UNIVERSITY CATERERS are questioning whether chasing ethical accreditations is worth the effort given that price trumps all among their customer base.
The average UK student now spends just £105 a month on food – down £38 from a year ago. So, when they step into the campus canteen they want value for money.
“We cater for 40,000 students and 11,000 staff and when we surveyed them about their food choices, ethics came last,” said Alison Aucott from the University of Manchester. “We are passionate about delivering sustainability and put a lot of effort into it […] but it’s disappointing that our customers don’t recognise [that].”
Aucott captured the feeling at this week’s Footprint Forum – a lively debate that revisited the ethical labelling market.
Ethics do not always come with a premium price-tag, of course – but to gain third party accreditation requires strict auditing; in the complex supply chains of foodservice the behind-the-scenes costs can soon spiral.
Many firms are therefore struggling to know which labels to choose. “There is confusion in the industry and this is a real issue,” said TUCO chair Julie Barker. “If consumers don’t understand the traffic light system [detailing the nutritional content of products], then how on earth can they understand what all the ethical marks mean?”
A full report will be available in January’s Footprint.