Take a look inside the NEC Group’s new catering trial which provides low- carbon labels for sustainable food choices.
In a first for sustainability at events, leading live events caterer Amadeus has begun a trial which will see its food options at NEC Group venues labelled with the amount of carbon used to produce them. The trial is assessing the carbon impacts of 1,800 recipes sold at the NEC and ICC, labelling dishes as low carbon footprint on its menus.
Marc Frankl, Food and Beverage Director for Amadeus, explains why this trial is being implemented: “We take sustainability very seriously at the NEC group, not just within Amadeus. It’s a legacy from the 2012 Olympics, where we were looking at buying local and seasonal produce. Everything is from within a 30 mile radius and the majority of what we buy is from small and medium sized enterprises.
We then looked at our disposables and made sure they were compostable or biodegradable. Then we hit a bit of a wall looking at what else we could do that wasn’t just greenwashing but was genuinely beneficial.”
Marc hit upon carbon labelling as the next step in Amadeus’ sustainability journey, but implementing it came with challenges that required outside help: “There are companies out there whose systems are not as robust as I would like. If someone said to me: ‘prove that this is low-carbon’ I couldn’t have looked anyone in the eye and said: ‘It definitely is because I checked it.’ That was
one issue with implementing labelling. The second was the actual information that is required to make the system work. You have put your recipes in and be totally transparent, which is fine, but we have a busy culinary team. I didn’t want them to have to duplicate what they do on our system into a whole other system. That’s where Foodsteps comes in. I understood the rationale and how they track the food items and attributed the carbon label to that.”
“We take sustainability very seriously at the NEC group, not just within Amadeus. It’s a legacy from the 2012 Olympics, where we were looking at buying local and seasonal produce.”
Foodsteps offers a cloud-based platform, as well as labelling capability and QR codes. On the platform, food providers can upload recipes and view the sustainability impact of each ingredient. It can be used to monitor targets, develop new recipes, and improve a menu or product’s sustainability. The NEC venue is using its digital screens to direct customers towards this information, allowing event goers the capability to easily check the impact of each dish. The new labels will feature in the Edge restaurants at the NEC.
The trial provides the information that event delegates need to make an informed choice, without making that choice for them: “I hope that this will lead people making more sustainable food choices. As the environmental agenda gets louder and louder, people will start making the choice to move away from less sustainable food choices like red meat.”
This current trial comes to a close in March of 2023, and should it be a success, it is possible that we will see labelling carbon on foods spread throughout the events industry: “In terms of the industry, I think that there are people that will want to innovate and be first, and there will be people that want to follow,” Mark states. “Sustainability is not cheap to any business and there is a cost crisis going on within the events industry. I think this is more of a medium-term solution for everybody. It’s easier for businesses that have stock management systems to pick up as the recipe work is already there and available. But I do think there will be a rise in customer demand for this kind of information to be provided.”