Tackling food waste and cutting carbon

One third of all food produced globally goes to waste, and if it were a country it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases. We speak to Fooditude, a catering business, to find out how they are making significant carbon reductions and reducing food waste.

Charlotte Cameron
Fooditude team
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Fooditude, pioneers of delivered in office catering since 2005, started their sustainability journey seven years ago when they became a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association. It gave them a framework for developing their sustainability policy, and in 2019 they furthered this by becoming a Planet Mark member. At that time, they were the first catering company to measure and reduce their carbon footprint with Planet Mark giving them a significant competitive advantage. In their first year of certification, Fooditude made a reduction of 30% absolute carbon and 31.1% on a per meal basis.  

Challenges facing the sector

Fooditude, like many companies in the catering and hospitality sector, face a unique set of sustainability challenges, some of which centre around demand for specific produce. Regularly consumed foods like meat and dairy are often not sourced sustainably and associated with high carbon emissions. High demand for other fresh produce, like avocado and berries, may result in high carbon emissions as they are not always available locally or in season.  

Traditionally the sector is heavily reliant on fossil fuels, like natural gas and coal, for cooking, and fuel usage is high due to the use of refrigerated vans for food deliveries. 

The other significant challenge facing the sector is the high incidence of food waste across the supply chain, for example surplus or misshaped produce at farms, incorrect transportation or storage, preparation waste, overproduction, plate waste and waste arising due to quality management practices like ‘best before’ dates. According to Olio, between 33-50% of all food produced globally is never eaten, and the value of this wasted food is worth over $1 trillion. In fact, if food waste were a country it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter after China and USA. Any efforts to reduce food waste in the catering and hospitality sector can make a significant impact on reducing carbon emissions.  

Tackling food waste

Fooditude have put into place several initiatives to monitor and reduce food waste in their kitchens and at client sites. To address issues of overproduction they measure and analyse data around their food waste and standardise portion sizes. They also work closely with clients to ensure they are catering to correct head counts.  

The company sources surplus and misshaped fruit and vegetables for their daily catering menus and adapt menus to use whole ingredients, for example using parts of vegetables that are otherwise discarded in other recipes – like broccoli stems in stews.  

Kitchens have clear bins for senior chefs to ensure no ingredients are unnecessarily wasted, and the company has installed a large ORCA machine which processes unavoidable food waste on site and disposes of it through the sewage system. This in turn eliminates transport to waste management facilities.  

Fooditude have also formed a partnership with Olio, an app connecting neighbours with each other and local businesses to share surplus food.  

Measuring and cutting carbon

Through their Planet Mark certification, Fooditude identified that their three largest emission sources were from building, transport and waste.  

After measuring their utilities consumption, they added motion sensor lights to common areas and energy saving communications through their premises, contributing to a 5% decrease in electricity consumption.  

To further tackle their waste, they switched waste management suppliers to a company with better recycling and management credentials, and have also invested in new dishwashers that conserve more energy and water. 

The carbon reduction initiatives implemented throughout the company have helped to engage staff in Fooditude’s sustainability journey. This is furthered by regular sustainability-related training which everyone in the company completes. Studies show that an increasing number of employees are looking for purpose-driven roles: businesses that are putting purpose before profit, taking action on global issues beyond the products or services they provide. Through engaging their team in their sustainability journey, the business is attracting and retaining talent who are passionate about sustainability and are helping to drive their ambitions forward.  

Engaging stakeholders

Fooditude are working to engage all stakeholders – from their employees to their supply chain. They are increasingly working with sustainability-minded suppliers: they partnered with Angry Monk who bring them rescued surplus vegetables from markets across London, and with Paddi who bring them sustainability-grown rice from across South-East Asia.  

To communicate to their customers more broadly, they publicise their sustainability policy on their website which is shared with employees, clients and prospects. This policy outlines the company’s progress and targets for the forthcoming year.  

As members of both Planet Mark and the Sustainable Restaurant Association, Fooditude display certificates and logos across their website, blog and social media. In addition to this, they have set up a dedicated sustainability section on their website that is optimised for search terms such as ‘sustainable caterer London’. Three of their most recent client prospects found the company through these searches, demonstrating the business benefits of companies authentically communicating their sustainability commitments.  

Fooditude has found that customers are increasingly asking for sustainability commitments, and are now more discerning, knowledgeable and able to recognise genuine sustainability over greenwashing. To further attract sustainably minded customers, they conduct media outreach with catering and facilities management publications to establish themselves as a leading voice in the sector, and have achieved media coverage, case studies, features, interviews, podcast appearances and more for their sustainability efforts. 

In 2021, Fooditude were part of Planet Mark’s sustainability training in partnership with Google where they shared the tangible actions they have taken to reduce their carbon emissions.  

The company regularly communicate their sustainability efforts to their clients on site, for example recently they introduced signage at a client site discouraging them from bringing in single use plastic bottles, this amounted in a 20% reduction in water bottle usage across a four-week period. 

Future targets

Looking to the future, Fooditude is aiming to reduce their emissions by 13% or more annually. They are also looking to do the following:  

– Purchase at least 25% of their ingredients from within 100 miles of central London 

– Create an energy saving plan for the kitchen 

– Source electricity from 100% renewable resources from February 2022 

– Research alternatives to gas appliances and the boiler 

– Trial bicycle deliveries 

– Research using electric vans from August 2022 

– Include carbon labeling on all their food  

– Pledge to reduce food waste by 50% by 2025 under WRAP’s UK Food Waste Reduction Roadmap. 

We visited Fooditude during the Zero Carbon Tour to see first-hand the work they are doing to cut carbon. You can watch our interview with them here.  

We also were joined by Matthew Byne, Director of Food at Fooditude, for a webinar on reducing food waste which you can watch back here.