Caterers involved in the Soil Association’s Food for Life Catering Mark spent £49.7m on British food last year – up 40% on 2015. There have also been “dramatic increases” in spend on organic, Marine Stewardship Council, RSPCA and Fairtrade accredited goods. Free-range spend rocketed 100%.
The new figures show that more and more public sector caterers are moving away from a “race to the bottom”.
For example, over 1.6 million meals are served every day under the scheme and over half of English primary school pupils eat food that holds the award. Over £71m is spent on ethical food schemes in schools annually, including £5.6m on free-range pork and poultry alone. All hospitals that hold the certification have also increased their ethical spend on food.
The figures are good news for producers too, said Catering Mark senior manager Rich Watts.
“There are obvious opportunities for UK farmers in supplying into the catering sector, and as more caterers look to source local food we’re only expecting demand to grow.”
Foodservice showed the strongest growth in organic sales of any sector in 2016, according to the Soil Association’s Organic Market Report, published in February. The 19.1% growth in sales of organic food and drink products into the foodservice market exceeded growth in supermarkets (+6.1%), independent retailers (+6.3%) and home delivery services (+10.5%) last year.
The report also noted that organic food is currently more widely available than ever before with many high street chains like McDonalds, Jamie’s Italian, Nando’s and Pret including organic products on their menus.