As clients and end users demand sustainable food, contract caterers need to ensure that local, ethical and seasonal food is on the menu, says Yeshna Mistry.
To what extent are clients demanding sustainability initiatives such as sustainably caught fish and locally sourced food?
For many clients having local, ethical and seasonal food that supports British farmers, reduces food miles and delivers fresh quality produce is fundamentally important and is becoming a more critical part of the tender process.
Our customers love hearing about seasonal specials that showcase the best national produce; another benefit is an ever-changing menu that satisfies the call for variety.
Offering lesser-known species of fish, for example, also provides greater variety while reducing the impact of overfishing on the big five – cod, haddock, tuna, salmon and prawns.
How necessary is having a sustainable and locally sourced offering for winning catering contracts?
Many prospective clients look for sustainable food choices and locally sourced products. Part of this comes down to changing consumer demands and ethical viewpoints, but many businesses and prospective clients also have their own targets in place to reduce carbon emissions.
Understanding these requirements and making recommendations on how we can work together to achieve them is important in winning any contract. If suppliers and clients work collaboratively they can achieve a shared goal in reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs).
Are these types of offerings still in the minority? If so, what types of clients are looking for more sustainable offerings? And why? Is pressure coming from their staff?
We have pioneered sustainability in the contract catering space but there is definitely a significant shift under way. The food service sector as a whole is changing and beginning to provide more sustainable options. Sustainability is of the utmost importance to customers now – and to our clients.
Millennials have also been a large influencing factor in driving sustainability. They are more environmentally savvy and demand good ethics in their food choices.
What type of additional costs are there to provide more sustainable catering?
Contract caterers should be able to provide sustainable catering that is appropriate to clients’ budgets. Transparent pricing is key, as is developing a clear idea of the client’s wants and budget limitations.
A great example of an environmentally savvy and cost-effective initiative was one of our clients switching from conventional milk to 100 per cent free-range milk. There was no change in cost to the client.
But cost also depends on the products. Some products still carry a premium – such as organic-certified produce.
What can catering companies do to reduce greenhouse gases?
- Focus on local produce to reduce food miles;
- Increase the number of vegetarian and vegan options;
- Reduce waste by monitoring waste at each site; and
- Encourage staff to use public transport.
It is vital to set up policies to govern ethical sourcing practices. When it comes to waste reduction, we recommend that companies seek zero-waste-to-landfill accreditation and regular monitoring of all your sites’ waste streams. But don’t rest once these policies are in place. The best practice advice is to update your action plan twice a year to increase recycling.
Time is critical. Reducing climate change and its negative effects forms the main challenge. We all need to work harder and faster to reduce GHGs.
Yeshna Mistry is sustainability and CSR lead at Vacherin