Foodservice feature: Back to school

From school meals to ethnic trends in mainstream foodservice, there are plenty of opportunities for quality-assured meat suppliers to grasp, says Oli Haenlein.

From today (1 September 2014), The Children and Families Act 2014 places a legal duty on all state-funded schools in England, including academies and free schools, to offer a free school lunch to all pupils in reception, year 1 and year 2. This will have a huge impact on the foodservice sector as schools increase catering for their children, and demand more varied and healthier meat offerings.

The move is part of the new School Food Plan to tackle obesity and promote healthy eating. A number of School Food Standards have been introduced as part of the plan “to help children develop healthy eating habits and ensure they get the energy and nutrition they need across the whole school day”. The standards encourage schools to provide a wide range of foods across the week, stating that variety across all foods including meat is key. The standards read: “Children love to hear the stories behind their food. Use fresh, sustainable and locally-sourced ingredients and talk to them about what they are eating.”

Schools may also be keeping an eye on saturated fats, sugars and salt as the plan seeks to increase the consumption of healthy food. From this we can deduce that foodservice companies could do well by offering a variety of meats, keeping an eye on provenance and seasonality, as well as focusing on nourishing and wholesome products, as opposed to anything overly fatty or processed.

Regardless of product, meat orders will inevitably increase, as schools across the country become obliged to provide free meals. Andrew Saunders, director of Sevenoaks-based Independent Catering Management, says: “We have always been a fresh food catering company, so the products we order will be no different, but the quantity will be greater. We will have an uptake of 95% compared to our current uptake of 65-75%, so we will have a greater quantity of meat ordered.”

Derek Berry, managing director of J F Edwards (Smithfield), tells MTJ: “Going forward, the new arrangements that come into effect when the children return for the new school term, with more children receiving free school meals, should be a boost for the foodservice sector. Basically if all four- to seven-year-olds are to get a free school dinner and they have a meat content, the foodservice suppliers to the schools in this age group should see an increase in demand.”

Lloyd Clarke from ingredients firm Verstegen agrees there is lots of potential with schools, which are not only going to need more meat, but will be looking to diversify their offerings: “We’ve found a lot of success when working with the education sector. Meals for schools have undergone a bit of a revolution, so there’s a big push to get them eating good food that has authentic flavours. All the menus seem to be much more adventurous and we’re able to offer recipe support as well as simply providing products.”

Positive foodservice demand

The total number of visits to foodservice establishments in the UK has remained static at 11 billion over the last 12 months, while average individual spend has increased by 1.6% to £4.56 and the price per item has risen by 3.8% to reach £1.91, according to NPD Crest figures for the year ending March 2014.
Beef and veal servings are up by 3.9%, representing a 22% share of total out-of-home protein servings, behind poultry (27.3%) and pork (26.5%). The number of food/drink orders placed in a foodservice establishment that included beef grew by 0.5%, to 11.7%, with poultry experiencing a similar jump, from 0.3% to 13.8%

Pushing lamb

Eblex says, however, that the number of incidences involving lamb has remained static, suggesting that “menu innovation is needed in order to get lamb back on menus”.
Eblex says it is working hard to stimulate demand for lamb in foodservice and is now in the final phase of its three-year Lamb Plan: The ‘Discover Lamb’ campaign strategy focuses on three key areas: building a market for lamb mince; developing a market for forequarter lamb cuts and enhancing the market for prime lamb cuts, according to Eblex.

Hugh Judd, Eblex foodservice project manager, says: “Our approach to lamb remains strategic rather than reactionary and we are continuing to work on a number of long-term projects to stimulate consumer demand for quality lamb, while improving profits for caterers. Much of the new product development work we have undertaken recently involves identifying value-for-money solutions for the entire supply chain, for both beef and lamb.”

This month Eblex is also aiming to exploit a good spring lambing season by holding a ‘Festival of Lamb’ to promote Quality Standard Mark (QSM) lamb at a time when it is both widely available and competitively priced. It has also produced an ‘Autumn Lamb Specials’ brochure, full of seasonal recipe ideas such as ‘One-Bone Mini Fillet’ and ‘Festive Stuffed Saddle’, along with cutting specifications for the featured cuts.
Judd adds: “2014 has been a vintage year for domestically produced lamb; some of the best-quality lamb will soon be available on the market and with the seasonally good supply, prices will be competitive, making it a great option for caterers. With so much good-quality competitively priced lamb available, now is the ideal time to stock up your freezers for Christmas, when availability tends to drop off, causing prices to rise.”

More than just breakfast

Bpex tells MTJ that Britain’s love for traditional breakfasts is as strong as ever. That means pork is central to the breakfast table; in fact, according to foodservice research company NPD Crest, 39.8% of total pork servings take place at breakfast time, compared to 16.3% at dinner time. Bpex adds that the bacon sandwich tops Britain’s top 10 breakfast favourites, with the nation munching its way through more than 268 million bacon sandwiches out-of-home in 2013. It says that the Continental breakfast is still unpopular, with UK consumers eating close to 117 million breakfast sandwich servings in 2013, over 25% more than the number of croissant servings.

Pork’s popularity for breakfast in foodservice is encouraging, but Bpex believes more needs to be done to stimulate pork sales throughout the day. The organisation says: “Although total pork represents the second-largest number of total out-of-home protein servings (26.5% for pork compared with 27.3% for poultry, 22% for beef and veal, 15.5% for seafood and only 1.5% for lamb) it is the only protein to have experienced a drop in the total number of servings, down 6% in the last year.”

Bpex announced a new marketing strategy to increase pork sales earlier this year – ‘Going for Growth’ – which aims to rejuvenate the image of pork and promote its health benefits. Bpex foodservice trade manager Tony Goodger tells MTJ how suppliers could sell more pork: “Suppliers to the foodservice market need to constantly review their pork cut ranges and regularly introduce new innovative pork products, which can be enjoyed at any meal occasion, in order to increase the number of servings in the out-of-home market.”

Goodger says suppliers should capitalise on the global street food trend: “The street food phenomenon has really taken off in the UK, with pork working well here. Relatively inexpensive dishes, such as pork kimchi, samosas, flavoursome ribs and spicy pork balls, can be easily packaged and are great for those who want something tasty and satisfying to eat on-the-go. As a result, we’re seeing a greater number of pub operators and fast casual chains adding new, flavoursome pork dishes such as pulled pork sandwiches and succulent pork burritos or wraps to the menu.

“Driving innovation is key and suppliers to the foodservice market should think about offering competitively priced ready-to-eat pork products that incorporate new tastes and flavours in order to drive sales and boost profits.”

US trend remains and Asian influences growing

Bpex’s Tony Goodger says that south and south-east Asian pork dishes are becoming more popular, while the American trend is not going anywhere: “It is my view that we will continue to see US influenced pit barbecue pork dishes, already popular in the south east, where a number of chains have opened.
“We will also see an increasing move to premium hot dogs and South Asian-influenced pork dishes, complemented with vegetables and a carbohydrate such as noodles. With regards to emerging cuisines for the UK market, Vietnam and Burma are becoming popular tourist destinations for UK travellers.”
Danish Crown, which has new highly-trained catering butchers at its Manchester warehouse and a London office inside Smithfield Market dedicated solely to foodservice, agrees that the USA and barbecue theme is still very much in demand, while Asian themes are growing in popularity.

Danish Crown sales manager Allan Hansen says: “Our best-sellers are our steaks and pork ribs; both the classic baby back ribs as well as meatier St Louis/Kansas-city style.”

Anna Bradbury, marketing manager at Danish Crown says: “Barbecue-style cuisine is very popular and a trend that continues to grow. Asian, ethnic and American influences are very well-liked and chefs are keen to experiment with new twists and flavours such as ‘Texas-BBQ’ or ‘Voodoo hot sauce’ as an expansion on the originals. Authenticity is key. We have customers who are passionate about replicating a true American-style BBQ offering, and so are reassured to know we won an award from US American chain Chili’s (1,300 restaurants) for our ribs in 2013.”

Bradbury adds that at the Propel & Technomic Foodservice conference earlier this year, the company learnt that alcohol-infused food is expected to be an area of growth – bourbon-glazed pork belly, for example.

Bpex Foodservice Sausage of the Year 2014

The Bpex Foodservice Sausage of the Year 2014 competition is timed to coincide with British Sausage Week (3-9 November), and “is calling all sausage makers who supply the catering sector to make the most of the opportunity to promote their quality-assured pork sausages by entering the annual competition”.

It is free to enter sausages, and there are five categories: Traditional Pork Sausage, Speciality Pork Sausage, Best Innovative Pork Sausage, Best Export Pork Sausage, and Best Hot Dog.
Bpex says: “It is an event not to be missed as it provides outlets with huge opportunities to maximise sales and boost their own publicity.

The closing date for entries is Friday 19 September, and three finalists from each category will be put forward to take part in a grand final at Butchers’ Hall, London, on 31 October. Entry forms and full terms and conditions are available to download from:

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