Cast your mind back to when you last ate a meal outside of the home. It may have been a quick lunch sandwich on-the-go, or a proper sit down meal in a restaurant or at your school or work canteen. Now can you remember what the main ingredient of that meal was?
If it was meat then you’re in good company – for more than three quarters of us a meal out of the home contains meat all or some of the time.
But if you went for a vegetarian or vegan option or an option where meat was not the focal point of the meal, then you’re part of a smaller, but growing club.
More of us are choosing meat-free lunch options
A recent WWF survey found that 16% of us plan to eat less meat in the year ahead, a figure that rises to 19% for the influential group known as millennials, categorised as people between the ages of 18 and 34 year olds. Some people are reducing their consumption of meat for environmental reasons thanks to a growing awareness that livestock production has a significant impact on the planet. For others, it might be because they want to choose a more healthy or affordable option, or simply fancy a change.
The meat content of their meals isn’t the only preoccupation for millennials when eating out. Half of those surveyed said they are more likely to eat out in venues where they are told about where the food on their plate comes from; half are also more likely to eat at a venue where they’re told the health and nutrition content of their meals; while 53% are more likely to eat at a restaurant, café or canteen if meat has been reared to high animal welfare standards.
Of those planning to cut down on meat, 66% reported that they wanted to be able to choose plant-based options from the menu when they eat out representing a significant opportunity for foodservice companies to make vegetables a central part of their menus.
But are restaurants, fast food chains and other caterers stepping up to meet this demand for healthy, sustainable food options?
A new report from our partnership with Sodexo UK & Ireland and the Food Ethics Council found that some progressive companies are doing just that. Pret A Manger, for instance, is introducing vegetarian only chiller cabinets into its shops and is trialling a vegetarian only store throughout the month of June in which meat will be entirely absent from the menu.
Others, however, are lagging behind in providing meal options that help customers eat more plant-based foods such as vegetables and pulses, fewer processed foods high in sugar, salt and saturated fat, and more foods that meet a certified standard such as MSC fish – all of which are criteria for a sustainable diet as set out in our Livewell guide.
Caterers and restaurants benefit from sustainable menus
The benefits to caterers who provide more sustainable menu options are potentially huge. The report concludes that they can grow sales by winning new custom and retaining loyal customers, increase profits by retaining healthy, motivated employees and guard against future supply chain risks by making sure their food is fully traceable and of good provenance.
Millennials form one of the largest generations in history and their future purchasing power will be huge. And their message to caterers is clear: millennials expect sustainable food to come as standard. Food businesses that meet their demands can expect to enjoy their custom for many years to come.
When deciding on a meal or a restaurant think about making it a delicious, sustainable choice.