Viewpoint: It's more than just a numbers game when it comes to counting calories

27 April 2023
Viewpoint: It's more than just a numbers game when it comes to counting calories

The calorie legislation forced our hand when writing menus, but that has resulted in better nutrition and chef innovation, says Peter Kent

It's been one year since the calorie legislation was introduced and we've been considering how the change has impacted consumers and businesses like ours that have adapted their operations to meet the requirements.

The introduction of displaying calorie information on menus has provided several challenges for the hospitality industry and has not necessarily encouraged people to make healthier food choices in the long term. Within our business, we've not seen a significant change in consumer purchasing, but instead, the legislation has sparked a wider discussion around health and nutrition and has encouraged our chefs to be more mindful of the ingredients they use and the portion sizes they offer.

Chefs now have the added dynamic of calorie information to consider when preparing dishes and so have a better understanding of the food they're producing. We are always conscious to put nutrition at the heart of everything we do, and the legislation has prompted teams to find ways to adjust recipes accordingly to make them more nutritious and less calorific. However, the calorie legislation has significantly burdened many small, local suppliers, who didn't have the nutritional information available to meet the requirements.

We've been developing new offerings to ensure customers don't need to compromise on flavour when making healthier choices. We have been adapting our menus to cater to different calorie and dietary requirements and provide customers with more options to make informed choices about their food. This is not only to align with the legislation, but also in response to a growing generation of customers that are interested in mindful, low-carbon, and zero-waste menus, who want transparency on the health and sustainability benefits of their food.

Our food strategy hinges on supporting our communities and we maintain close relationships with our suppliers to understand the full farm to fork journey. We didn't want to compromise our strong decentralised supply chain and, when the new legislation challenged this, we made it our mission to support all our suppliers through the necessary changes and help them navigate the new requirements.

We offer plant-forward menus, which are increasingly popular, but blindly adding vegan and vegetarian options is not on our agenda. We run educational workshops on the role of nutrition in wellbeing and invite our chef partners to client locations to host masterclasses. It was quite a shock for our teams and customers when they realised how calorific their favourite dishes can be, and we recognised that we have a responsibility to educate that not all calories are equal and it's about putting nutrition first.

We feel it is crucial that the government conducts regular follow-ups to evaluate the effectiveness of the legislation and explore new ways to support the public in making informed and healthy food choices. There has been a notable silence around the benefits of introducing calories on menus, and while it has raised awareness around calorie content in food, it is important to continue exploring new avenues to support consumers in making healthy choices and for continued collaboration between businesses, suppliers and the government to promote healthy eating and sustainable food practices.

Peter Kent is the regional managing director at BaxterStorey

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