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Providing balanced nutrition without compromising on flavour. Staying on budget without any drop in meal quality. Meeting time frames without compromising hygiene standards. Providing institutional catering is a balancing act that, in many respects and on a daily basis, affects the quality of life of students, employees, government employees, the elderly and patients. Given consumers’ increasing awareness of the urgent need for responsible food choices, how can we support and encourage this transition and focus more on non-meat products?
Never before has the market been so open to going vegetarian, or at least flexitarian
It is clear that the world of institutional catering is not (yet) fully in step with consumers’ growing concerns about healthy, sustainable and responsible meals. In France, most food choices remain largely based on meat products. This unfortunate situation is in contrast to the current needs of consumers who are increasingly shunning meat products. In addition to the traditional criticism of farming’s high environmental cost, there are now scientific studies proving the dangerous nature of exclusively meat-based diets.
According to a CREDOC survey in 2018, 42% of Europeans say they are reducing their meat consumption and 19% say they are flexitarian. In addition to these figures, an interesting cultural phenomenon was noted. Two decades ago, red meat was still considered to be healthy and even essential to your wellbeing, yet today it is suffering from a tarnished image.
Catering professionals know that never before has the market been so open to vegetarian, or at least flexitarian, meals. It might be time to take decisive action and support a transition on the ground, given this global trend which goes beyond isolated initiatives.
Encouraging and supporting the transition to a more plant-based diet
What is known as the ‘vegetarian option’ in institutional catering has gradually evolved into a leading social issue since 2010. This option has already been adopted by several European cities. When offered in workplaces, schools, hospitals and retirement homes, it offers diners greater dietary freedom and reduces animal-based product consumption. This helps consumers who make food choices based on ethical (vegetarian) and religious reasons.
Education and information
New cooking techniques are required when reducing the portion of the plate occupied by animal-based products in institutional catering in order to deliver balanced nutrition. Therefore, initial and ongoing training courses for catering professionals are required to help them prepare balanced menus with less meat. Healthcare professionals also require training and education in the issues and impacts of vegetarian diets during various life stages (growth, pregnancy and old age).
Raising consumer awareness
This obviously requires education at all levels, but also involves raising the profile of initiatives that fully agree with this transition to a more plant-based diet. Tasting stands, interactive maps showing where you can eat vegetarian meals nearby, mobile apps for creating balanced vegetarian meals at home, etc.