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Did you ever stop and wonder what makes you decide what to eat?

Is it driven by lifestyle or dietary needs? Maybe your mood or craving of the moment? Believe it or not, the way we talk about food matters. We recently carried out a body of research in partnership with the Food for Climate League around recipe naming and we learned that we can use something as simple as words to make healthier choices much more appealing to our guests.

We are the change makers

This is really exciting because it means that as a chef, I can help our guests by providing healthier meal options, but I can also help our planet be healthier, too. I think about our planetary challenges quite often. I’m passionate about great food, but I’m even more passionate about making food a force for good in the world.  Today, agriculture accounts for roughly a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, of which approximately 60% is generated by animal agriculture specifically.  Simply put, our reliance on animal-based protein puts incredible strain on the environment. On top of that, current agricultural practices are not sustainable with a third of our food production going to waste each year. We clearly need to change our eating habits ౼ our planet’s survival depends on it.  

Building blocks for a more sustainable future

Our chefs can play an important role here.  In order to reach Sodexo’s ambitious sustainability goals, we are constantly looking for ways to drive change in our kitchens. We work with vendor partners to introduce more innovative plant-based products with a smaller environmental footprint into our menus. We create recipes with lesser known ingredients that are better for the planet such at the Future 50 recipes we developed with Unilever chefs. We work with NGOs such as the Humane Society to introduce more vegan and vegetarian options into our menus. We also partner with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the World Resources Institute to enhance our menus and serve our guests more sustainable and plant-based meals. These are just some of the ways our we are addressing the growing demand for sustainable food and preference for simple, clean, local and healthy ingredients.

While there is a strong case to push for big, sweeping change, we also need to consider our guests’ preferences and ensure that they continue to enjoy the meals we serve.  The challenge we face is about bringing together the passion of our chefs, quality and sustainable ingredients to create beautiful dishes that our guests want to eat. We strive to find that sweet spot that will drive the crucial change we need in the food industry while also ensuring that mealtime remains meaningful and enjoyable with delicious menu options.

What’s in a name?

This means that in order to make the most of our sustainable food initiatives, our guests actually need to choose these healthy, earth-friendly meal options. This is where our research comes in. We learned that language alone can shift purchase intent. What stood out most to me among these findings is that the terms plant-based, vegan and sustainable can discourage selection. It can cause guests to feel that these dishes or ingredients are ‘different’ or ‘missing’ and focus on what isn’t there rather than what is. 

If we wish to encourage a climate friendly meal choice, we need to avoid food ‘jargon” in a recipe name.  Language that is clear, simple, familiar, non-exclusionary and understandable to the majority of guests on-site will always win. This needs to be front of mind for our chefs as they consider the names of their dishes. This is why we’ve made these findings available to our chefs around the world to ensure their recipe name connects and resonates with specific generations and demographics.
  
Our chefs approach this issue holistically: Not only are we continuing to develop guest centric plant-based dishes, we are driving intent to purchase healthy options through dish descriptions, but we are also delivering on quality. And with today’s focus on contactless and online ordering, dish description has never been so important.  The work of Sodexo’s Future Food Collective is just one of our ongoing initiatives to spread the word about sustainable eating and the importance of offering a broader variety of plant-based dishes.  

While a recipe name alone won’t ensure that people will drastically change their eating habits, it certainly nudges them in the right direction and is key to positively supporting our guests with both their health and environmental impact.
 

Find out more about Sodexo Food Services.

 

This article was published for the first time on the personal LinkedIn account of Lloyd Mann, VP Culinary and Global Executive chef, Sodexo

The photography from this article was captured by Chef Aymeric Halbmeyer - find out more about Aymeric in his career story.

March 12, 2021

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