Travel & Lifestyle

World Chefs Congress: Climate Labelling is Essential to Drive Sustainable, Plant-Based Food Future

Speaking on a panel discussion in Abu Dhabi, Reinier Weerman says more than 60% of millennials are actively reducing or seeking to reduce consumption of meat, dairy

Adding climate labels on food products and descriptive messages that show the benefits of plant-based food choices can help educate, foster positive change, and shape consumer decisions to shift to more planet-friendly diets. That is the view of Upfield – the world’s largest plant-based food company – speaking on the opening day of the Worldchefs Congress & Expo 2022 in Abu Dhabi.

Taking place at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, the four-day event is the only trade expo dedicated to international chefs, bakers, cooks, and culinary, hotel, restaurant, and catering students, hosted by the World Association of Chefs’ Societies and representing 10 million culinary artists worldwide. With up to 5,000 chefs from more than 110 countries expected to attend before its culmination on June 2, the Worldchefs Congress & Expo 2022 features masterclasses, panel discussions, competitions, and seminars hosted by experts.

Reinier Weerman, General Manager – Middle East & North Africa, was part of a panel discussion exploring how to reduce climate cost of food and how chefs are changing their menus. He said it is “critical” to include climate labels on food products as such labelling can empower people to change behaviour and choose lower-carbon dishes.

Reinier Weerman, General Manager – Middle East & North Africa, Upfield

“Our #makeitplant campaign aims to support and encourage chefs globally to adopt more sustainable and dairy-free alternatives by introducing an expansive range of plant-based options to their menus,” said Reinier during the discussion, moderated by Chris Koetke, chairman, Worldchefs Feed the Planet Committee. “In the next five years, climate labelling will drive sustainable products, either mandated by the government or manufacturers adding it on their own. That’s why we are calling on all chefs to take the pledge on our website.”

Weerman hopes to see a lot more menu options for millennials in coming years. “Millennials and Gen Z, who make up the bulk of restaurants’ customer base, will drive demand because more than 60 per cent of them are actively reducing or seeking to reduce meat and dairy consumption.

“Just now they don’t see enough options in restaurants. Menus should have options for a group of people that need a mix of possibilities, including vegetarian and plant-based.”

According to Weerman, the demand for plant-based foods is growing 2.5 times faster than total food sales – especially among millennials. Chefs, but also procurement and retailers, must focus on adding more plant-based ingredients to their menus, he added. As the restaurant and hospitality industry returns to normality after the pandemic, collaboration between all stakeholders is essential

“We are driving this change and helping increase adoption,” said Reinier. “The plant-based food has 57 per cent home penetration in the United States, yet only 14 per cent of menus have similar options. Our focus then is on boosting the adoption of plant-based diets while restaurants are still in the recovery mode.”

Weerman explains that incorporating plant-based options to menus is not difficult for chefs and advises them to explore it one dish at a time. “Adopting plant-based menus all at once is probably impractical; nevertheless, experimenting with more creative ways to cater to consumers looking for plant-based meals will be ideal and simply good for their business.”

As the largest plant-based food company globally, Upfield is leading the change with plant-based products that have a much lower carbon and methane impact than their dairy equivalents. Small changes can have a large impact with plant-based spreads generating on average 70 per cent less climate impact than dairy butter and our vegan cheese alternatives have on average 50 per cent less climate impact.

“When people choose Upfield products instead of their dairy counterparts, it is estimated they are collectively helping save six million tonnes of CO2e annually, based on global sales volumes,” said Weerman. “That’s almost twice as much as our own footprint. That’s the same as powering a million homes for a year. By helping more people switch to our products instead of dairy, we can make an even bigger impact on carbon reduction.”

According to its 2021 ESG Report, Upfield put carbon labels on 120 million packs, over-delivering on its 100 million target.

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