Wholesalers play a crucial role in helping caterers to comply with nutritional and sourcing standards, writes Coral Rose
“You shouldn’t eat this, you need to cut that out.” We hear it all the time these days from the media, the irony being that it often feels like the endless stream of ‘XYZ is bad for you’ messages dished up is being rammed down our throats.
However, you can’t argue with the facts. Over the past few years, there has been a marked increase in obesity rates, the latest NHS figures showing that in 1993, 13% of men and 16% of women were obese. By 2011, this figure had shot up to 24% for men and 26% for women and it’s going to get worse, as around 30% of children and young people are overweight or obese.
It was only a matter of time before the foodservice industry started to feel the effects and I’m not just talking about the likes of school-meal providers, who are now bound by a host of stringent guidelines, and care homes, which are looking to meet the standards of the National Association of Care Catering (NACC).
The profit sector has largely kept out of the healthy-eating debate, arguing that people who go out to eat do so for escapism and don’t give a monkey’s about the amount of salt and fat in a dish. However, it is now being encouraged to do its bit for a wider cause.
And it appears to be working. According to caterer insight, the Government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal – a voluntary initiative designed to harness the potential of businesses to shape the environment and make it easier for people to make healthier choices – now has 370 partners from across foodservice, representing 64% of the catering sector by turnover.
This is great news, but the problem for small, independent caterers is that while they are facing the same obligations as large contract catering companies and national hotel groups do, they don’t necessarily have access to a central office with big budgets for up-to-date nutritional software or for consultants to help develop recipes.
Wholesalers can play a key role here. It is, after all, the wholesaler that often comes under the most scrutiny as the link in the chain responsible for sourcing and supplying ingredients and products that have to meet today’s expectations.
At Country Range Group, for example, our 16 wholesale members support independent caterers and help them compete in today’s marketplace by giving them access to K2N nutritional software, a system we developed two years ago, initially to help our school and care-home customers become compliant without having to pay through the nose for the privilege.
Incorporating 6,000 SKUs, as well as recipes and ease-of-use benefits for the caterer, the software is also proving to be useful in the profit sector as a flexible tool that caterers and chefs can use to easily create nutritionally balanced recipes and menus and compare them against food standards, NACC standards or GDAs.
They can also easily see the nutritional and calorific impact of swapping ingredients – for example, using low-fat spread instead of butter – to enable caterers to offer more healthy options.
Essentially, for wholesalers, it’s about ensuring that suppliers provide all the necessary information they can, from calorie content to traceability, and if they can offer a service that adds value to caterers that need an extra level of support, even better. It will set them apart, while showing their catering customers that they recognise the daily difficulties they face