Foodservice operators can offer more plant-based dining

Compass Group commits to more sustainable menus

By : Siobhan O'Neill
Feb 17, 2015

Compass Group, the world’s largest contract foodservice company has committed to greater sustainability across its catering in the United States, including reducing meat on menus.

Compass Group USA announced this week it is adopting four new, key initiatives based on the Menus of Change Principles of Healthy, Sustainable Menus. The implementation begins immediately.

The four initiatives are:

1)    Increasing customers’ access to vegetables and fruits by focusing on globally inspired, largely plant based cooking.

2)    Including recipes and concepts where meat plays more of a supporting role, reducing red meat portion sizes and offerings, and leveraging strategies from seasonal and local flavours, vegetable proteins and global cuisines.

3)    Increasing our offerings of grain options that are at least more than 50% whole grain.

4)    Employing conscious menuing and messaging that promotes health and sustainability through inspiring menus, customer interaction at the chef’s table and telling the story about great food.

Menus of Change is a national US educational project developed by The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and Harvard School of Public Health, Department of Nutrition that was launched in 2012. The project brings together representatives from all areas of foodservice – including chefs, nutrition and environmental scientists, farm and fisheries experts, foodservice executives and policy makers. It was this collaboration that inspired and informed the Menus of Change Principles.

Compass Group has been involved with Menus of Change since its inception and is a founding member of the Menus of Change Sustainability Leadership Business Council.

As a consequence Compass says it is adopting the initiatives across its foodservice business portfolio ‘to support the industry transformation that is necessary to ensure a sustainable future’. The initiatives build on the existing commitments that Compass has already made towards addressing health and sustainability within its operation.

Rick Post, Compass Group’s Chief Operations Officer said, "Not only is this the right thing to do for a sustainable future, it’s also a progressive wellness benefit for our clients and a significant menu expansion for our customers. Compass Group serves seven million meals a day and adopting this programme may benefit clients by improving the healthy lifestyle choices of their associates, and the health of the planet."

Compass has developed a Menus of Change scorecard to help benchmark and measure the progress of the programme. Developed in conjunction with the Group’s global purchasing organisation, Foodbuy, the scorecard will measure the purchasing volume of produce and red meat, as well as the spend on whole grains.

Christine Seitz, Vice President of Culinary for Compass Group USA Business Excellence said, "Increasing fresh produce and whole grains has always been front of mind, but now we are formalising these efforts with clear parameters and the ability to track our progress. Compass is also empowering its chefs to lead with “flavour first” to ensure we provide delicious, nutrient-dense meals for our guests. The new recipes and promotions our culinary teams have developed to support these programmes are truly inspired."

Greg Drescher, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Industry Leadership at The Culinary Institute of America who organises the Menus of Change initiative said, "We congratulate the leadership of Compass Group in taking these critical next steps in further aligning its menu and business strategies with the evidence-based Menus of Change Principles. By adopting these initiatives, Compass signals to our industry that now is the time for all of us to embrace the aspirations of our customers who want more food choices that are at once craveably delicious, healthy, and sustainable."

Chair of Menus of Change in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition said, "Compass Group is to be congratulated for its leadership in providing meals that are friendly to our planet and our wellbeing while also being a great dining experience."

Eating Better says the move toward greater sustainability and more plant-based menus from such a massive foodservice operator is a welcome step. Last year Eating Better launched our business engagement initiative to highlight  the important role that food companies play in helping people to make healthier and more sustainable choices, including shifts to more plant-based eating with less and better meat.

We said: Food businesses can help by offering more meat-free meals and creating lower meat and more plant-based dishes that are attractive, desirable choices for customers as well as sourcing 'better' meat for the meat they do use, that is naturally-fed, has a known provenance and is produced to high animal welfare, environmental and quality standards. This 'less but better' approach to meat eating can provide health and sustainability benefits while also providing cost savings.

We shall be encouraging Compass Group operations in the UK as well as other foodservice operators, caterers, suppliers, manufacturers and supermarkets to also adopt healthy and sustainable menus and offer greater choice to customers.

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