5 Must Have Items For A Sustainable Menu: The New Menus of Change 2014 Report from the Culinary Institute of America and Harvard

Menus of Change 2014 What is the future of food in 3-5 years?

In 10-20 years?That’s the question I spent the last 3 days grappling with at the 2014 Menus of Change Summit, a ground-breaking conference that sought to tackle the most critical issues sitting at the intersection of human health and environmental sustainability (disclosure: I was given a free Media pass to attend).

A joint venture between the Harvard School of Public Health  and the Culinary Institute of America, Menus of Change is trying to lay out a new vision for what two-time James Beard Foundation award winning chef Michel Nischan called “our brittle food system”. Seeking to de-silo the worlds nutrition, foodservice, culinary and tech, the ultimate goal is threefold:   to forge a new dynamic, viable roadmap for serving food that’s utterly craveable and compelling to customers, in a way that is attractive to investors and business, but that’s  also sustainable and driven by health and nutrition. In other words, to really plumb the often preached...but less often practiced triple bottom line of “People, Planet, Profits.” And to attach hard, measurable metrics rather than soft, feel good language.

It’s a tall order, to be sure. And it was apparent that some of the companies present were more tied to the teat of the current status quo than others (for example externalizing costs associated with cheap livestock production that enables a $1 burger or soda). But to have the honest conversations, even if tense at times, was refreshing.

5 Must Have Items On A Sustainable Menu

To usher in the New Face of Food, to truly drive meaningful change and not just tinker at the margins, the group sought to identify targets that are  focused, clearly defined and transparent. In the ultra distill version, conference organizers challenged the audience to adopt the following 5 specific metrics in their Report:

  • Add 10% more produce every year (year over year) for the next 5 years. This will not only increase customers’ access to vegetables and fruits, it will likely reduce sodium levels.
  • Reduce meat portions in half of your menu items. Introduce recipes and concepts where meat plays a supporting role-leverage strategies from seasonal/local flavors to regional cuisines.
  • Always offer a 50 to 100% whole grain option with rice, pasta, potato, side dish and bread choices.
  • Tell your beverage suppliers that you want more innovative, natural, and less sweet beverage options-or better yet, craft them yourself.
  • Raise your standards for protein sourcing, including supporting producers who don’t administer antibiotics to healthy animals and doubling the different kinds of fish and seafood you offer, sourced from sustainably managed fisheries.

Rodale Organic Farm and Institute

A Taste of What’s to Come: Higher Quality Protein. More Produce + Whole Grains. Less Sugar.

You can read the CIA-Harvard 2014 Menus Of Change Report here . A blend of East Coast effeteness and West Coast innovation, it highlights the hot button issues at the crossroads of health, sustainability, and the business of food-including top nutrition concerns including sugars, whole grains, and the protein problem, which I've blogged about here. For a quick snapshot, check out the Principles Infographic here.

Memo from Millenials: “Share Not Just My Palate, But My Values” Millenial preferences are disrupting the landscape of corporate concepts and legacy brand. The quest for shared values is one of the top drivers of the mighty Millenials purchasing decisions (they will soon overtake Boomers in their buying power). And millenials have moved the consumer from being reactive to proactive: with today’s instantaneous access to information and social connection, brands need to be especially cautious-these values can’t be green washed and simply slapped on a label, they must be authentic, verifiable, and true to the brand’s core. Or Millenials will sniff them out, and fast.

To meet growing consumer expectations on cleaner, greener, leaner food-check out this a specific list of step by step principles developed by Menus of Change.

At the closing comments, Arlin Wasserman of Changing Tastes said simply: "Unlike many industries facing today's new world of resource constraints, climate uncertainty and economic risks, our solutions don't require massive investments in new capital or political legislation. We have only to change our menu."

You can check out all the conference discussion on Twitter at #CIAMOC.