4 Trends Shaping the Evolution of Sustainable Foodservice

fresh meal on restaurant table made with sustainable ingredients

As consumers place more importance on sustainability, operators need to consider the trends shaping the future of sustainable foodservice

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KerryDigest Fast Facts:

  • More than half of consumers in North America place importance on sustainability when making a purchase decision at a restaurant.
  • In the current market, it’s crucial foodservice operators understand how to implement the basics of sustainability such as environmentally friendly packaging and ingredients.
  • Our new research highlights 4 key areas of opportunity for brands to craft products with improved sustainability—and enhanced consumer appeal.

KerryDigest Full Scoop:

Not only is sustainability important to consumers: by extension, but it’s becoming vital for success for foodservice operators. According to Kerry’s 2021 Sustainability in Motion 2021 report, 58% of consumers in North America say they are strongly influenced by sustainability when making a food or beverage purchase at a restaurant, highlighting the importance of creating a more sustainable industry.

One way restaurant operators are responding to the growing importance of sustainability is by changing their menus. Datassential data shows growth in sustainable menu mentions over the last four years across different types of dining, with significant growth in fine dining and fast casual restaurants. We're also seeing more menu items that are sustainably made and locally sourced as well as packaging options that are better for the planet.

To deliver sustainable options to consumers, foodservice operators can embrace these food and beverage trends that support sustainable nutrition.

1. Cut down on food waste

More sustainable foodservice starts with the basics: minimizing environmental impact. Food waste and food production both contribute to a company’s carbon footprint. Foodservice companies are being encouraged to make choices that positively impact the environment, not only on their menus, but across the supply chain.

Partnering with companies that offer sustainable products created through sustainable processes is one way brands can quickly improve the sustainability of their offerings. Sustainable sourcing, clean ingredients, ethical production and humane working conditions can all help a product earn the label “sustainable” while giving foodservice operators the opportunity to provide more transparency to consumers.

Food waste can be cut down by utilizing consumer-friendly food protection and preservation ingredients that deliver food safety and less food waste by prolonging shelf lifebowl of pasta with sustainable ingredients

Food waste can be cut down by utilizing consumer-friendly food protection and preservation ingredients that deliver food safety and less food waste by prolonging shelf life. These solutions can also improve back-of-house efficiencies for foodservice operators. For example, switching to dry beverage solutions can cut down on food waste because of an extended product shelf life and, because such products often use less packaging and don’t require refrigeration, they can also reduce carbon emissions and waste throughout the supply chain.

2. Offering meatless and dairy-free menu options

Our research suggests that the importance of sustainability varies by category. Top categories include dairy, meat and plant-based alternatives, with 75% of consumers looking for sustainability in plant-based dairy and meat alternatives specifically. Datassential also shows that 20% of foodservice operators have sustainability in mind when offering plant-based proteins.

Given the rise of flexitarians and increased consumer awareness about the earth’s natural resources and animal and human welfare, adding plant-based menu options meets the consumer expectation of sustainability across the board. Consumers want more plant-based options and they want them to taste good. Operators considering meatless or dairy-free on their menu will want to overcome common obstacles associated with these types of offerings by utilizing consumer-preferred plant-based ingredients in their offerings.

3. Balancing taste with sustainable nutrition

Above all else, consumers want their food and beverage choices to taste good and nourish them. In our research, we found 73% of North American consumers now associate health and nutrition with sustainability. Consumers perceive behaviors such as eating healthy and exercising as being tied to sustainability. As a result, foodservice operators are being called to offer menu items that not only taste great but also provide sustainable nutrition, which addresses the nutritional, environmental and social impact of food.

Offering products with reduced sugar is one way brands can incorporate sustainable nutrition into their menus.healthy low sugar breakfast with coffee

Offering products with reduced sugar is one way brands can incorporate sustainable nutrition into their menus. By reducing sugar, they can improve the nutrition of foods and beverages while also delivering lower greenhouse gas and water impact. Using taste products such as sustainably sourced sweet and savory flavors can also enhance the consumer appeal of foodservice products. Making products that are fortified with wellness ingredients such as probiotics or added protein are additional ways to create a circular process that eliminates waste while increasing demand.

4. Innovating with eco-friendly packaging and disposables

According to Unilever, 30% of municipal solid waste comes from discarded packaging, and restaurants contribute a significant amount. Back-of-house changes such as using products with eco-friendly packaging that is Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified can make a positive environmental impact for distributors and operators alike.

In the front of house, switching to compostable or biodegradable disposables, such as straws and utensils made from materials such as sugar cane, bamboo and PLA plastic and paper, can help make a difference.

Taking sustainability one step further, some restaurants are offering reusable to-go containers. Tiffin Indian Cuisine in Philadelphia, PA, offers takeout containers that can be returned, washed and reused and Mixt in San Francisco offered stainless steel salad bowls for takeout and delivery which are then collected, sanitized and reused. Restaurants are slowly implementing these types of programs in an effort to reduce packaging waste.

Learn more about our sustainability commitments and our Beyond the Horizon sustainability strategy, which has a goal of providing sustainable nutrition solutions to 2 billion people by 2030.


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