What do you get when you put some chickens, an ex-rugby international and a dishwasher salesman on a podium together at an awards do? You get a tremendously funny, yet informative night, as the Footprint Awards 2015 showed.
The sustainability elite of the foodservice industry gathered together to celebrate achievements, share winning strategies, catch up with old friends and clients and make new ones, but above all, have a great time.
Now in their fifth year, the awards recognise those leading the way in sustainability in the foodservice industry, whether they’re massive multinationals or small start-ups. This year, those taking home awards included big names such as Pret, who won an award for their work on sustainable sourcing. Smaller innovators doing great things were also recognised, such as micro-greens and salad grower Growing Underground, who uses hydroponics and LEDs to grow carbon-neutral food in disused tunnels below the streets of Clapham.
Bringing the countryside to Canary Wharf at the ‘Footprint Farm’, live sheep, goats and chickens watched the proceedings from around the stage. Dishes made from seasonal, British ingredients were served up in-between short portions of awards, and jokes dished out by Master of Ceremonies ex-Rugby player David Flatman, giving diners the chance to applaud successes whist still being able to enjoy their meal and their companions before the next round.
There was even a nifty app – the Footprint/Green10 sustainability dashboard - which allowed guests to look up exactly where each ingredient they were eating came from, as well as its carbon footprint. Plus, its clever waste tracking system meant that guests knew soon after the last plate had been cleared that there was only 6.1kg of food waste generated from the meal – from the food prep to the scraps left on plates.
Guests came away energised to ramp up their sustainability efforts, buzzing with new ideas, contacts and inspiration, from teams motivated to work even harder after celebrating their win to those inspired to do more to ensure they were the ones on the podium next year.
‘The awards are hugely important for the team back in Somerset who have put so much hard work in – they allow us to benchmark progress and our sustainability journey,’ explained two-time winner Rich Clothier, Wyke Farms. ‘We all concentrate on the day job, but the Footprint awards allow you to stop and see how far you’ve come and to celebrate. To have recognition from something like Footprint is very important for us in our calendar. It’s one of the pinnacles of the year. It’s good to be back amongst friends.’
Driving continuous improvements
The night also gave people the chance to keep up-to-date with the latest developments in sustainability and foodservice.
‘My take away from tonight is that the sustainability agenda is moving really quickly,’ continued Rich. ‘You can only be as green and sustainable as the current technology allows. I’ve learnt from people tonight that what might have been best practice 12 months ago, is now out of date as it is established as the norm now. We’ve all got to challenge ourselves in this room now to ask: “What is going to be best practice in 12 months time, and how can we lead that?” And I think collaborative things like tonight can only help with that.’
Keeping ahead of the trends
‘The hospitality and food service industry has responded really well to the challenges we set to reduce waste and increase recycling rates,’ observed Richard Swannell, Director Sustainable Food Systems, WRAP. ‘They’ve worked with us on building the evidence base and creating the solutions, which they are now implementing across their businesses. But we’ve still got to make sure that together we hit the targets of the Hospitality and Food Service Agreement, which we’ll know next year. I think that will mark the transition and we’ll see food waste prevention integrated into normal practice within the industry and then after that, we can take on the wider sustainability debate.’
‘It’s marvellous to see the changes that have happened in the last few years. The challenge is how we move things on so we can feed more people with less inputs. We’re moving towards that goal of getting really good quality food – great, exciting food - but with much less environmental impact. This can help us feed the predicted world population of 9 billion people by 2050 sustainably.’
Build the British Brand
With a strong, British feel, the awards also echoed the power of the British brand, which some winners acknowledged was a unique selling point because of the high standards of quality.
‘British is something we should be proud of,’ John Clothier, Wyke Farms, enthused. ‘We’re calling on Liz Truss to include a point of origin standard on food because consumers have a right to know where their food has come from. Especially as Danish and Dutch standards for pigs are more intensive than UK ones. We need labeling desperately.’
‘There is a strong consumer demand for it,’ agreed Jennifer Gray, Wyke Farm. ‘85% of our customers said food labeling was not clear enough. It’s very difficult to shop in EU retail – it’s so cluttered, there’s no clarity. And a point of origin label is something that shoppers want, but the label isn’t there.’
There was consensus too that with sustainability becoming increasingly important to consumers, being nominated for an award engages and excites customers.
‘It’s really exciting for everyone,’ enthused runner up Phyllis Street, Sodexo, Emanuel School, Wandsworth. ‘I work in an independent school, and all the kids have been tweeting and following us on Instagram and they’re all very excited about the whole thing – so it’s really good. And they’re all buying in to wasting less food, it’s been super. Getting this award will have a big impact – I’ll take the award back and we’ll talk about it and it will really keep the initiative going. The only shame is that Sodexo came second – it would have been nice to come first!’
‘Winning this award is market validation for us that shows our customers you can make sustainability changes in ways that improve your profitability,’ explained Kevin Duffy, Founder, Winnow, who won an award for their food waste measurement and prevention technology. ‘It’s not an “either/or” question of profits or planet for us, it’s an “and” question for us, that’s really important. Products like ours really make that equation so simple, it’s not just about sustainability – it’s a good business decision.’
Driving best practice
‘The awards really champion the people who are the best in their field,’ said Nicola Frame, Media and PR manager, Fairtrade Foundation. ‘And that helps other people to aspire to being the best too if they can see that being sustainable gets that recognition in the industry.’
Allegra McEvedy, Patron of the Fairtrade Foundation and whose work on sustainable, ethical supply chains was recognised with a Special Achievement Award, agreed that the awards can be powerful motivational tool. ‘The awards are great because they show there are a lot of people trying to do a lot of things. And it’s really nice not to just see individuals but huge massive corporations, people like Compass, Nestle Professional and Sodexo, really starting to get to grips with this and understanding it’s what we need and it’s what the consumers are asking for. It’s good to see the food service industry see it’s a part of their responsibility now to talk about where they get their food and how they get it.’
There was also discussion about the responsibilities inherent in the food industry.
‘As a chef,’ continued Allegra, ‘you not only have a responsibility to make your food taste nice, you also have a responsibility about where it came from, and that’s not necessarily the land, but also the people that raised it. And that’s something that I feel absolutely passionate about – it’s absolutely key, it’s part of the flavour that comes into your mouth, knowing that it’s come from a sweet source.
‘Supply chain is a complicated issue. It’s a murky issue at times, particularly when dealing with places that are thousands and thousands of miles away from us, the degree of transparency can’t be that clear when you’re dealing with something very far away. But you can always do more. There are always way to clean things up and that’s all we want to do at the Fairtrade foundation.’
‘There is tremendous value in the awards for us,’ said Angela McCluskey, from runner-up Huhtamaki. ‘It’s really good for networking, our customers are here, and it helps to present us as someone who they want to work with, it’s integral to our image. It also helps us to understand what people – our clients and consumers – want. Hearing about what people are doing builds our knowledge of what people are working on and looking for.’
‘The spread of people who attend is the interesting bit,’ observed Andrew Ingham, from Runner-Up Greggs, ‘like universities, farms, kitchen appliance suppliers, food service suppliers – its not just operating companies. The event is an opportunity to network with likeminded companies. At Greggs, we’re out to make money of course, but we need to consider the right way to make money – sustainability, recycling, energy efficiency, route efficiency, production efficiency and so on. It’s about making money sensibly, not chasing profit to the exception of everything else.’
‘It’s the place to come to meet all the people that matter,’ said Yaser Martini, founder, Miso Tasty. ‘Anyone that needs to be anywhere is here – and it breaks down barriers. Because it feels like family, except we’re all wearing black tie!’
'It’s the Oscars of the Sustainability calendar,’ joked Andy Kemp, Group Sales and Marketing Director of Bidvest Foodservice. ‘As a forward thinking business, the sustainability agenda remains a key priority for us and I am very proud to see our team represented here tonight. It is great to be recognised for the work we are doing and today’s events inspire us to work even harder going forwards.’
With special thanks to our Headline Sponsor Nestlé Professional and our Category Sponsors Essential Cuisine, Green10, innocent, Johnson's Stalbridge, Kuehne + Nagel, Red Tractor, Reynolds, Sodexo, Spirit & TUCO.