The Friday Digest: The price is right for meat reduction

Food and drink price inflation in the foodservice sector ended 2022 at 24%, according to the latest CGA Prestige Foodservice Price Index. All 10 food categories analysed saw year-on-year double-digit inflation in December with average prices of oils and fats surging by a whopping 47%.

In this context it’s little wonder that operators continue to look for ways to keep the cost of food down. Recent research by Lumina Intelligence found that cost saving measures were aligning with health and sustainability trends. Its menu and food trends report 2022 found that a focus on lighter and more meat-free dishes is enabling operators to handle price increases more effectively by reducing portion sizes and using less expensive ingredients.

Meat reduction also aligns with consumer trends. A global survey carried out by food and beverage supplier GEA found that 89% of chefs have experienced increased demand for alternatives to conventional meat, 89% for plant-based dairy, and 79% for alternative seafood.

Reducing meat on menus is a tactic businesses are deploying to help deliver against their net-zero commitments. For most businesses the vast majority of their emissions are in the value chain of which purchased goods like food and drink tend to account for the lion’s share. Sodexo UK & Ireland has committed to increase the number of plant-based meals and recipes to 33% by 2025 as part of its net-zero transition plan. The company reported this week that it has seen a 33% reduction in its scope 1, 2 and 3 greenhouse gas emissions since its baseline year of 2017, equating to over 300,000 tCO2e. Key decarbonisation measures include the replacement of all diesel and petrol company cars with electric and hybrid alternatives, and the procurement of 92% of electricity from renewable sources in FY22 as part of a commitment to switch to 100% renewable electricity by 2025 at its directly controlled sites.

Operators offering more sustainable menu options are increasingly looking to communicate the impact of those choices with the end consumer. Carbon or eco-labelling pilots have proliferated in recent months with Sky the latest to board the labelling wagon. The telecoms and media giant plans to roll out labels containing climate data to all 29 of its UK restaurants across 15 sites in partnership with catering provider Gather & Gather and eco-labelling start-up Foodsteps. The programme will see each meal or snack rated from A to E for its carbon intensity.

Onto packaging news and a long-awaited deposit return scheme for England, Wales and Northern Ireland has inched closer to becoming a reality after the government set out its plans in a consultation response. Campaigners have been left aghast by news that the scheme will not come on stream until October 2025 at the earliest, subject to a feasibility assessment with industry. And while the plans were welcomed by businesses including Coca-Cola and trade body the British Soft Drinks Association, the decision to exclude glass from the scheme (unlike in Scotland where glass is included; the Welsh government has also indicated it plans to include glass in its scheme) has left environmental groups scratching their heads. “In what kind of world is collecting glass drinks containers not an essential part of a system designed to collect drinks containers?” asked Megan Randles, political campaigner at Greenpeace UK, who went on to decry “five years of wasted action”.

The government has set a 90% collection target to be achieved within three years of the scheme becoming operational. Retailers selling in scope containers will be obligated to host a return point (with some exemptions). Among them will be Tesco which scored a PR win this week by announcing that it is now using plastic waste in its fresh fish packaging. From next week, many of Tesco’s fresh salmon, haddock, cod and sea bass lines will be sold in trays that contain at least 30% recycled coastal plastic collected from beaches, coastlines, and coastal communities around the Mediterranean sea.

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