The 2016 Menus of Change Annual Report was released by The Culinary Institute of America and Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health at the fourth annual Menus of Change leadership summit, held at the CIA's Hyde Park, New York campus. Each year, along with case studies and trend analysis, the annual report rates the foodservice industry's progress toward addressing public health and environmental imperatives. Two advisory councils, comprised of leading scientists, analysts, and foodservice business leaders from across the country, rate the food industry's progress each year and provide executive briefings on the latest scientific findings and business developments.
The ratings this year presented a mixed picture but with substantial movement in the right direction. The culinary profession and the foodservice industry are playing a key role in improving what we eat, and the pace of positive change is increasing noticeably. In the past year, the foodservice industry has begun to recognize the rising cost from lack of visibility into supply chains and other environmental factors, yet it will need to more urgently address threats to the industry from climate change and water scarcity. While change on environmental issues remains slow, the stage is now set for substantial improvements and tangible business benefits. Already, investors are pricing in the value of companies that pay attention to environmental concerns and actively manage their supply chains and expecting all companies to do the same.
The report also examines the convergence of environmental and nutrition science and public policy at the center of our plates. Earlier this year, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) released their assessment of the state of the American diet and what we should be eating. Notably, and for the first time, the guidelines—and especially the earlier report of the DGA scientific advisory committee—found that many Americans eat too much red meat and that adults need to substantially reduce the amount of added sugar they consume in foods and beverages. The two reports raised awareness among both policy makers and the general public about the same nutrition research and environmental science that are at the foundation of Menus of Change, citing both the health benefits of plant-forward dietary patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet, and also the environmental benefits of eating a larger share of plant-based foods.
Meanwhile, in Paris this winter, the United Nations held its annual Conference of the Parties (COP), bringing the world's nations together to find ways to address climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. Remarkably, this 21st meeting resulted in the first-ever global agreement on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and hold temperate increases to only 2 degrees Celsius, just below the level that would trigger the most challenging changes in our weather, water availability, and sea levels. That agreement set goals that nations can only achieve this if we change the way we grow food and the foods we choose to eat—imperatives that riveted the attention of Menus of Change summit attendees.
The Menus of Change summit, held June 14—16 at the CIA's Marriott Pavilion, was attended by more than 400 chefs, food and foodservice leaders, scientific experts, investors, and entrepreneurs. In addition, classes of CIA students attended with their faculty as part of their course work, and hundreds more from around the world joined on a live webcast, which is available for anyone to watch.
Highlights of the conference included plenary sessions on the investor community's growing expectations that foodservice companies actively improve their sustainability and social responsibility performance, steps to reduce antibiotic use in foodservice industry supply chains, and how competing companies can create collective value by working together on issues such as fish, seafood, and the health of our oceans. The conference also featured advice for succeeding in the business of plant-forward food from leading chefs, business executives, and marketing experts.
"At a time when Americans are increasingly shifting their food choices to reflect greater interest in health and sustainability, our nation's chefs and foodservice operators have never been more engaged, more passionate about re-imagining the future of American menus," says CIA President Tim Ryan. "Through our Menus of Change partnership with Harvard Chan School, we are committed to helping our industry both build on the very promising innovation we are already seeing as well as become more strategic about accelerating the pace of change."