When we think of sustainable eating, there is tendency to focus on customer behaviour and shopping habits. Pressure is placed on food retailers to provide fair, sustainable, humane and – most notably –  healthy foods.

Yet, as trends show, the amount spent on food and drinks outside the home per citizen is continuously increasing. Between 2012 and 2015, total expenditure on food and drink eaten out increased by 11.8%. Investors and NGOs are increasingly holding foodservice companies to account for their sustainability and health credentials.

Personally, I am the type of shopper who looks at ingredients lists and nutritional information of all the food items I purchase. But what can I do to ensure food I eat outside of home also sits comfortably with my values? My generation, the ‘millennials’ and ‘Generation Z’, will soon represent 40% of the buying public in the US, EU and BRIC countries, and will be at the forefront of social, environmental and technological change. How the foodservice sector decides to tackle sustainable diets is high on our agenda.

Our Catering for Sustainability report, published a year ago, highlighted just how extensive the foodservice sector is, and therefore the huge role it plays in our fight for a fairer, healthier, more humane and more sustainable food and agricultural sector.

Our project was in collaboration with WWF-UK and Sodexo UK & Ireland, and aimed to understand whether, why and how sustainable diets are promoted by individual foodservice companies, and to assess the business cases for adopting and promoting sustainable diets across the sector.

I grew up in France, where school meals were planned weeks if not months in advance, and always consisted of a three-course sit-down meal, as early as kindergarten. These meals were a foundation to my culinary education. I was therefore very pleased to hear that Sodexo’s ‘Green & Lean’ meals won the Footprint ‘Sustainability in Education’ award, after developing and distributing meals in 40 schools across England using WWF’s Livewell Principles.

Of course, no one business case fits all. Even within a business, decision makers have different motives for individual choices. Our Catering for Sustainability report sets out a wide suite of strong business cases for why foodservice businesses should embrace sustainable diets. These include:

1. Delivering turnover growth by differentiating the product offer, enhancing brand reputation and building customer loyalty, stimulating customer demand, and securing investment.

2. Mitigating risks and increasing resilience by ensuring quality and security of supply, increasing the integrity of supply chains, reducing regulatory risks, reducing the risks to reputation, and maintaining the licence to operate.

3. Maintaining and improving profit margins by improving staff motivation and retention, making efficiency savings, using lower or same cost ingredients, and reframing costs.

To find out more on how your business can implement these changes, what are the common barriers faced by you peers, what are the key ingredients for success, and learn from others in the sector, check out our Catering for Sustainability report.

The full report is available to download here

The executive summary is available to download here