Clean, sanitized, pre-packaged and to-go are buzz words that dominated the foodservice industry throughout the pandemic. Despite vaccinations continuing to move forward and establishments lowering restrictions, consumers still want operations to have the same level of sanitation efforts as earlier in the pandemic. In addition, the convenience of contactless service has become a mainstay of foodservice, and packaging increases are here to stay. And while sustainability took a backseat to necessity over the past year or so, there’s a rising trend driving it forward once again. Can the dichotomy of sanitation and sustainability exist together? Let’s dig in.
Increased sanitation efforts and contactless service take more resources to do it right. Packaging can get pricey and sourcing it has been a challenge. Some establishments purchase cheaper packaging options such as single-use plastics or styrofoam (that are less eco-friendly) to avoid passing along the added charge to their customers.
Also, the surge of packaging demands has and can create a necessity-trumps-all mentality, and foodservice operators sometimes take what products they can get their hands on. But with over two-thirds of consumers stating that they value environmental sustainability and look to purchase recyclable products and packaging, there’s a need for balance.
For environmentally-conscious operations, earth-friendly solutions are available. Food-safe packaging made from plant-based and biodegradable plastics, balsa wood or mycelium (to name a few) are environmentally safe options for your to-go needs. Recyclable materials like paper, cardboard and aluminum are also excellent sustainable choices. And as a bonus, research shows that roughly two-thirds of consumers perceive products in paper and cardboard packaging to be higher-end.
Sustainable packaging can indeed get pricey, but here’s the kicker, a whopping 74% of people are willing to pay more for it. So, if your establishment is on board with biodegradable, compostable or recyclable packaging, let your customers know that’s what you're providing. And the vast majority won’t sweat the extra change to put toward it.
There’s also a movement to put more reusable food packaging options into the mix. A few companies have contracted with some restaurants to provide reusable containers for grab-n-go meals. They have drop-off sites for the reusables to be washed and sanitized and put back into circulation.
Purchasing more from your local or regional supply chain helps increase sustainability efforts by decreasing the carbon footprint of travel (hello, diesel delivery trucks) and all the packaging needed for products to get through your operation’s doors.
Plant-based makes an eco-impact
There’s more to sustainability than purchasing eco-friendly packaging or locally sourced food. With the popularity of plant-based foods continuing to soar. Living a healthy lifestyle is just one of the main reasons consumers are choosing more fruits and veggies. Reducing meat consumption is also a way to help lower some of the eco-impact of livestock farming, meat processing and food packaging. Even increasing plant-based meals to once or twice a week can help reduce the carbon emission, waste byproducts and water usage associated with animal husbandry. Offering more plant-based options on your menu is a great way to help contribute to a more sustainable environment.
Care for Mother Earth.
Sanitation and food safety will always be a top priority in foodservice. But there are things your operation can do to also care for Mother Earth in the process. When consumers know you care about using eco-friendly options (along with their health and safety), it makes them feel good about dining at your operation. Interested in other ways to make your customers happy and healthy? Check out our blog, Immune Boosting Ingredients to Enhance Your Menu.