufacturers and restaurants continue to add unnecessary salt to the dish, which not only alters the taste and makes you feel bloated, but more seriously, can lead to high blood pressure – the main cause of strokes and heart attacks.”

If salt intake is a concern for you, or even if it’s not, CASH have developed a free app that can analyse the salt content of packaged food and suggest lower-salt alternatives. You download the Foodswitch app and use the SaltSwitch function to scan the barcode. And you might not have a heart attack.

The world is an awful, war torn place, full of dead children and Ebola, but sometimes, something comes along that restores your faith in humanity – like ICE CREAM THAT CHANGES COLOUR.

This Wonka-tastic invention is now a reality, thanks to science!

ice cream color 500x310 I scream, you scream, we all scream for colour changing ice cream!

Crazy physicist, engineer and ice cream crackpot Manuel Linares has created this amazing chameleon-like dessert which he calls Xamaleon.

(Er, maybe get a more catchy name that kids could actually pronounce?).

Anyway, Manuel puts the colour changing ice cream – which apparently tastes like a mixture of different fruit flavours – down to the fun central tenets of chemistry: temperature and oxidization.

Oh, and also the use of a VERY inappropriate sounding spray called ‘Love Elixir’ which turns it pink. Then, when you eat it, the colour changes begin.

Manuel’s invention is patent pending, and probably needs a bit of rebranding before it hits the shops. At the moment, it sounds like something you might get in Ann Summers.

But even so, it sounds pretty amazing.

goldengirls 241x300 Boost your pension by 258% with this one clever trick No, it’s not a dodgy Facebook ad – it’s TRUE. People in their 50s and 60s can stand to triple their pension pot by joining new company pension schemes and boosting their contributions.

Many older people don’t bother with new pension schemes, thinking that they’re too old to get the benefits. But new pension reforms mean that they can up their contributions by 258% in just a few years and take out all their money without paying any tax. Woohoo!

Here’s how it works. In the last 2 years companies started automatically putting their employees on a pension scheme. Once you’re enrolled, your contributions are deducted from your payslip, your employer contributes something and you get tax relief from the government.

But people who were over 50 tended not to bother with it. WRONG.

If you do it, under the new reforms you can take all your wonga out of these schemes when you retire, rather than bothering with boring, stifling annuities.

Here’s the maths. (Theoretically.)

If you earn £24,000 a year this year, make an increase in contributions in 2018, and get a small pay rise every year – and there is a rate of 5 per cent annual growth – a 55-year-old could make £14,134 by the age of 65.

So get on it, silver foxes! That cruise ship buffet is waiting…

Microsoft to launch a ‘selfie’ phone?

July 30th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

microsoft logo Microsoft to launch a selfie phone?Microsoft gave their employees a brief gander at a new ‘selfie’ phone.

The phone, which has a 5 megapixel forward-facing camera, was shown off during a meeting this week.

Stephen Elop, the former Nokia CEO who now runs Microsoft’s devices business, flashed the phone in front of thousands at the company’s annual employee meeting in Seattle on Monday.

The 4.7 inch (11.9 cm) screen ‘selfie’ phone, plus another high-end Windows Phone have been in the pipeline a while and are expected to be launched soon.

The 5 megapixel camera pisses all over Apple’s iPhone 5, what with its measly 1.2 megapixel camera. Also, the Microsoft screen is larger, and ideal for narcissists.

This is said to be Microsoft’s attempt to bump rival Samsung, after they launched the Galaxy K Zoom earlier this year.

Apparently you can speak to people on this device too, almost like a phone!

Oh hang on, it is a bloody phone.

tax letter The tax office is to go on strike (you still have to pay tax, though)The passport people are going on strike, and now, it is the turn of those in the tax office who have had enough.

These walk-outs are the result of long-running disputes over job losses and office closures which have led to backlogs and delays, not to mention the use of private debt collectors.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) will take part in the strikes over the next three days, which means that the work of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is going to get some disruptions.

Strikes will be held across the North West and Wales today, Scotland and the Midlands on Thursday, and London, the South East, South West and East of England, and on Friday, Yorkshire, Humberside and Northern Ireland.

The PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said: “These strikes demonstrate we are serious about stopping these damaging cuts and making a positive case for proper investment in this crucial department.”

A HMRC spokesperson said: “We are very disappointed by the timing of the decision by PCS to call a strike to coincide with the tax credits renewals deadline.”

It is almost exactly like the strike is designed to coincide with something that’ll cause inconveniences that will attract attention to what the union are saying, eh HMRC?

ofgem logo1 Energy bills to fall by £12 a year – maybe Rejoice, rejoice! It looks like we’re set to save…er…£12 a year on our energy bills thanks to new Ofgem rules to cap spending on British power networks. We’re rich! Rich beyond our wildest dreams!

Ofcom has approved a £17bn upgrade for the UK’s electricity networks over the next eight years – but customers will save because the budget is lower than the energy companies have previously been allowed to spend.

£111 of our annual fuel bill is currently set aside to pay for network upgrading and maintenance. Ofgem say this will drop to £99 under the new cap.

But not everybody will save the same amount. It depends on what company runs the power network in your area. In the North West you could be getting a saving of £26, while customers in the South East might only get a piddling £5.

And also there’s no actual guarantee we’ll see this mythical £12 saving at all, as apparently private companies are quibbling with Ofgem about other aspects of the bill.

But, you know, we’ll take what we can get. Now all we have to do is find something to spend this imaginary £5-26 (or maybe £12 on). But don’t go mad at the shops, because you might not get it at all.

Ain’t life grand?

Insolvent arrangements on the up

July 30th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

cash 300x225 Insolvent arrangements on the upMore and more people are becoming insolvent in England and Wales, ringing alarm bells about how households will cope when interest rates rise.

There were 27,029 personal insolvencies in the second quarter, a 5.1% rise on a year earlier.

This was mainly due to a 20% jump in the amount of people entering into individual voluntary arrangements (IVAs) to a new record high of 14,571 according to the Insolvency Service.

While some people, who know about this sort of thing, reckon it was showing that creditors were more confident about recovering debts, others claim it was evidence that families were on the brink after years of low wage increases (if any) and jolly government cuts.

Bev Budsworth, from The Debt Advisor confirms this: “Aside from all the talk of economic recovery, it’s clear that people are really struggling,”

“The acid test will be when the Bank of England starts to raise its base rate and people’s mortgage payments follow suit.”

She went on to say that hundreds of thousands of people were barely making debt repayments, as interest rates are still at 0.5%. Financial markets are likely to price in a rate hike before 2014 is up, due to economic growth.

Yet Matthew Chadwick, who is a business restructuring partner at BDO, thinks that with the economy looking healthier, those with bad debts were now more under pressure to pay them back, and so further gloom is ahead.

“A continuing rise in the number of personal insolvencies in the next 12-18 months is therefore likely. Today’s rise in individual voluntary arrangements is typical at our position in the economic cycle and need not be cause for alarm.”

Maybe not alarm, but not the best of news for families literally trying to get their financial head above the water.

Aldi: hot on the wheels of Waitrose

July 30th, 2014 6 Comments By Ian Wade

aldi logo 252x300 Aldi: hot on the wheels of WaitroseAldi. They’ve only become the sixth biggest supermarket in the UK.

The cheery budget supermarket is edging closer to overtake Waitrose as the place to be, according to hot fresh data from Kantar.

Aldi has managed to lure more and more customers who’d previously sniffed at its very existence, as apparently record numbers of yer middle class types are switching allegiance from the likes of Tesco and Morrisons.

Latest figures show the German-owned chain rose 32.2% in the 12 weeks to 20 July, to now have 4.8% of British food shoppers clambering for wetsuits and weird-yet-cheap pickles. This is an increase from their 3.7% of last year.

Waitrose meanwhile hold firm with 4.9%.

Director at Edward Garner, whose name could almost rhyme with Kantar (if you’re a bit tipsy from Aldi’s special cheap whisky) said: ‘Aldi’s 32% growth rate has lifted its market share to 4.8%; this is a new record for the retailer and means it has nearly caught up with Waitrose.’

As for the other supermarkets, Sainsbury and Asda held on to their market share, recording growth of 1.2 per cent and 0.9 per cent respectively.

It’s also good news for Lidl, who’ve leapt up their market share from 3.1% to 3.6%.

The Kantar data also shows Tesco has suffered its worst sales decline in at least two decades, with a fall of  3.8%, making it the chain’s steepest decline since comparable records began in 1994.

Aldi’s success has been down to keeping things relatively simple, selling a range of 1,500 lines as opposed to the 40,000 that the bigger supermarkets offer.

That, and looking less like a depressed Iceland.

£10 charge for London diesel drivers

July 29th, 2014 No Comments By Lucy Sweet

pollution £10 charge for London diesel drivers Boris Johnson – Foursquare Mayor of the Bullingdon Club chophouse – is considering charging £10 for each diesel vehicle to enter London from 2020, in a bid to tackle the city’s monstrous pollution levels.

Low emission zones might become widespread in major cities as efforts increase to oust clapped out old diesel vehicles, which are responsible for the majority of stinking local air pollution.

Boris would pile the £10 charge on top of the existing Congestion charge, meaning that lorry and van drivers would be forking out £20 minimum to enter Central London. And if you’re in a diesel car made before 2006, you’ll also have to raid your wallet.

However, if your white van or lorry meets Euro 6 emission standards, you won’t have to pay.

It comes as Labour proposes plans to introduce a network of UK-wide low emission zones. If not, most British cities will be choked up with dangerous levels of pollution by 2030, and we’ll all probably choke to death.

Boris’ environment lackey, Matthew Penchartz, said: ‘We want to see an unwinding of incentives that have driven people to diesel. Euro engine standards on emissions have not delivered the savings expected, meaning we now have a legacy of a generation of dirty diesels.’

However, for years, everybody was happy to push diesel as a ‘clean’ alternative to petrol. In fact, ministers encouraged people to buy into it to fight climate change.

Well, you live and learn, eh? *coughs*

coop high tech trolley 300x200 Co op to trial new high tech trolleys. Not as exciting as it sounds.The poor old Co-operative Group has been beleaguered of late, with tales of drug-taking bosses, funds mismanagement and shock exits just some of the recent events that may have tarnished the Co-op’s wholesome reputation. Now, however, the trusty old supermarket arm has come to the group’s rescue, with innovative new hi-tech shopping trolleys to help improve customer service.

So how exactly will these new computer trolleys help improve the customer experience? If you scan your shopping list will it whizz you round the store in the most time efficient manner? Will you be able to use it like a mobile self-checkout system? Can you at least keep a running total of what’s in your trolley? Er, no. The ‘high-tech’ trolleys have a tablet bolted on to the handlebar which can ask you searching customer survey questions as you are grappling with your spuds.

That’s right, selected Co-op stores are trialling the new scheme, which prompts shoppers at various points in-store to answer questions about the layout, the ranges and products on offer. And it doesn’t stop there, as if letting Co-op know what you think about their store, and their whizzy new trolleys wasn’t enough, you can now answer wider social impact questions on issues such as sustainable food, youth unemployment and localism as well. Bet you can’t wait.

The Co-operative group will “use the data accrued to inform its customer offering, both in terms of the store experience and the impact of its business beyond its shops and into the broader community,” and has also set up an online version of the questionnaire for those customers sadly unable to get their hands on one of the tablet-enabled trolleys. You can also tweet the Co-op with your views on @CooperativeFood. #lame.

Andrew Mann, The Co-operative Food’s customer director, said: “If we are to fulfil our ambition to be the UK’s best local food retailer, it is really important that we know what our members think about our stores and act upon their feedback.

“The hi-tech trolleys not only make it easy for customers to tell us about their shopping experience, but because the information is collated digitally, we can access what they say almost instantly.

“Our new stated purpose emphasises the importance we place on communities and so this feedback will also enable us to find out what our members and customers think about our community engagement.”

Co-op customers, when asked what they thought about the new trolleys were too busy trying to drive a trolley, do their shopping and answer inane questions about whether the carrots should be on a higher shelf or not, or whether faggots would solve the social housing crisis to answer.

Let’s hope those tablets are securely bolted on.

Meow Chat is here and a bit suspect

July 29th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

meow Meow Chat is here and a bit suspect“What is Meow Chat and why is it plaguing me?” yelped Twitter today, inbetween discussions about Gaza, as users were bombarded with invites to join it.

Meow Chat (nee Meow) has raced to the top of the apps chart, and reckons it is one of the fastest growing social networks in the world.

It ‘s similar to apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, BBC as well as having elements of dating apps like Tinder or Grindr, allowing the user to message random fellow users.

The random chat feature suggests people you may be compatible with, and you can scan nearby users in your area (possibly for some bumming).

It was set up by New York company Minus, which was set up the precocious sounding John Xie, who invented his first website when he was nine, and Carl Hu, ex of Microsoft and Amazon.

It has almost overnight become the most popular app on the itunes chart, and in the Top Ten for Androids too.

Basically it’s quite pushy, connecting up with your facebook friends list and flooding them with requests. It makes Linkedin sound quite laid back.

If you don’t want any part of it, you can block requests via the Games bit on your Facebook, but by then it will be too late and you’ll be trapped. Possibly.

But halt! It also sounds a tad fishy, as it comes laden with adverts and some iffy material that you may not want the nippers to see.

And the reviews are, let’s say “mixed” to say the least.

So be cautious of it. It could be an elaborate spam, or even a BOMB.

(It’s not a bomb).

Police block ads in anti-piracy war

July 29th, 2014 2 Comments By Lucy Sweet

music piracy Police block ads in anti piracy war City of London Police are ruining your daily download of pirated content by putting up big buzzkilling banner ads all over them, saying ‘THIS WEBSITE HAS BEEN REPORTED TO THE POLICE – please close the browser page containing this website.’

If they suspect a website is being run illegally, they’ve posted the ads to stop piracy sites making any money out of advertising.

It’s part of a (terribly named) project called ‘Operation Creative, which aims to block ads from well-known companies appearing on dodgy sites, alongside illegal content and porn.

‘When adverts from well known brands appear on illegal websites, they lend them a look of legitimacy and inadvertently fool consumers into thinking the site is authentic,’ said Detective Chief Inspector Andy Fyfe from the City of London Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (Pipcu).

Operation Creative is using technology created by an equally terribly named private firm called Project Sunblock – which works on behalf of high street companies to have their ads removed from piracy sites, or porn sites called things like in-uranus.net.

It’s a strategy that might hit illegal sites hard – many of them rely on advertising to survive. But some critics have warned against over zealous blocking, amid fears that legal sites might die on their arse without advertising revenue.

Still, it’s better to be on the safe side. After all, you don’t want a back to school at BHS advert appearing on a hardcore bumming page, do you?

chromecast 300x199 Chromecasts birthday   YOU get the giftsTo celebrate the year anniversary of Chromecast, Google are doling out freebies.

If you bought a streaming dongle which plugs into the HDMI port on yer telly, you will now get 90 days of unlimited music listening from the Google Play store for nothing.

NOTHING.

Obviously Google hope you’ll stick around and start paying once the offer runs out, but hey let’s make no promises here.

The offer runs until the end of September. If you already have a Chromecast, then you can get with the offer, but existing subscribers to All Access can’t get the free three months. And yeah, none of your nefarious signing out then in again – newcomers only.

The offer is set to run until the end of September, so all the way through the summer. Note that those who already have a Chromecast can avail themselves of this offer, too, but existing subscribers to All Access can’t get the three free months, and neither can previous subscribers so you can’t just cancel and then grab the offer. It’s for newcomers only.

Gadzooks!