4 minutes

Food trends and resource consumption - what is the climate impact of our food?

Sustainability is not a passing trend, as the topic is just evolving from a movement to the mainstream. Sustainable cooking is not only in vogue at home; in the meantime, many large kitchens are switching to climate-friendly cooking. Especially for young people in big cities, the topic of nutrition has become very important. Never before has there been so much written, talked and discussed about it: "low carb," "clean eating," "interval fasting" - never before have there been so many different nutrition trends as today. 

Nutrition trends are important for many people not only for health reasons. Likewise, they offer the opportunity to express one's own values in another area of life.

Now that home office options have been eliminated in many companies, and universities and schools have returned to face-to-face teaching, community and system caterers are faced with a new challenge: It has become more difficult to meet all requirements, plan correctly and still keep an eye on the budget. 

What do out-of-home catering customers want to eat?

The BMEL's Nutrition Report 2021 "Germany, as it eats", which is based on a survey by the opinion research institute forsa, has summarized the most important trends that we also keep coming across. It is interesting to see that the importance of three factors (consumption of fruit and vegetables, meat consumption, plant-based diet) has increased: 

  • The daily consumption of fruit and vegetables has increased by 6 % compared to the previous year and this for about ¾ of the respondents 
  • Daily meat and sausage consumption decreases: by 8% compared to 2015 
  • 8% of all respondents consume animal substitutes. The proportion of vegetarians and vegans has also risen to 10% and 2% respectively
  • Regionality is an important decision criterion for 82% of those surveyed, the organic seal for 64
  • 73 % are in favour of species-appropriate animal husbandry (increase of 13 % compared to the previous year, especially among 19-24 year-olds) 
  • 54% want emissions from food production to be reduced and think they can influence climate change by making conscious food choices

Basically, regionality and climate neutrality were most important to consumers according to this survey.

Conclusion from the 2021 Nutrition Report: "Buy more consciously, support regional producers and do something for climate protection at the same time: This has become more important for many people," says Federal Minister of Food Julia Klöckner.

Experts also share the same opinion: climate protection is the priority!

The nutrition platform Nutrition Hub asked 75 experts what they thought the nutrition trends would be in 2021. Here, too, the answer is clear: plant-based, smart and climate-friendly. 72% of the experts surveyed believe that a vegan and plant-based diet will be the most important type of nutrition in the coming years. For 59%, personalized diets are in second place. This is because many people have special dietary requirements, e.g. due to sporting activity or physical conditions. Climate disasters and the Corona crisis have made many consumers more aware of the issue of sustainability and they are paying more attention to how they eat.

Sustainability, i.e. the origin of products, animal husbandry and impact on the climate, takes third place among the most important food trends.

Those who opt for plant-based alternatives and climate neutrality today will be well prepared tomorrow.

As the population grows (by 25% by 2050), resources will also become scarce - less water and arable land will be available to produce our food, more people will go hungry (food demand will increase by 50%). Other alternatives such as meat substitutes or cultured meat will soon have to be available. 

Nutrition trends in the canteen - discovering your own potential and conserving resources

A Pizza Margherita (750g) causes 1260 l water consumption. (Source: Utopia) An average main course causes about 1.6 kg CO₂ emissions per serving (Source: Tagesspiegel)

For many businesses in AHV, it has become very difficult to meet all these requirements while remaining profitable. We have reported in another blog post about the different methods that can support you in this: e.g. by introducing fixed vegetarian/ vegan days (meatless Monday), by measuring the CO₂ footprint of the food (Klimateller) or even by cooperating with regional producers (organic farmers). With or without a pandemic - the situation is dynamic and requires constant adaptation. Often, a survey of the status quo helps as a basis for the next measures. Before we started working together, many of our partners assumed that not many resources would be wasted and that their food waste would be low. However, after recording the wet waste with our Food Waste Monitoring, large potentials could often be made visible. With the help of this tool, it is possible to analyze exactly what proportion of prepared food is disposed of and where exactly the food waste is generated. From these values, it is then possible to determine the imputed CO₂ emissions of the disposed meals to illustrate how many resources were consumed.

With 30% less waste, 19,440 kg of CO₂ emissions could be saved per year*. 

*Assumption: 1 canteen with 1000 meals/day at 20 opening days/month

The production of our food (from field to plate) consumes 70% of the world's fresh water and accounts for 29% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

How much water does my lunch use?

However, food waste can not only be converted into CO₂ equivalents, but the consumption of fresh water can also be determined analogously. According to the Federal Environment Agency, our daily (virtual) water consumption in Germany is about 3900 l per capita. Many consumers are not aware that so-called virtual water is consumed through the consumption of goods from industry and agriculture. For example, 1 kg of potatoes consumes 290 litres of water, and 1 kg of beef consumes 15,400 litres of water. There are many differences between vegetables and meat, between regional and imported. To illustrate this even better, we have taken a closer look at a few of our favourite dishes and calculated their CO2 and water footprints:

Water consumption of a portion of spaghetti bolognese Calculation Delicious Data
How much water does our lunch consume?

Calculation of the CO2 and water footprints of popular main meals:

One portion (500g) of spaghetti Bolognese causes 1.3 kg CO₂ and a water consumption of 1,237 litres, whereas the vegetarian version (meat replaced by soy shreds) causes only 0.503 kg CO₂ and consumes only 412 litres of water. 

A Wiener schnitzel with potato salad and vegetables produces 1.6 kg of CO₂ emissions and consumes 2,765 l of water. If the same portion is served with imported rice as a side dish, the figures increase: 1.8 kg of CO₂ emissions are produced for a Wiener schnitzel with rice and vegetables. At the same time, 3,058 l of water are consumed. 

The average value of these 4 meals resulted in emissions of 1.3 kg CO₂ and a consumption of 1,868 l water per meal (assumption: one serving equals 500g).

* In calculating the above figures, we have followed the information provided by the WFN (Water Footprint Network - non-profit international network). For the CO₂ emissions, we took the data from the Tagesspiegel for help.

Which food trends are good for my kitchen and protect the climate?

Decisive for a sustainable diet is not only whether we reach for vegetables or meat, but also where these foods come from and what impact they therefore have on the climate. The bottom line is that guests want to eat healthy and expect the same in out-of-home catering. A mix of all these trends that fits our lifestyle and is good for the climate at the same time is the optimal approach. Implementation in one's own business is possible with the help of suitable support. Artificial intelligence can be a lever to meet the growing demands of guests without the need for more staff or new knowledge. Optimal planning and process optimization can be handled by our machine learning algorithm. This leaves more time to adapt recipes to nutritional trends and focus on sustainable concepts!

Checked off

More profit.

Checked off

Less Food Waste.

Checked off

More time for customers.