The 2017 Menus of Change Annual Report was released today at the 5th Annual Menus of Change Leadership Summit by the chairs of the initiative’s two advisory councils. Menus of Change®: The Business of Healthy, Sustainable & Delicious Food Choices is a ground-breaking leadership initiative launched in 2012 by The Culinary Institute of America and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. It works to realize a long-term, practical vision integrating optimal nutrition and public health, environmental stewardship and restoration, and social responsibility concerns within the foodservice industry and the culinary profession. The conference is held at the CIA’s Hyde Park, NY campus, where more than 400 executives, experts, investors, and innovators in food, foodservice, health and nutrition, and sustainability are in attendance.
Included in the 2017 Menus of Change Annual Report are updates on the latest nutrition science and environmental issues, case studies, and a performance dashboard that measures progress towards improving nutrition, sustainability, and profitability in the culinary profession. Overall, the industry is making substantial gains, good progress, or at least holding steady on 13 of the 16 key issues. Performance improved in efforts to shape consumer attitudes and behaviors about healthy and sustainable foods, as well as the industry’s role in improving animal welfare. But the industry took a step back with regard to fish, seafood, and oceans, as well as diet and health, where progress slowed compared to last year, primarily due to an alarming continued rise in adult obesity rates. Garnering the lowest marks were water sustainability and climate change, which remain the two areas of greatest concern for the foodservice industry.
“Five years ago, the Menus of Change initiative called on the culinary profession and foodservice industry to use menu and recipe choices as a leading strategy for delivering healthier, more sustainable, and more delicious food,” said Arlin Wasserman, chair of the Menus of Change Sustainable Business Leadership Council and the founder and partner of Changing Tastes. “We also called on them to reconsider the role of protein as a primary area of focus and adopt plant-forward strategies. In just a few short years, we have seen remarkable progress in many areas, due to the efforts of so many in our industry to help guide and change what America eats, particularly when we eat out. The foodservice industry also relies on the harvest—and with the growing uncertainty around weather and water, we need to increase our efforts to manage these substantial risks.”
Today marks the celebration of the fifth year of Menus of Change, whose thought-leadership includes making plant-forward dining a mainstream concept among foodservice professionals and a burgeoning one among diners. One of the most important new features in the 2017 report is a concise, evidence-based framework around the term, which is informed by the 24 Principles of Healthy, Sustainable Menus. Menus of Change defines plant-forward as: A style of cooking and eating that emphasizes and celebrates, but is not limited to, plant-based foods—including fruits and vegetables (produce); whole grains; beans, other legumes (pulses), and soy foods; nuts and seeds; plant oils; and herbs and spices—and that reflects evidence-based principles of health and sustainability.
“We are inspired to continue to advance plant-forward menus because, while they may include delicious vegetarian and vegan options, they are more about leveraging the flavor opportunities and tremendous diversity of plant-based foods, rather than depriving anyone of certain foods,” said Greg Drescher, vice president of industry leadership and strategic initiatives for the CIA. “Chefs and foodservice leaders have already been displaying tremendous culinary creativity, as they too see plant-forward as a way of eating that a large percentage of consumers are likely to embrace and—unlike a diet—maintain across their lifetime.”
Over the next two days, conference attendees will hear from a world-class roster of presenters including foodservice executives, members of the media, leading nutrition and climate scientists, corporate sustainability leaders, investors, and some of the country’s top chefs exemplifying the tremendous culinary potential and business opportunities surrounding plant-forward menus. These include: Jonathan Farnell, CEO of the EAT Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden; Scott Uehlein ’85, vice president of product innovation and development at Sonic Drive-In; researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Victor Friedberg, co-founder of S2G Ventures; and many others. Breakout sessions include topics from strategies for scaling regenerative agriculture to new business models and case studies in shifting menus toward more plant protein. There are also Q&A sessions and culinary presentations by renowned chefs including Daniel Giusti ’94 of Brigaid and Dan Kluger of Loring Place.
“Dietary improvements over the last decade are already contributing to better health of Americans, and the many positive contributions of the foodservice industry are impressive,” said Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, chair of the Menus of Change Scientific and Technical Advisory Council and professor and former chairman in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan School. “However, with the abdication of national leadership in addressing climate change, our efforts to deal with this existential issue must be redoubled. The food sector has a central role to play by creating meals that delight diners and significantly contribute to those efforts.”
All conference general sessions are being streamed online and will be available for viewing and sharing at any time. The full program schedule and biographies of all the presenters can be found on menusofchange.org.
Throughout the year, Menus of Change continues to provide cutting-edge insights on issues facing the nearly $800 billion foodservice industry. Together, the CIA and Harvard are working to foster innovative business ideas and delicious menu concepts that address the issues in the report dashboard of greatest concern and lowest attention to date. While obesity, climate change, and water scarcity can be daunting topics, by improving consumer attitudes about healthy and sustainable foods, making great strides around protein options in particular, and demonstrating progress in many other key indicators over just a few years, the leaders of the American foodservice industry have shown they are up to the task.
Photo Caption and Hi-Res Image:
The 2017 Menus of Change Annual Report was released on June 20, at the opening of the 5th Menus of Change Leadership Summit at the New York campus of The Culinary Institute of America. (Image credit: J Wright Design/CIA)