Healthy food trends
February 19, 2018
‘Our goal is to continue to improve people’s health and wellbeing through the food that we serve’
Consumer demand, legislation and corporate responsibility are combining to shape Sodexo’s approach to healthier food and drink.
While the government tries to improve the health of the nation through legislation, Sodexo has its own goals to improve people’s quality of life. But ultimately the health and wellbeing demands of ever more discerning consumers are guiding the path towards a multitude of meals once viewed as ‘healthy’ becoming mainstream.
Wan Mak, head of nutrition and dietetics at Sodexo UK&I, explained: “We continue to ensure we meet government aspirations on specific food and drink policies and strategies, but as a global business we have our own responsibilities to nutrition and have commitments expressed in our sustainability plan, Better Tomorrow 2025.
“It’s our goal to continue to improve people’s health and wellbeing through the food that we serve and to give them the necessary information for them to make the best and most informed choices. We continue to encourage our chefs to use the right ingredients and to prepare food with this in mind.”
A significant collaboration in that direction has seen Sodexo and WWF working together in the UK to become leaders in creating healthier food options whilst reducing the environmental impact of our consumption.
Meals that taste good, are good for people and for the environment
Together, a family of sustainable meals has been created that combine nutrition, sustainability and Sodexo’s Better Tomorrow 2025 commitments. They are meals that taste good, are good for people and for the environment.
“As well as governmental policies we also recognise non-governmental strategies which we feel as a company we should be looking at, so we have an eye on environmental impact of the food we serve and are trying to encourage an increase in vegetable consumption.”
To that end, Sodexo joined major supermarkets, food-on-the-go chains and manufacturers last year to commit to increasing the amount of vegetables in their meals through the Peas Please initiative, organised by think tank The Food Foundation.
Research shows that eating too little veg contributes to 20,000 premature deaths in the UK every year and that we should all be eating at least an extra portion every day.
One industry commentator recently predicted a rise in lupin-enriched foods to help with appetite control. Lupin is said to lower blood pressure and improves insulin sensitivity.
This May will see the implementation of the Sugar Tax on soft drinks in an effort to tackle the worrying rise in childhood obesity, although producers are already coming up with recipes with reduced sugar content.
Sodexo has introduced natural alternatives to conventional energy drinks, which contain no added sugar, artificial flavours or preservatives. One product even claims to contain seven vitamins and minerals which are said to contribute to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.
Wan said: “We fully support sugar reduction and calorie reduction and we are starting to look at all of our recipes to see how we might reduce the amount of sugar in them.
“We are constantly trying to improve our recipes to fall in line with government legislation, and, while sugar and calorie reduction are in focus right now, we haven’t taken our foot off the pedal when it comes to salt and fats.” Sodexo was a founding partner of the Responsibility Deal in 2011 and has made good progress since.
“We have done this by training our chefs to use less salt, by reducing the amount of salt in our recipes, by using lower-salt products (such as unsalted butter and reduced salt and sugar baked beans) and by encouraging our customers to add less salt to their food,” said Wan.
Vegan and vegetarian options
Our high streets are already seeing established casual dining outlets opening vegetarian-only branches and there is a relentless rise in the availability of free-from products.
Peyton and Byrne, Sodexo’s retail brand at major cultural destinations and visitor attractions recently showcased vegan and vegetarian options at The National Café. Its new menu comprised dishes which used winter roots and a section featuring beans and pulses. While suitable for vegetarians, a number of vegan dishes were also included for those looking to rid their diet of meat, fish, dairy, eggs and honey.
Oliver Peyton, creative director at Peyton and Byrne, said:
“Anyone who thinks a vegan diet is boring can think again. It is a great opportunity to really explore the vast range of ingredients that is now readily available and it is a genuine test of creativity.”
Menu items marked to specify their calorie, protein, fat and carbohydrate content
Health and wellness is already at the heart of all the food and drink Sodexo offers at The Club House sports café in the David Ross Sports Village at the University of Nottingham.
Menus were prepared in conjunction with Sodexo’s health and wellbeing ambassador, Matt Dawson, the former England rugby world cup winner, to ensure they are nutritionally sound.
Fresh produce features heavily and menu items are clearly marked to specify their calorie, protein, fat and carbohydrate content. Familiar foods like cottage pie are developed with a healthy twist, using root vegetables, and pearl barley is used a lot as a carbohydrate.
Health and vitality honour
Calorie count labelling was also a factor in Sodexo’s Corporate Services segment recently winning an award in the Health & Vitality Honours – a scheme for businesses to showcase best practice and help create greater health and nutrition transparency in the foodservice sector.
It recognised Sodexo’s efforts at five UK sites of a large manufacturing client and account manager Tony Walton said the firm’s employees were encouraged to make healthy meal choices by having meals labelled with their exact number of calories.
Promotions offering discounts for people selecting healthier options had also proved effective. These included free fruit if £2 was spent and half price water for a week. Poached instead of fried eggs have now taken over as the preferred choice at one site, following one of the promotions.
“There has been a genuine team effort involving all of our onsite teams to make a success of this and we haven’t forced people to choose the healthy options, we’ve simply offered them the choice, and they’ve gone for it,” he said.
Feeding knowledge-based workers requires a different approach
A transformation is also taking place in the approach to feeding office workers, particularly as 18-25s enter the world of work.
According to the Harvard Business Review, the millennial generation of office workers are consumers of the workplace and, as they shop around for the jobs that best align with their needs and life goals, so the type of food on offer can influence their choice, as identified in Sodexo’s 2017 Global Workplace Trends report and in research Sodexo undertook in to knowledge workers in the UK.
Traditional breakfast, lunch and evening mealtimes are pretty much things of the past because the new generation are less likely to want to eat a lot all in one go but prefer to snack more frequently.
“Feeding employees in offices, what we term knowledge-based workers, requires a different approach, particularly since the very way people work these days is quite different to how it used to be,” said Adrian Evans, food transformation director for Sodexo’s Corporate Services segment.
“The new generation entering employment today wants to work for companies who look after their people and, for example, allow flexible working.”
Adrian continued: “The new generation of workers are very discerning and they generally take their health and wellbeing seriously and expect to be looked after in their workplace.
“Out in the high street, they are already making food and drink choices to fit those kinds of lifestyle decisions, so we have very much been looking at those sorts of products in a work environment and, like they would experience in their own time, making it available to them when they want it.
“There is a lot of emphasis on ‘grab and go’ and we see that trend is going to continue.”
For Adrian, it is about creating food experiences rather than simply the functional role of feeding people. By using behavioural science and subtle design, he wants people to find healthy eating appealing.
“That means it’s really important where the salad bar is sited in terms of it being the first thing people see as they enter the area,” he said.
“Likewise, with the positioning in cabinets of certain drinks. I want people to choose a hydration drink rather than one that’s sugary. It’s about engaging people to make healthy eating choices.”