Food Industry Trends: Fleeting Changes or Major Disrupters?

Tim Hartley
About the author : Tim Hartley

Director, Head of Food Platform Australia

Published on : 4/12/21
  • Over time and across every industry, trends, often cyclical, emerge and are replaced with new ones. The food industry is no different.

    When changes come about, you have to examine them and question whether you’d rather be ahead of the curve, ride the wave, or let it pass by. But it’s not just about noticing a trend; it’s about understanding why the trend has come about. When you get to the crux of this, you can often foresee the trend’s longevity, the impact it will cause, and whether it will affect your workplace and industry at a wider scale.

    A clear example of this is the emergence of plant-based and plant-forward meals and their rise in popularity. Vegetarian and vegan meal options are today available, and in some cases required, in most dining establishments. This is no coincidence - it’s a result of the changing landscape of food consumption.

    Consumers are also becoming passionate about making ethical and environmental choices when it comes to food purchases. The impact of food consumption is forming part of the mainstream conscious and ingredient transparency, and high-quality meals sourced from quality and ethical ingredients are no longer ‘nice to haves’, but a must. In fact, more than 38% of people place the importance of social impact, transparency, animal welfare and sustainability as one of their top five decision-making factors when making their food choices, and 12% put this as their number one, according to research Sodexo commissioned from Harris Interactive.

    Tim Hartley profileAs the Director of Food Platform at Sodexo, I work with our teams to fulfil our responsibility as one of the world’s largest catering companies to play an active role in the communities we serve and in our global food community. Our love of food is demonstrated through our celebration of culinary talent and passion, showing off and recognising some of the best creativity and innovative practice in the industry. This includes our Love of Food app, which connects chefs from around the world so we can share ideas, best practices and interesting stories from each region.

    THE FUTURE OF FOOD 

    While some people may perceive these changes to be temporary moments or ‘a passing trend’, they have the potential to change food as we consume it today, creating a long-term impact on the global food system. The ‘why’ behind our food choices continuously grows in complexity as our attitudes toward wellness become more holistic and all-encompassing. By recognising these changes, we have the potential to make lasting positive impacts on human health and the environment with more conscious eating behaviours.

    As we collectively become healthier, more socially and ethically conscious consumers, I believe we’ll see animal proteins supplemented for more plant-based proteins but not replaced. Instead, people will focus on making vegetables and grains more exciting. This trend is a result of people gaining a deeper understanding of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants of the foods they eat, and how these benefit them. The level of detail now incorporated into food labels reflects how consumers crave this information and transparency.

    Our Future 50 Food menu is one initiative which aims to transform our the food prepared in our kitchens for a healthier planet. Knorr Professional and leading conservation organisation WWF developed the Future 50 Food initiative – a collection of international plant-based foods which can boost the nutritional value of meals. Businesses ready to make a difference can embrace Future 50 and adapt their on-site food to promote diverse and sustainable diets and employee satisfaction. Read more here

    FOOD WASTAGE

    WasteWatchTapping into the environmental, societal and ethical impacts of food consumption, food wastage is a natural part of this conversation and is a global challenge in the industry. Working with Sodexo has been rewarding; seeing the company’s values and views on this important topic align with my own. 

    At Sodexo, I’ve made it my mission to lead initiatives which confront food waste, and I know we will continue to be a leader in fighting this pervasive issue.

    Sodexo recently conducted a study designed to measure perceptions of food waste in corporate restaurants and university campus dining areas to create awareness and transform behaviours throughout our company and in society at large. 

    The 2020 Sodexo Food Waste Consumer Insights Research found 88% of people consider food waste to be an important environmental issue, with 69% taking actions regularly to combat it. Despite this, 56% of people feel they don’t waste too much, explaining why a smaller amount of people even think to take any action.

    It’s a topic that triggers a big reaction, but emotional reaction is not enough to combat the problem. Actions and behavioural change is now necessary, and the culinary industry needs to lead in this regard.

    Alarmingly, less than half of people felt their restaurant was doing enough to reduce food waste. This perception can only change when action is taken from the top by managers and leaders in the industry drawing, awareness to initiatives they’ve put in place. These changes can be as simple as adjusting portion sizes, adjusting services to avoid food waste and offering to provide takeaway bags for those who don’t finish their meals. 

    At Sodexo, we’ve implemented the WasteWatch program, powered by Leanpath, across our sites to generate food waste data which can help teams to forecast and reduce waste in the long term. With the help of our supply chain, clients, and customers, we are committed to collectively reducing our waste by 50% by 2025. Since we know how important it is to us as an organisation that we achieve this, we’re not afraid to make our figures public. 

    Sodexo’s investment in automating food procurement, production and management has been embodied in DRIVE. Managed by our Food Platform Team, DRIVE uses near-time information to gather consumption data aimed at optimising the ordering procedure, automating a once-tedious manual process.

    In Australia, we’ve also developed a partnership with online surplus food marketplace Yume. We are committed to purchasing surplus food that would otherwise be thrown out, significantly reducing our water use and CO2 emissions.

    STRIVING FOR CHANGE

    Change can be difficult, and trends can often seem sudden or drastic, but when you look at the reason, the ‘why’ of each change, you can make sure you are prepared for and anticipate each new trend, creating a robust business that’s ready to pivot to meet new demands.

    There are also many ways we can enact change as individuals and show responsibility for food consumption. To help kickstart this thinking, I encourage you to read more about sustainable eating.