Food is a commodity, that is wrong and needs to change

Report from the Food Innovation Forum

Interest in food and the issues involved in production and consumption are currently major topics for debate. Scandals in food production have put a focus on provenance and food legislature. Health and wellbeing are increasingly areas of focus for any organisation involved with food, and there is an important debate to be led in this area. Equally, education of food in schools needs support. The street food trend is one that is petering out and that raises the question: what’s next?

Last week EP launched a Food Innovation Forum to discuss precisely these areas of interest: trends, new ideas and how food is being affected in different sectors (hotels, bars, retail, B&I, education and healthcare). One of the main objectives behind this is drive a campaign around Food Innovation in order to inform groups not only in hospitality, but also the wider business community on major trends and topical ideas.

The first event was an informative session during which a number of key points were made:


How are we educating children on food?

The first EP Food Innovation Forum started off by discussing the current state of food education for children. Sara Jayne Stanes OBE, Chief Executive of The Academy of Culinary Arts, illuminated the group on the Chefs Adopt a School Programme. The programme is organised by The Academy of Culinary Arts by its Chef members that go into a school and teach three cooking classes to primary school kids. Each class is intended to give a basic overview of hygiene, food education and then teaches basic skills such as cutting vegetables and baking bread. The programme currently reaches 20,000 children a year which is a figure far less than the Academy of Culinary Arts would like to reach. As it stands the programme is supported by the membership fees to the Academy of Culinary Arts as well as fundraising that they do through events. Schools are not charged to have the chefs come and teach children. It is not mandatory at schools to teach children about food and the results – a lack of basic knowledge in nutrition and food education – are detrimental. It was evident that food education was a topic that many in the forum were passionate about as each member had a story they could relate highlighting the importance of food education for children.


On patterns of consumption…

Sustainability was a topic expounded upon by Jens Hannibal from O-food. By examining the current rate of consumption of food by the world’s population, alternative ways of looking at food must become the norm. Jens described current fishing policies and how in mass fishing, once boats reach their quota of certain types of fish, many fish are thrown back into the ocean. Once fish are caught, they are usually killed by the pressure of the nets which means any thrown back are waste. What was outlined by the forum was that while finding sustainable routes for protein was important, there also had to be a general change in mind set by the general public.


“Examine and try to understand the full journey of local food. Purchasing managers are sometimes pressured to find the most ‘local’ alternative. Businesses demanding local have a right to do so but at times don’t understand why a farm 40 miles away is chosen over a butcher in town. The ‘journey of local food’ takes into account that sometimes the butcher that is in town is serving meat that was shipped from thousands of miles away meanwhile the farmer is offering meat from his cows living 40 miles away. Many people want local but few examine the food’s journey.”



Increased interest in health…

The rise of free-from products was touched upon in light of some interesting statistics from Coeliac UK. The market is growing faster than nearly any other food category. The global gluten-free market is set to grow by £800 million over the next five years to be worth over £2.96 billion (Datamonitor).

“I wanted to create a ‘living product’ where nutrients are still preserved.”

“Food is a commodity, that is wrong and needs to change.”

The cold-press juice trend and its benefits were explained by Kara Rosen, founder of Plenish Cleanse. Her business has expanded very quickly because of the growing interest in detox and healthy food. The members of the forum representing caterers had found that in their business there was a mixed approach to increasing healthy alternatives in catering. For some clients, there would be executives or people who could influence what was being purchased that may have an interest in healthy food that would then affect the catering offer. For other clients, it was the demand from the consumers asking for healthier choices at work that would later influence the availability at work.

“Placing a hand-made artisanal sausage next to its industrially made and mass produced counterpart has created visual awareness for our consumers. Although the artisanal product is usually more expensive, they can see the difference in quality and are willing to invest in that food. It is a small step in educating people on alternatives available but it’s a step that is worthwhile to take.”

A trend that has been growing over the past couple of years has been the shift in interest for products made by large companies to products made by smaller usually more local brands. This shift in interest towards more artisanal products was trialled by one of the catering companies that would place the choices side by side. In general, it seemed like the past few years had seen a small but steady interest in quality over quantity. The concept of investing in food was one that linked back to the state of food education.


Food and social media…

Twitter and Instagram

The role of social media in advertising food and different products was discussed in the forum. New trends and products can usually be spotted on social media either through twitter or instagram as more people shift towards constantly sharing what they’re eating or consuming through those mediums. Brands are looking to join the conversation and establishing themselves online is seen as an imperative aspect of brand awareness.

EP’s Food Innovation Forum was set up to discuss new trends, health and wellbeing, sustainability and initiatives in food. It will be driving a campaign to inform groups in hospitality and the wider business community. Anyone looking for more information on this quarterly event should contact Nicole Thompson at:

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