Sustainable Snacking in the Workplace: Our Latest Project

Sustainable Snacking in the Workplace: Our Latest Project

On 10 May 2024 by Shannon Saddler

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We've all been there: it's 3 PM, and we need a snack to power us through the last of the workday. Most of us are partial to the occasional snack. 

Now consider this as well: according to the Office of National Statistics, 86.5% of adults in the UK have reported making at least some lifestyle changes to help tackle environmental issues. 

We don't think we're taking too much of a wild guess that your employees would welcome added sustainability transparency when making their snack choices at work. 

Once you add everything up, the grand total of the negative social and environmental impacts caused by snacking is vast. Every snack comes with an invisible cost to the planet, including (often single-use) plastic pollution, carbon emissions, food waste and people suffering from poor pay and working conditions. 


Here are two facts that emphasise how problematic snacking has become: 

  • What if I told you that Oceana found some of the world's biggest snack brands to be creating a plastic footprint of over 3 million tonnes annually? That's equivalent to about 30 large aircraft carriers.

  • Recent research published by the Nature Food journal also found that in a single year, global food miles were responsible for 3bn tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions.

How is the Fooditude Team tackling snacking sustainability issues within the office? 

Since catering for some of London's most innovative workplaces since 2005, we've learnt a thing or two. One of those things is that busy people love a quick nibble whilst on the go. Removing them entirely from the workplace would be a travesty for many. 

This year, Kate Page, Sustainability Manager, has focused on improving snack sustainability at our client sites while providing a mouth-watering pantry service. 

The results of Kate's hard work: Fooditude's Sustainable Snacks Awareness project aims to help employees in a rush make quick snack decisions with sustainability in mind. 

In the workplace, you can't be heavy-handed in requiring teams to change their eating habits to become more sustainable. No one likes a guilt-tripper. Instead, a more gentle approach is needed: give people the information they need - to help them make their own decisions. After all, how we decide to eat is an incredibly personal choice. 

We know a soft approach works to improve the sustainability of office eating and drinking. The way we prioritise vegan and vegetarian dishes on our menu has had tremendous results at client sites, all while still offering tasty options for those who prefer a meat option. 

So why not try a slow but effective shift towards more sustainable snacking? One of our larger clients was on board with trialling the scheme in their canteens and min-kitchens. The project was a go-ahead! 


Screenshot 2024-05-16 at 10.09.46

How we communicated the project: shelves, signs and slides

We revamped our client's two main snack shelving areas to help their employees make a quick snack choice with sustainability considerations. 

The design of the layout was simple: we used a colour-coded system to split the snack choices into three categories: 

The shelves are ordered based on their colour profile, ranging from green to red: 

Green: These snacks have the most positive environmental and social impact. A lighter shade of green indicates even better sustainability.

Yellow to Red: While Amber represented snacks with mixed sustainability credentials, red indicated a subpar sustainability rating. We would only order 'red' rated snacks if directly requested by the client. 

White: To reduce plastic waste, we fill sweet jars with bulk-ordered snacks that employees can help themselves to, giving them an option that uses far less single-use packaging. However, the snacks themselves are unrated in terms of food sustainability. 

Displayed in the middle shelf, the A3 signage is accompanied by a visual guide that explains each rating. Once diners get a grasp of what each colour means, they can quickly include sustainability considerations in their choice. 

When employees take a break from their desk during mealtimes, bitesize presentation slides are displayed on a large screen at the centre of the canteen. 

These slides provide more extensive information about the social and environmental categories surrounding snack production. Every week, a different category is discussed, allowing some new things that employees can quickly learn while on the go. 

Whilst the project is still on the go, employees have overwhelmingly given positive feedback towards the Sustainability Awareness project. So there you have it, gentle encouragement can bring about sustainable change in the workplace! 

Here's the sort of things that employees learn about snack sustainability through the information that we provide as part of this project: 

  • Carbon impact
  • Packaging
  • Ingredients, from sourcing to Palm oil
  • Waste, including food waste and non-food waste 
  • Social impact, such as paying fair wages, good working conditions for workers and supporting communities
  • Supply chains and the importance of transparency
  • Consumer education, such as non 'green washing' marketing & sustainability labelling

What's great about this approach is its potential to encourage more sustainable snack decisions not just at work, but in everyday life as well. If we can equip thousands of employees on how to eat, drink and snack more sustainably - who knows how far the shared knowledge will go. A little can really go a long way.


A Conversation with Kate Page, Sustainability Manager at Fooditude

Let us tell you more about our Sustainability Manager, Kate Page, who is the mastermind behind this project. At Fooditude, she is responsible for examining our office operations to find opportunities for sustainable growth, as well as collaborating with our clients to support their own initiatives. We sat down with Kate to discuss her role and the purpose of this project, here's some of the highlights of what she shared: 

"As a Sustainability Manager working within the food catering industry, we're trying to cause the lowest impact we can as a high impact industry whilst being as ethically aware as possible. This is to only improve ourselves and be aware of the challenges so we can tackle rather than ignore them."


What was the inspiration behind the project? 

"This was to really create awareness in everyone. A client will come to us and just want to cater to their employees, their employees often don't really think about what they're consuming or what they're eating. It's free food, it's an employee perk. So to really get them to engage with the sustainable efforts that we want to make in food consumption, it's good to enable them to make a choice. And you can only make a choice if you know what is good and what is bad."

Can you explain why snack sustainability is important?

"Snacks often have many ingredients that are quite easy to source in a bad way that has a higher impact. They often have ingredients coming from areas of the world causing deforestation, unethical farming approaches, slavery and child labour. Many issues that seem just because they're so far away from us, it's out of our control. It's so easy to pick up a chocolate bar and just eat it without thinking."

How do we equip consumers with the knowledge to identify the real sustainability costs of their snacks?

"When companies are making snacks that are more considered regarding ethically and environmentally sourcing things, they want to tell you about it. So if you see a chocolate bar and it talks about its Fairtrade or its relationship with its farmers and it mentions where those ingredients came from, you need to look for these efforts of ethically sourcing."

What are the main priorities people should look out for when looking for more sustainable snack choices? 

"I don't think that there is one that's more important than the other, which is why sustainability has three pillars but I guess if we focus on two pillars that don't involve economics we have social and environmental impact and they're both as important as each other. But they also interconnect a lot of the time. Most of the ingredients that are environmentally harmful also are often extracted or farmed in unethical bases. So looking at both social and environmental areas are really vital."


It's a Wrap!

Our Sustainable Snack Awareness project shows how, with a bit of hard graft, we can make complex sustainability issues easier for consumers to understand. 

In order to achieve meaningful sustainability action and ignite collaboration in catering businesses like ours, dedicated people like Kate are vital for making the magic happen. Without determination, change just doesn't happen. 

Fooditude is fortunate to benefit from a team driven to achieve its sustainability ambitions, which are set out in our comprehensive sustainability strategy

The scope in which we need to instigate change is huge and goes well beyond our snack offering. Kate and the Fooditude Team are also working hard to reach Net Zero by 2040, partner up with like-minded local food suppliers and reduce our food waste. But with good prioritisation and by taking one step at a time, progress is made. 

Feeding a workplace sustainably is no easy task; it comes with a hefty negative impact. However, at Fooditude, we are going one step further to ensure that the negative environmental and social impact of the food that lands on our clients' plates is kept to a minimum. Maybe that's why some of London's most trailblazing offices trust us to feed their teams in a more responsible way.


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