Sodexo Finer Diner chefs at UCL

The rising popularity of plant-based diets

Published on : 1/8/20
  • There’s no doubting the exponential rise in the popularity of adopting a flexitarian approach to food, with an increasing number of people also turning to a more plant-based diet.

    Sodexo's Finer Diner and an employeeThis year, more than 300,000 people have signed up to take part in Veganuary, up from 3,300 just seven years ago. High street fast-food chains usually associated with meat-based foods such as Greggs and KFC are expanding their ranges to include vegan products such as sausage rolls, ‘steak’ bakes and burgers, and Deliveroo has reported that orders of plant-based dishes on its platform have risen 330% in the past two years.  

    Trends such as flexitarianism are symptomatic of a wider societal trend towards increased reflection and consciousness about what we are eating, how we are living and the impact we are having upon the environment.  

    As a food services provider and a responsible business, we are conscious of the impact our operations have on the environment and on the health and wellbeing of our consumers, which is why we believe the food industry needs to look towards creating menus with a more plant-based focus. 

    We have already introduced a number of plant-based offers, such as street food-inspired ‘Planted’, which has been positively received across many parts of our business, from universities to corporate businesses.  

    The trend in flexitarianism and the reduction in meat consumption is more prevalent among young people with a fifth of British 16 to 24-year olds identifying as either veggie or vegan and believing the world will be meat-free by 2030.  

    It is this trend which is driving demand for tasty and satisfying vegan options. With this in mind, last year we teamed up with our long-standing partner, the leading conservation organisation WWF, to deliver a touring pop-up restaurant at a number of our universities. The Finer Diner pop-up was developed specifically to help educate students on the environmental benefits of plant-based alternatives to meat and to provide them with the chance to try more plant-based foods in dishes they already favour. 

    Sodexo FIner Diner chefsOur Finer Diner pop up enabled students and staff at five universities to try their favourite dishes with a planet-friendly twist. We offered the classics such as tacos, curry and kebabs, featuring some of the Future 50 Foods: ingredients identified by WWF and Knorr that could boost the nutritional value of meals while reducing the environmental impact of our food supply, such as lentils and kale. 

    We knew this target market was already interested in a flexitarian diet so not only did we offer them samples of the dishes, as well as a number of plant-based cakes, but we also asked if they would make a pledge to reduce their meat consumption.  

    The reaction to the dishes and the interaction with the stand was overwhelmingly positive. Over 10 days at five universities across the UK and Ireland, we gave out 17,700 samples, with over 900 people pledging to reduce the amount of meat they ate.  

    The Finer Diner dishes are now regular fixtures on our university menus, making plant-based options as easily accessible as meat dishes, and we are looking forward to rolling this out across other parts of our business, too.  

    Reducing the impact of the food industry plays a key role in protecting our planet for the future. It’s only right that we lead the way in this fight.

    Written by Tom Laskey, Sales and Marketing Director, Schools and Universities, Sodexo UK & Ireland

    To find out more contact our universities business development team or click here to find out about our Universities offer.