Sustainability in the food and hospitality sector is a big topic to touch on. Future Food placed it on the list of top 10 trends to look out for in 2018 with it being less of a ‘trend’ and more of responsibility that food and hospitality businesses must now uphold. There are no more excuses. Even global fast food giant, McDonald’s is jumping on board with a recent statement announcing that by 2025, all packaging supplied by the chain would be from renewable, recyclable or certified sources after customers expressed their concern for the impact of the chain’s packaging on the environment. This type of action will become more common as an increasing amount of customers place greater pressure on the businesses they invest in to improve sustainability measures. So, whether it’s a food precinct in a development or a single food operator, we all need to be thinking about ways in which we can deliver on sustainability to ensure the food and hospitality industry is doing their part for the environment.
The big push for more sustainable practices comes from the shifting population as the big spending moves into the hands of the Millennials, Generation Y and Generation Z. Collectively, this group of customers have their eyes on what is important to them and that’s health, the planet and putting their money where they see value. They may get touted as the flippant generations, darting from concept to concept, but they do have constant values and for food, these include factors such as food waste, food miles, local food, organic growing and sustainable practices.
With the spending power moving into the hands of these population groups, food and hospitality businesses must be aware of their preferences and ensure they deliver on them if they want to attract their spend. 72% of Generation Z, the youngest generation, are willing to pay more for products that are committed to positive social and environmental impact proving there is not only positive gains for the environment but also for business if sustainable practices are part of the operating model. So what do they want to know and see? They want to know where their food comes from and their preference is for local, they want to engage with brands who support their farmers and producers, they want to be served their food in containers that can be recycled or composted, they want to see designated bins in precincts to allow them to participate and they would be happy to see some of the cut going to a charity or organisation supporting the greater good.
However, sustainability doesn’t mean the token use of eco-packaging at the end of the purchasing story. It should be ingrained into the processes and narrative of the concept or precinct. It’s also important to note that you don’t have to be a ‘green’ concept to be operating as one. Take Shannon Bennett’s Australian burger concept, Benny Burgers which serves food not typically classified as ‘healthy’ or ‘sustainable’ yet they stand by choosing local and supporting ethical farming processes. And the South Melbourne Market, a food precinct and fresh food market place in Melbourne which quietly churns out fertiliser made from recycling all offal, food and preparation waste, expired food products, ground coffee and plate scraps that the operators and customers create during trade. These business don’t constantly shout their sustainability standards out to the crowds but they do let customers gently know through integrating it into marketing and social media and they make information available on their websites or in-store for those who want to read more about it. It is these types of practices that are becoming the norm in the food and hospitality industry and even more businesses will jump on board as it becomes a key priority for their customers.
So where do you start when it comes to becoming more a more sustainable business? You start where the most difference can be made and that means an assessment needs to be done. You need to know where processes could be improved from operational aspects such as waste removal or food production all the way through to what impact packaging and branding has on the environment. For most businesses not everything can be done at once but prioritising changes in relation to what is important to your business and customers is the first step in becoming a more sustainable business or precinct. By becoming a more sustainable business (which ultimately everyone will have to do), you will attract the new wave of customers moving into the spending seats and therefore, have the opportunity to achieve greater business gains. Stay tuned for next week’s post where we walk you through the process of assessment and key areas for change as well as our approach to creating more sustainable precincts and operators in Australia and around the globe.