Eating outside the home – demand for higher quality and British food grows by up to 100%

Caterers who hold the Soil Association’s Food for Life Catering Mark have once again dramatically increased spend on British, organic, free range, Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), RSPCA and Fairtrade accredited food. Most notable is the 100% increase on free range and the extra £14 million spent on British fresh ingredients through the scheme.

Eating out is the fastest growing part of the UK food market, outperforming the retail food grocery market, with consumers in the UK eating out more frequently. The total UK eating out commercial market was worth £85.4bn in 2015, with a growth rate of 2.9% [1], compared to flat retail sales.

The Soil Association’s Food for Life scheme encourages positive changes in the catering sector to more local, sustainable and ethical products. Through a Bronze, Silver and Gold awards system, points are given for spend on different schemes – Red Tractor and free range eggs are required by all meals at Bronze and above, and points are awarded for schemes like LEAF, MCS, RSPCA, Fairtrade and organic for the 60% of meals that meet Silver or Gold standards.

There are now over 1.6 million meals being served every day at Catering Mark standard and over half of English primary school pupils eat food that holds the award, meaning children are eating more British, sustainable and ethical food.

Senior Catering Mark Manager Rich Watts said; “These new figures show just how much impact the Food for Life Catering Mark is having on the wider environment and local economy. Soil Association research completed in 2016 showed that people want food they can trust, and the Catering Mark is a great way for businesses to demonstrate their commitment to ethical, sustainable food.

“Instead of a race for the bottom in terms of sourcing the cheapest ingredients for public sector catering, the award celebrates those who are making change for the better. It doesn’t just reward the steps taken by the caterer to refocus on sustainable and ethical food, but recognises British food and farmers.

“There are obvious opportunities for UK farmers in supplying into the catering sector, and as more caterers look to source local food we’re only expecting demand to grow”

The Soil Association is actively supporting links between suppliers and caterers through the Food for Life Supplier Scheme. It provides a simple service for Catering Mark holders to make purchasing easier and gives producers a direct link to buyers.

Kathryn Green, LEAF Sustainability Manager said; “We are delighted to see the growing interest in the Food for Life Catering Mark. These figures clearly demonstrate how effective the Catering Mark is in getting a commitment to more environmentally sustainable products, such as LEAF Marque certified products, in to suppliers and caterers such as in schools.  We are also pleased that access to LEAF Marque produce is growing with 34% of UK fruit and vegetables now being LEAF Marque certified, providing more opportunity for suppliers and caterers to source environmentally responsibly produced ingredients.

“This is part of a continued market recognition of the need for environmentally responsible agricultural production which will help drive more positive impacts on our environment.”

James Bennett, Head of Commercial Partnerships at Fairtrade said; “We’re delighted that the Soil Association’s latest report shows caterers are backing Fairtrade alongside other sustainable and ethical commitments through the Catering Mark, and in the past year, their spend alone on Fairtrade has increased by 8.5%. That reflects what is happening across the retail sector and the high street, where support for Fairtrade is going from strength to strength, and consumer awareness of the FAIRTRADE Mark is at a current high of 93%.

“This is making a huge difference for farmers and workers in some of the world’s poorest countries and today more than 1.65 million people benefit from our system of fairer prices and investments in farmers’ businesses and communities”

Marine Stewardship Council’s UK Commercial Officer Stefanie Siebels said; “It’s fantastic to see this growth in MSC certified seafood purchased through the Catering Mark scheme. Consumer demand for independently certified and traceable seafood has been increasing significantly and it is important for caterers to be able to provide this independent assurance. By using MSC certified sustainable seafood caterers are supporting sustainably managed fisheries and are playing a vital role in protecting the world’s oceans.”

Data was collected across Bronze, Silver and Gold Catering Mark holders for 2016 and increases shown compared to data from the previous year.

Highlights from the 2016 data:

–          £49.7 million is spent on British food through the Food for Life Catering Mark (raw ingredients from the UK, including meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, fruit and vegetables, oil, sugar and flour) – an increase of 40% over 2015. £38 million of this food meets Red Tractor standards.

–          Spend by Silver and Gold Catering Mark holders on RSPCA assured food is just under £2m per year and just under £900k on LEAF certified products each year

–          Organic spend by Silver and Gold caterers within the Catering Mark has increased by over £6m (59.4%) to £15.4m between 2015 and 2016

–          £7 million spent on MSC accredited fish (up £2 million from 2015)

–          £6 million spent on free range pork and poultry (outdoor reared/bread pork and poultry from the UK)

–          Schools: £71.6million is spent on ethical schemes in schools annually

–          Schools: over £5.6million is spent on Free Range pork and poultry per year

–          Early years: over £1.6million is spent on British ingredients in nursery school meals

–          Hospitals: all hospitals holding a Catering Mark have increased their ethical spend on food, with over £4million now spent across a range of schemes

–          Universities: Over £1.2 million is spent on ethical and sustainable schemes

–          Workplaces: workplace catering totalled over £111,000 spend on organic over the last year

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