THE CHIEF executive of CH&Co’s business and industry arm talks about the company’s new sustainability strategy and the ‘quirky things’ her chefs have achieved with cakes.
David Burrows (DB): Good morning Caroline. Thanks for coming along and being the first person to join me on a “smoothie date”. You must feel honoured.
Caroline Fry (CF): Naturally. Given that it’s January I’m trying to cut down on the coffee anyway.
DB: Ah yes, new year resolutions and all that. Health is always a top priority in January, but in catering it seems to be something that we’re talking about all year round now.
CF: It’s certainly been one of our top priorities for a while. We have so much control over what our customers eat – it’s an area that we can really work with our clients on, so their staff get quality, healthy food, but a few treats too.
DB: I am yet to be convinced there’s such a thing as a healthy treat.
CF: Of course there is. In fact, we’ve managed to do some pretty quirky things with our cakes.
CF: Our chefs have been working with the nutritionist Amanda Ursell to try and cut the calories in the cakes we serve. It’s not been easy. They tried stevia sugar first, but that ruined our recipes and it’s pretty expensive. So they tried fruit puree and it’s worked a treat. We think it’s the healthiest cake ever, given that there’s at least 100 calories less per portion. And it tastes just as good as it did before.
DB: How do you know?
CF: I’ve tried it.
DB: I’ve missed a trick here. Perhaps this column should be “a cake and a smoothie with...” Anyway, why the big focus on calories and cakes?
CF: Well, we’ve signed up to the calorie reduction pledge in the Public Health Responsibility Deal. It’s not just cakes
where we can make progress, either – we’ve introduced a range of calorie-counted salads and sandwiches. It’s one of a number of things we’re doing as part of a new CSR programme we’re launching later this month.
DB: What’s it called and what’s it about?
CF: It’s called CRESS, which stands for “corporate responsibility for the environment, society and sustainability”. Within it we’ve got five areas that we’ll be focusing on, which include health and wellbeing, people, suppliers and sourcing, the environment and the community.
DB: Why have you changed things?
CF: I don’t think we’ve changed things really, as these are all areas we’ve been working on for years. The problem was that we had a scattergun approach. CRESS brings the work together and brings it to the core of our business. That’ll help us work better internally but it’ll also help us communicate what we’re doing.
DB: So you’ll be marketing your sustainability a little more?
CF: Definitely. I don’t think we’ve shouted enough in the past, despite the success of initiatives like Ugly Fish Friday [with CH&Co’s Lusso division]. It’s a competitive market out there and our clients want to know what we’re doing, and CRESS will help us tell them and help us keep track of our progress.
DB: Sustainability is very much still on the agenda, then?
CF: I think our clients expect sustainability now – and it makes commercial sense. I’ve always said that anything we do needs to be commercially viable; there’s no point doing things for the sake of it – or just so you can send out a press release. That’s why we’re thinking very carefully about the kind of targets we are setting under CRESS going forward.