Sodexo is partnering with Knorr Professional and World Wildlife Fund – UK (WWF-UK) to serve planet-friendly foods in 5,000 global kitchens. The recipes will feature ingredients from Knorr and WWF-UK’s Future 50 Foods report, which identifies 50 plant-based foods that are healthy, flavorful, accessible and have a lower carbon footprint than animal-based foods. This comes in response to challenges associated with feeding a ballooning population, set to hit nearly ten billion by 2050.
“People are waking up to the fact that the food we eat is having a devastating impact on our environment,” says Sarah Halevy, WWF-UK Sustainable Diet Manager. “It’s vital that we change the way we produce and consume food, moving away from an over-reliance on animal protein toward more plant-based diets. Joining forces with chefs and the food industry is an important step that allows consumers to choose sustainable dishes, helping to drive the change that we desperately need to happen.”
Chefs and nutritionists from Sodexo and Knorr Professional developed 40 recipes that use Future 50 Foods. Five of the recipes will be rolled out to 2,500 US kitchens initially, including those at healthcare and corporate locations. The meals – which include an Ancient Grain Granola Bowl, Ube Maitake Tartine, Vietnamese Ancient Grain Bites Plate and a Tuscan Chickpea, Polenta and Rapini Bowl – will help consumers incorporate plant-based ingredients that support the ongoing biodiversity of our food system into their diets, says Sodexo.
A group of scientists, nutritionists and agricultural experts collaborated on the Future 50 Foods report, which was published earlier this year. They targeted specific healthy ingredients that could contribute to a more sustainable food system, such as lentils, wild rice and kale. Lesser-known foods including fonio, pumpkin flowers and cactus also feature thanks to their lower environmental impact and high nutritional value.
“Future 50 Foods represent an additional step toward more plant-forward and sustainable options. Incorporating a variety of foods into our diets is healthier and more flavorful and helps improve the planet’s overall biodiversity and soil health,” says Rob Morasco, Sodexo’s Senior Director of Culinary Development in the US.
The Future 50 Foods
The small range of food that the population relies on has a negative impact on health and on the planet. Even when people are getting sufficient calories, the narrow diets often don’t provide adequate vitamins and minerals. Rice, corn and wheat make up nearly 60 percent of calories from plants in the entire human diet, while 75 percent of the global food supply comes from just 12 plants and five animal species. Diversification is especially important in light of a study showing that climate change is already affecting the yield of the world’s top ten crops.
These issues facing the food industry motivated Knorr and WWF to create the Future 50 Foods report in a bid to provide people with more food choices to empower positive change. The list contains vegetables, grains, cereals, seeds, legumes and nuts from around the world and was developed to inspire greater variety in what is cooked and eaten.
The authors first set the focus of the report to be on plant-based foods, before assessing the nutritional value of each candidate food based on its nutrient to energy ratio. The environmental impact in terms of climate change and land use was then examined, although notably not the carbon footprint of shipping foods over long distances.
“To enable long-term, wide-spread change, we need to look at the food system from the global level. As the food system is highly complex, anything in the extreme will throw it off,” Laura Kloet, Global Communications Unilever Food Solutions, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
“All local food wouldn’t work and all international food wouldn’t work, while carefully opening up international trade opportunities for farmers in developing countries can improve the socio-economic status of that community. Additionally, many of the Future 50 Foods are grown in multiple geographical regions, including teff, Khorasan wheat, watercress, flaxseeds and walnuts,” she continues.
Culture and flavor were also assessed by Knorr’s cross-functional teams of marketers, nutritionists, chefs, and product developers. Finally, it was ensured that foods were distributed evenly across food groups, colors, production countries, and level of familiarity.
The list also intends to enable three major dietary shifts. Firstly, a greater variety of vegetables should be consumed to increase intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Plant-based sources of protein can replace meat, poultry and fish, resulting in reduced negative impact on the environment. Finally, more nutrient-rich sources of carbohydrates can promote agrobiodiversity and provide more nutrients.
The report notes how swapping staples like corn and white rice for fonio or spelt increases the nutrient content of a dish while contributing to greater agrobiodiversity, making the food supply more resilient. It also helps safeguard these ancient variants for future generations. However, not all of the foods listed are currently easily accessible. The organizations note that working with partners will allow the foods to become more commonly grown and more widely eaten.
This shift towards a plant-based diet is widely reflected throughout the industry, given the greater than 45 percent average annual growth in food and beverage launches with a vegan positioning (CAGR, 2013-2017) according to Innova Market Insights. Meanwhile, a UN report revealed that food systems must undergo a significant change to safeguard food security in light of global warming’s effect on fertile soil, with plant-based diets having a much lower impact than those that feature meat heavily.