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Bon Appetit Ramps Up Pursuit of Plant-Forward Future

Food service pioneer’s new 18-chef Plant-Forward* Culinary Collaborative marks increased investment in making vegetable-centric diets mainstream

Flexitarians. Conscientious carnivores. Meatless on Mondays. Reducetarians. Vegans before 6. Mostly vegetarians. Bon Appétit Management Company wants to exponentially increase the numbers of such eaters, however they may classify themselves. Leveraging what we’ve learned in the decade-plus since launching our Low Carbon Diet and our Well-Being Commitments, we’re committed to tilting the 240 million meals we serve annually even more in the plant-forward direction, for the health of our guests and the planet.

Such a cultural shift requires more than words. We’re increasing our investment in infrastructure, including dedicated staff positions, additional training and resources for our teams, a supplier base of innovative products, educational programs, and concrete ways to measure and report our results.

“Our chefs have been quietly moving meat from the center of the plate for years. But to truly offer ‘food service for a sustainable future,’ as Bon Appétit aspires to do, we know we have to work even harder to help our guests see that a sustainable diet includes more vegetables and less protein from animals,” says Fedele Bauccio, CEO and cofounder of Bon Appétit Management Company.

Manager of Plant-Forward and Innovative Product Initiatives Thom Fox

Manager of Plant-Forward and Innovative Product Initiatives

Bon Appétit created and filled a new position focused on plant-forward and other innovative products, working with both the culinary and purchasing teams. Thanks to Bon Appétit’s location in the Silicon Valley, and its many technology clients, the company is often the first stop for startups with brand-new food products and AI-assisted services. Since November 2018, Thom Fox — a veteran chef and wellness educator who has been with the company for 17 years — has been evaluating submissions of plant-based protein products, shepherding ones with high potential through in-house chef trials and additional product development; setting up stocking; and analyzing product usage to ensure consistency.

The Bon Appétit Plant-Forward Culinary Collaborative (PFCC)

In April 2019, 18 Bon Appétit chefs from around the country were selected to join a newly formed working group to help define the future of plant-forward in the company’s cafés and spread best practices companywide. Gathering for the first time at the end of this month at the Culinary Institute of America’s Plant-Forward Kitchen culinary summit, the Plant-Forward Culinary Champions will cook, strategize, and create a plan — with Bon Appétit’s wellness team — to include developing regional plant-forward trainings for other chefs, recipe hacks, creative plant-centric dining experiences (like this one), and other resources for all culinary staff in the company.

Badger Flame Beets from Row 7 seeds

Tempting with Taste

Novel plant-based protein products like the ones that our new manager is evaluating are exciting, but good old plants still have a lot to offer. We’ve long known that a key way to get chefs and eaters excited about plant-forward menus is to serve the most delicious produce possible. That’s among the reasons Bon Appétit launched our Farm to Fork local-purchasing program way back in 1999. It’s also why six of our chefs are collaborating now with Row 7 Seeds, to connect this innovative seed company with our Farm to Fork growers to plant new varieties of vegetables (and a few fruits) around America. A collaboration of world-renowned New York chef Dan Barber (one of the EAT-Lancet Commission’s Plant-Forward Top 50 Chefs), along with Cornell University plant breeder Michael Mazourek and upstate New York seed farmer Matthew Goldfarb, Row 7 Seeds aims to change the world with food that has been bred for flavor and deliciousness, not uniformity and the ability to survive long-distance shipping.

Coaching Guests on Connecting Food Choices to Climate Change

This year for Earth Day, we’re showing how easy it is to move toward a plant-forward diet, with celebrations around the theme “A Little Goes A Long Way: Make Plants the Star and Meat the Accent to Ease Pressure on the Earth.” In hundreds of cafés all around the country, our chefs are demonstrating to guests how they too can make an easy umami-rich, vegetable-centric dish, with an optional sprinkling of meat or fish, and offering lunch menus that illustrate how easy and tasty it can be to use animal products in moderation. This is a new twist on an old theme for us: Bon Appétit began celebrating Low Carbon Diet Day companywide annually around Earth Day starting in 2008, sharing messaging about how food choices can affect climate change, among them exhorting guests to “mooove away from beef and cheese.”

Plant-Forward Proof is in the Numbers

For the past several years, we’ve been tracking our progress toward our goals to reduce meat and increase plants on our guests’ plates. In fiscal year 2018, our culinary teams purchased an average of 0.67 ounces of beef per guest per meal companywide and 3.42 ounces for all meat, poultry, and seafood — successfully beating the target that we set ourselves in 2015, with the reimagined Low Carbon Lifestyle. Additionally, our manager of plant-forward and innovative product initiatives is tracking our companywide purchases of plant-based protein alternatives, and is collaborating with an NGO to study the effect that offering such plant-based protein solutions has had on sales of their animal-based analogues in our cafés.

Bon Appetit’s goal of making a cultural shift towards more plant-centric eating is backed by the global scientific community. In January, the EAT-Lancet Commission — 37 experts in human health, agriculture, political sciences, and environmental sustainability from 16 countries — released a headline-making, in-depth report that outlined the principles for the healthy and sustainable diet that will feed a growing population of 10 billion by 2050. The Commission confirmed the philosophy that has long guided us as a company: “A diet that includes more plant-based foods and fewer animal source foods is healthy, sustainable, and good for both people and planet. It is not a question of all or nothing, but rather small changes for a large and positive impact.”

By making these investments in infrastructure, training, and education, Bon Appétit intends to significantly shift the eating habits of hundreds of thousands of college students and corporate diners.

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