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Klimato says don’t give up on going green

31st Oct 2022 - 04:00
How can any caterer prioritise sustainability in such turbulently political and economic times as these? Morgane Willer of software company Klimato argues that retaining a focus on green goals can also help manage the immediate challenges of rising costs and staff shortages.

Public sector catering operators understandably have a lot on their plates right now. There are staff shortages, supply chain issues, the responsibility to continue feeding some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and consumer price inflation soaring past 10% this July - the highest it has been in 40 years.

Despite all these issues, the public sector is still tasked with providing tasty and nutritious meals on very tight budgets, which can mean that when competing priorities are brought to bear sustainability can very easily be put on the back burner.

I’m here to tell you that the two can go hand-in-hand. I work for Klimato, a software company that helps food service providers calculate, communicate and report the climate footprint per dish.

We have seen first-hand how sustainability brings value to our customers, and this is how it could work for you.

Reduce business costs

Meat-free dishes are cheaper and healthier. Oxford University research revealed that, in countries across Western Europe, including the UK, adopting a vegan, vegetarian, or flexitarian diet could reduce your food bill by up to one-third. The average cost of a meat-free evening meal is £0.95 vs. £2.02 if meat or fish is on the plate. The lesson for caterers here is that meat is often more expensive that plant-based alternative proteins.

One of Klimato’s customers, services provider Sodexo, found that at its AstraZeneca client site the vegetarian recipes are on average 63% cheaper than recipes that contain meat or fish. Serving more sustainable food can therefore contribute positively to saving money.

Plant-based meats are also a sustainable method of reducing emissions whilst keeping costs down. In the Netherlands, plant-based meat is already cheaper than conventional meat and price parity with conventional meat is expected by 2023.

According to ProVeg, plant-based burgers are now 78 cents per kilo below the price of meat and vegan chicken and mincemeat have also seen price drops in comparison to conventional meat.

Pablo Moleman of ProVeg Netherlands makes the point that ‘due to the large use of raw materials, meat is much more sensitive to disruptions in the world market than meat alternatives’.

Using less meat in your dishes is not only good for the planet but will also be better for your bottom line. Reducing food waste by using the whole vegetable or product for other dishes is also an effective way to bring down costs.

Increase sales

Eating more plant-based meals has grown in popularity in recent years. The latest YouGov polls indicate that 16% of the UK population say they have adopted a flexitarian diet while 2% say they are vegan.

The plant-based diet is fuelling a market that is growing and its followers are often the biggest spenders. Vegans, in particular, will typically pay £37.55 for a meal out, £14.88 more than diners with no special dietary requirements. In other words vegans are forking out nearly £15 more on average than meat-eaters when they eat out-of-home.

To attract customers from this market segment, businesses should look to include more vegan options on their menu. Vegan Friendly, a charity, qualifies an establishment as Vegan Friendly, if its menu has at least 25% of its menu options in this category, as well as a vegan dessert. That way, it says, vegans will have the same experience that non-vegans have in that restaurant, in terms of variety and experience.

If your non-meat eating clientele has enough options to satisfy them, then you are very likely to have a customer who will pay more to dine with you.

Klimato’s clients have, for example, seen increases in sales since adding more plant-based options to their menus.

Another Sodexo client is the Oasis Academy, a multi-academy trust of 52 schools, which has seen an overall shift in pupil eating habits towards consuming lower carbon dishes since the implementation of carbon-labelling on its menus together with the provision of more plant-based options.

Over a period of five months, the percentage of low-carbon meals increased from 78% to 90%.

So if you combine lower-cost, plant-based dishes that can increase your sales together with greater customer satisfaction then you’re onto a winner.

Appeal to more staff

Research has suggested that by adopting more sustainable practices, businesses can benefit because this can help to attract staff.

An IBM survey found greater interest among employees in applying to and accepting jobs from environmentally sustainable companies, with 67% of respondents reporting that they are more willing to apply for jobs with such companies and 68% more likely to accept a position with them if offered one.

Of the survey respondents who have changed jobs in the past year, around one in three said that they accepted a lower salary to work for companies and organisations they consider sustainable or socially responsible.

Feeding the vulnerable

Vegetarian, vegan or Mediterranean-style diets have been shown to be linked with a reduced risk of heart disease, strokes and type 2 diabetes when compared to less healthy dietary regimes. Scientific research also indicates that healthy, plant-based diets can be especially beneficial for the elderly as they can help lower blood pressure, reduce blood cholesterol and promote a healthy body weight.

And children are also among those who can derive health benefits from a meat-free diet as long as it is aligned with a suitable calorie intake that also takes into account their particular nutritional needs through the inclusion of legumes, cereals, nuts and seeds.

Do good for the planet and inspire consumers

Consumers view sustainability as a business responsibility. Gen Z – roughly those aged ten to 25, have been labelled as ‘the most disruptive generation ever’ by a report from the Bank of America.

And according to a recent Deloitte study, 48% of people want to be more sustainable but don’t know how to be. So businesses have a huge opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint, to source sustainably and inspire others to follow these moves.

This means caterers are also in a position to teach their customers to source seasonally, to reduce their food waste and to limit their consumption of ingredients with a high carbon footprint.

The way Klimato does this is by providing its clients with carbon labels to put on their menus, so that consumers can make more informed decisions.

We also help customers communicate clearly on their sustainability initiatives and our labels. Transparency, genuine concern and real long-term change when it comes to sustainability initiatives is the best way to stand out from among your competitors, increase customer loyalty and ultimately sell more climate-friendly food.

Written by
Edward Waddell