In an effort to introduce restaurant owners, operators, and diners to sustainable options, US Foods continues to develop its Serve Good product line. Since launching in 2016 with 21 products, the line of sustainable products has grown rapidly and now offers operators more than 350 food and non-food options.
Sustainability has been the main focus of the line. From sourcing to waste reduction, the products must meet the program’s criteria in order to be added. As customers are increasingly demanding to know what they are eating and where it comes from, operators and owners need to be able to provide that information.
“Sustainability on the menu is more than just a trend, it’s a movement that has shaped how diners approach their purchasing decisions. In fact, research indicates that 74 percent of millennials are willing to pay more for sustainable products and services,” Stacie Sopinka, senior vice president of product development and innovation, US Foods, said in a statement. “Our Serve Good portfolio offers independent restaurant operators innovative and versatile products that help create real value while meeting the immediate and long-term cravings and conscience of contemporary diners.”
The spring product launch includes 24 items new items that fall into one of Serve Good categories: agricultural practices, sustainable seafood, animal care, responsible disposables, and reduced waste.
“We’re always looking for opportunities to bring local and sustainable products to life and Serve Good has really helped us do that,” says Anthony Kingsley, US Foods local and sustainable product lead, “because we’ve tried to create a simple message around it.”
In addition to sustainability, US Foods is also tackling the rise in demand for organic food. Over 23 percent of restaurant menus in the U.S. have the word organic featured somewhere. But what constitutes a dish as organic? The organic products are USDA Organic Certified, which means they have passed various tests and meet regulations to earn that label.
By having that certification guests are willing to spend more, Kingsley says.
“I think that what we see is that diners are wanting organic more and more,” he says. “We know it’s becoming more popular today and the movement really reflects how and where customers want to buy their food. They want to be able to feel good about their choice, they want transparency around their food, and purchasing food from restaurants that call out the USDA organic certification, I think, helps the customers get there.”
Communication from the chef and restaurant operator to the diner is also key in gaining trust in the food they are serving and eating, respectively. If a customer sees a salad for $2 or $5, most likely they will choose the cheaper one. However, if the restaurant communicates the price difference is because it is USDA Organic Certified, the diner might be more willing to choose the more expensive option.
“If I’m a diner that might be concerned about how I’m eating or I’m concerned about the environmental impact, the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and then I see that [the organic certification] and I understand, I’m more willing to pay for it,” Kingsley says. “We see that in the research that diners are more willing to pay for it when they understand what it is. We really encourage our operators to purchase this product and continue to communicate it their diners.”
The younger generations aren’t the only ones demanding to see more organic option on the menu. Kingsley says the organic movement has become more and more desirable across all ages.
“There’s a big piece in there from millennials and Gen Zs, but all generations are continually concerned and have a growing concern about where their food is coming from and how food is produced,” Kingsley says. “So I think Serve Good is a great example of how we’ve managed to meet that need for diners and what diners want. We’re just excited to continue growing.”
The USDA certified organic products included in the spring launch:
- Roseli Organic Premium Three Cheese Ravioli: Made with a creamy blend of organic ricotta, fontina and Parmesan cheeses, these raviolis contain no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives, and pair well with a variety of sauces and complementary flavors, such as the Roseli Organic Basil Pesto.
- Roseli Organic Basil Pesto: Made with organic canola oil and Parmesan cheese. Contains no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives and is the perfect complement for sandwiches, pastas and more.
- Monarch Organic Tomato Ketchup: This front-of-the-house product contains no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives and is sweetened with sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup found in many leading ketchups.
Sustainability Across All Proteins
Since its inception, the Serve Good line has provided sustainably sourced seafood options. Over the past decade, “sustainable” has increased 300 percent across seafood menus in the U.S.
“As far seafood goes I think we’ve come a long way,” Kingsley says. “We continue to develop those seafood products we have a policy in place, and we’re making some great progress.”
The spring product launch includes this new seafood option:
- Harbor Banks Skinless Barramundi: Ocean-farmed and four-star certified for Best Aquaculture Practices, this Barramundi recently graduated to the Serve Good portfolio from US Foods’ Progress Check program, a program designed specifically for the seafood category to highlight vendors that are on the path toward achieving the sustainable certifications required to be a part of the Serve Good program.
Consumers are also concerned with the sustainability of other proteins they are consuming. According to Datassential, 48 percent of restaurant operators consider animal care practices important when making purchasing decisions. The spring line features the first non-seafood products that are American Humane Certified (AHC). It was easy to bring the processes and strategies US Foods uses with seafood and apply it to different proteins.
The first non-seafood protein that has been added to the menu is turkey. In the fast-casual space, the presence of turkey on menus has grown 155 percent over the past decade.
“On the innovation side of things, turkey is on trend. It’s popular,” Kingsley says. “We know that it’s a product that customers and diners are interested in, and then we were able to find a great vendor partner but also had that serve good attributes. They’re raised without antibiotics and the American Humane certified. Having those two components both the innovation side and the final product, it is really just the perfect match.”
US Foods is meeting these new customer demands with these two products:
- Patuxent Farms All Natural Ground Dark Turkey Raised Without Antibiotics: The Serve Good program continues to add more American Humane Certified (AHC) products to its line-up and this product is the company’s first turkey item to hold the AHC certification. Ground turkey is an economical alternative to conventional ground beef, and this product is frozen in small pillow packs for quicker thawing.
- Patuxent Farms All Natural Turkey Sausage Patty Raised Without Antibiotics: Also new to the AHC line-up, this patty has 75 percent less fat** than pork breakfast sausage and features Southern-style seasoning including black pepper and sage.
Sustainable Agricultural Practices
When it comes to being mindful of the environment, US Foods wants to expand its offerings by offering products that are created using sustainable agricultural practices. The products are coming from vendors that meet the company’s standards and have certifications when it comes to worker’s rights and transparency.
US Foods also expanded this to desserts and reusable tableware:
- Devonshire Passion Fruit Layered Cheesecake with Fair Trade Coconut: This dessert features tropical flavors of tangy passion fruit and sweet coconut. It is topped with shaved coconut and sugar that are both Fair Trade Certified and is made without artificial colors or flavors.
- Chef’s Line Banana Nut Muffin Made with Rainforest Alliance Certified Bananas: These muffins contain a high fruit content that offers delicious flavor and texture without artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. This item complies with the US Foods Unpronounceables List initiative aimed at producing products with simple, more recognizable ingredients by avoiding, removing or replacing ingredients and food additives.
- Monogram 7.75″ PLA Green Stripe Unwrapped Straw and 9.5″ PLA White Wrapped Straw: These eco-friendly alternatives to traditional straws are Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) certified and made from plant-based PLA. They’re also entirely compostable in commercial composting facilities. Some jurisdictions have straw restrictions; please discuss your business requirements with your US Foods account representative.
- Monogram Compostable 16 oz. Double Wall Cup: BPI certified, this item is made from renewable, sustainable materials and features an insulated, double-wall technology that helps eliminate the need for a coffee sleeve.
“We’re constantly, constantly innovating around different themes and different products for customers, not only for our [seasonal] Scoop launches that happened throughout the year,” says Sara Matheu, US Foods Media Relations Director. “But then, of course, are Serve Good program, which is focused on sustainable products. We’re continually adding to that lineup as well.”