Haltpost News Update | Latest News Information and Headlines

Haltpost News Update | Latest News Information and Headlines

Haltpost News Update | Latest News Information and Headlines

A deal to end the series of wildcat strikes by postal workers was agreed, paving the way for the huge backlog of mail to be cleared. The breakthrough came in the middle of the night following marathon talks between the Royal Mail and leaders of the Communication Workers Union (CWU). Hopes of a deal had faded because of a number of sticking points, which held up progress. But there was a dramatic breakthrough, and both sides emerged from talks at a central London hotel just before 3:30 am to announce that a deal had been reached.

A joint statement said: “The Royal Mail and the CWU are both pleased to have reached an understanding that allows both parties to recommend a return to work. We will be talking to our people today and will now go to Acas to resolve all outstanding issues relating to pay and major change. We wish to apologize to customers for the huge inconvenience that has been caused, and our first priority is to clear the backlog that has built up and get services back to normal.”

Millions of letters have been held up by a series of wildcat strikes which started two weeks ago in west London and quickly spread across the capital and to other parts of the UK. More than 20,000 postal workers were taking unofficial action, causing huge problems for thousands of companies. Royal Mail chief executive Adam Crozier unexpectedly joined the talks over the weekend in a sign of the organization’s growing desperation for a deal. He emerged alongside CWU deputy general secretary Dave Ward to announce that a deal had been reached.

This does not mean that packaged food players are not launching new products – because some are – but rather most launches in recent years rarely go beyond short-term iterations for existing brands, such as flavor extensions or packaging reconfigurations, which BCG says, “carry low risk and deliver easily measurable returns, but yield limited rewards.” To successfully generate value and engage consumers, BCG argues companies must offer new products, services, experiences, and business models that go beyond core offerings, enhance their “operational excellence by adopting novel processes, technologies, and business models” and pre-empt “disruptions and obsolescence.”

If this sounds like a tall order, that is because it is. But it is also one that Adam Melonas, the CEO and founder of Boston-based food innovation lab Chew Innovation, says he believes he can fill by “dramatically changing the model” of his already successful company, which in the past 10 and a half years has helped create more than 4,000 products across 25 categories – including many for some of the largest food and beverage brands in the world – and co-authored more than 40 patents or patent applications in the food industry.

In this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Soup-To-Nuts Podcast, Melonas shares his new approach to innovation, which includes teaming with “game-changing celebrities” who are the face of new ventures that can serve as bolt-ons for existing core strategic billion-dollar brands. He also shares how he is branching out to work with governments and non-governmental organizations to help democratize healthy food through education and policy.

The rise of the ‘innovation gap’

According to Melonas, the impetus for turning his business upside down and adopting a new innovation model was his “irritation” with the status quo and a growing “innovation gap” that began pre-pandemic but which he said metastasized during the lockdowns following the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent inflationary period that prompted many investors to withdraw.

He explained that before the pandemic, the flood of venture capital into the packaged food industry diluted meaningful innovation by funding “ridiculous ideas that would never scale and never be profitable,” which meant “dumb ideas were flourishing.”

When the pandemic struck, many retailers and companies quickly scaled back to focus on the basics or their most popular SKUs to help manage supply chain distributions and labor challenges. And while many companies continued to grow while doing this because consumers were desperate for food to eat at home, eventually “the bubble burst” and “everyone’s houses were full to the brim with all this stuff” – effectively raising the bar for what else consumers considered worth bringing home.

This was compounded by skyrocketing inflation and higher interest rates, which further discouraged innovation of all but safe bets – such as line-extensions of popular brands, Melonas said. “Now all of a sudden,” he added, “consumers have got this pent-up demand for what is new,” but most retailers and brands do not have anything to offer.

To make matters worse, Melonas said, many of the large companies that have funding for meaningful innovation need two to four years to move from ideation to launch, which he says is too long for consumers, retailers, and the industry at large to wait.

A new business model for a new era of innovation

Melonas posits that he can help shorten the time between insight and execution to six months with his new business model, which he says includes two prongs that will work synergistically. The first prong is Chew’s existing service model in which it works with brands to renovate and innovate products, and the second prong will be a venture incubation model that is focused on “the things of tomorrow,” which “are being designed to bolt on to core strategic billion-dollar brands to really evolve those, contemporize those,” said Melonas.

The founderless businesses developed in the incubation side of Chew’s business will be supported by celebrities who have an authentic connection and who will use their megaphones to promote the products to key consumers and “drive sales to the masses,” he added.

Under the new venture incubation prong of the business model, Melonas says Chew will work on six projects at a time for an annual output of 12 bolt-on ready innovations a year. He explains that his team will identify and evaluate where to focus by juxtaposing traditional consumer data with “disparate” other data gathered in part with help from AI but analyzed by humans.

Chew’s analytics team will then quantify the insights to “make sure the juice is worth the squeeze,” and that the potential revenues are meaningful, he said.

Chew sees potential where others do not, including plant-based protein

So, where might Chew place its bets? Melonas says he sees significant potential for plant-based meat analogues, despite what a chorus of naysayers are extolling. He explained that the next generation of plant-based protein needs to move beyond price, taste, and nutrition parity. Rather, he said, the segment needs to explore the “less sensational side of the story” and examine what is driving consumers to adopt plant-based eating, what are they looking for, and what are they missing.

He also sees an unmet need for snacks that check consumers’ “macro level need states,” and for “complete disruption in beverage,” which he argues may not come from new companies but the revamping and modernization of existing brands.

While Chew is adopting a new approach to product development, Melonas is a firm believer that there is not just one way to innovate, and so he encourages other players to “amp up the irritation a little bit” and look for meaningful solutions that can profitably scale and help futureproof the food system.

AMRITSAR: In the recently concluded parliamentary elections, candidates from all major political parties highlighted the potential benefits of reopening trade with Pakistan through the Attari land border in Amritsar. These sentiments are echoed by Pakistani traders as well. This issue, however, is more complex than simply unlocking a gate to resume the trade.

The local importers and exporters now expect these politicians to fulfill their promises once the new government is formed in Center. A prominent import-export trader B K Bajaj is of the view that Indo-Pak trade primarily benefits Pakistan more than India. Nevertheless, the prospect of trade resumption is seen as highly advantageous for Amritsar as it could create 25,000 to 30,000 jobs, directly and indirectly.

However, he said, “Opening the trade route with Pakistan via the Attari land border shouldn’t be viewed as an India-Pakistan trade initiative but more specifically as an Amritsar-Pakistan trade venture.” The trade could provide immediate economic relief to Pakistan, it would significantly boost Amritsar’s economy by creating a substantial number of jobs and stimulating local industries. But, the trade will not have a major impact on the broader Indian economy, as the country has the capability to generate similar economic benefits by giving a small push to local industries nationwide, he said.

Notably, the trade between India and Pakistan came to a halt post Pulwama terror attack on February 14, 2019, following which India not only increased the customs duty to 200% on all imports from Pakistan, making the business unprofitable, but also revoked the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status given to Pakistan which gave certain business privileges to the neighboring country.

President of the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Nauman Kabir said that during the recently concluded general elections, the candidates had been discussing and making announcements for the resumption of trade with Pakistan and expressed hope that after the formation of a new government in India, they would work to fulfill their announcement. He reiterated that the LCCI would write to the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry urging them to begin efforts to resume trade with Pakistan.

When asked about Pakistan’s interest in opening the trade with India, Bajaj said that the Sharif brothers in Pakistan, particularly Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his influential sibling Nawaz Sharif, are keen on reopening trade with India. “The inclination to open the trade is driven more by Pakistan’s internal economic challenges than by a shift in foreign policy. For India, the decision to impose a 200 percent duty on Pakistani goods came in the wake of the Pulwama attack in 2019, which halted the bilateral trade. The Indian government did not close the trade route per se but made it economically unviable for Pakistani exporters,” he said.

Bajaj informed that efforts were being made to convert the Integrated Check Post (ICP) at Attari into an Inland Container Depot (ICD), which would serve as a dry port or multimodal logistics center. According to reports, the ICD would offer services from sea custodians, the customs department, carriers, freight forwarders, and customs brokers, all at one spot, to facilitate exporters and importers in the smooth handling of cargo. “The ICD could also be helpful to Pakistani exporters, especially those in Lahore and nearby areas, who currently have to transport their goods to Karachi. Being close to Attari could provide them with a convenient alternative,” he said.

A senior official of the Customs department who didn’t wish to give his name said that the resumption of trade hinges on addressing a range of political, economic, and security concerns even as there are certain geopolitical complexities involved.

Ministers have denied claims by the former Post Office chair that the government wanted to stall compensation payouts to victims of the Horizon scandal so the Conservatives could “limp into” the general election. Henry Staunton, who was sacked last month by the business secretary, Kemi Badenoch, amid anger over the Horizon scandal, said the request came soon after he took up the role in December 2022. He also alleged that Nick Read, the Post Office chief executive, tried in January to dissuade the government from proceeding with blanket exonerations for operators.

In an interview with the Sunday Times, Staunton, 75, said the request to slow down compensation payouts appeared to be an attempt to reduce the government’s financial liability before the general election this year. “Early on, I was told by a fairly senior person to stall on spend on compensation and on the replacement of Horizon, and to limp, in quotation marks – I did a file note on it – limp into the election,” Staunton said. “It was not an anti-postmaster thing, it was just straight financials. I didn’t ask, because I said: ‘I’m having no part of it – I’m not here to limp into the election, it’s not the right thing to do by postmasters.’ The word ‘limp’ gives you a snapshot of where they were.”

The government denied Staunton’s claim. It said Staunton was set “concrete objectives” to reach settlements and added: “The government has sped up compensation to victims, and consistently encouraged postmasters to come forward with their claims. To suggest any actions or conversations happened to the contrary is incorrect.”

Badenoch furiously denied on Sunday that she had sacked Staunton by telling him someone had to “take the rap” for the Horizon scandal. Describing his account as “full of lies” and a “disgraceful misrepresentation” of their conversation, the business secretary said she would discuss the matter with government lawyers and would not “let the matter rest here”.

She added: “Far from ‘taking the rap’, I dismissed Staunton due to very serious allegations about his conduct while chair of the Post Office, including blocking an investigation into that conduct. My department is responsible for whistleblowers and I wouldn’t ignore the allegations. Henry Staunton had a lack of grip getting justice for postmasters. The serious concerns over his conduct were the reasons I asked him to step down. That he chose to run to the media with made-up anecdotes and a series of falsehoods, confirms I made the correct decision.”

Jonathan Reynolds, the shadow business secretary, said Labour would demand answers from ministers when the Commons returns this week. He said on X: “These are extremely serious allegations about the government’s management of the Post Office and treatment of victims of the Horizon scandal. We will be seeking answers when parliament resumes this week.”

Kevin Hollinrake, the minister for the Post Office, said that in his 15 months in office, he had “never encountered any resistance from ministers or officials to our objective of exonerating or fairly compensating postmasters who’ve been affected by [the] Horizon scandal”.

Michael Tomlinson, the Home Office minister, told Times Radio that he did not “accept or recognize” Staunton’s allegations. “We are encouraging postmasters to come forward. We have brought legislation through the House of Commons which will enable those payments to be made, and that is something that we are encouraging rather than anything,” he said. “I just don’t recognize anything to the contrary of that.”

More than 900 post office operators were prosecuted for stealing money because of incorrect information from the Horizon computer system, in what has been described as the biggest miscarriage of justice in UK history. About £140m in compensation has been paid out so far, although many victims are experiencing delays and say the scheme is too bureaucratic.

Staunton, a former chair of WH Smith, alleged Read wrote to the justice secretary, Alex Chalk, last month in an attempt to persuade the government against mass exonerations. The letter included a legal opinion from the Post Office’s solicitors, Peters & Peters, which suggested many convictions could be defended on appeal, Staunton told the Sunday Times. He added: “Basically it was trying to undermine the exoneration argument. It was, ‘Most people haven’t come forward because they are guilty as charged’ – ie, think very carefully about exoneration.”

Staunton said he told Read the opinions in the letter were not endorsed by him or “at least half” of the Post Office’s board members, and that “if this got out, we’d be crucified, and rightly so”. A Post Office source denied to the Sunday Times that the letter was seeking to influence the government. Ministers have pressed ahead with emergency legislation that will quash all Post Office convictions related to Horizon.

A spokesperson for the Post Office said: “Post Office is very aware of the terrible impact from this appalling scandal and miscarriage of justice. We refute both the assertions put to us and the words and phrases allegedly used, and are focused on supporting the government’s plans for faster justice and redress for victims. No one within Post Office is out of reach of the inquiry.”

Source: Various News Agencies

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