Producing around 5.5 million meals a day, the catering sector accounts for around a quarter of total food consumption in Sweden, and rising. As such, catering establishments are in a position to make a real difference to the environmental impact of food consumption.
The Nordic governments have come up with national programmes and recommendations that encourage an increase in the proportion of organic food used, primarily in the public sector.
“The idea is that increased demand for, and volumes of, organic food in the catering sector will translate into both lower prices and greater availability, which will spill over into private consumption,” says Anna Post, who wrote the thesis.
Her study shows that a key factor for creating a sustainable and healthy catering sector is communication between the various stakeholders in the food system.
“Professional food purchasers and procurers are important in the process, but do not have the tools to handle the conflicting messages from financial and environmental directives,” says Post, whose study covered not only buyers and procurers, but also managers at restaurants and catering establishments.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that there is no agreement on the definition of “sustainable food” in the sector.
“In my study, the range of definitions used by the stakeholders in the food sector is huge,” says Post. “While one stakeholder might view it as sorting waste and using low-energy bulbs, another will see it as using organic raw materials wherever possible and ensuring that staff perceive their working environment as good and safe.”
Swedish consumption research to date has rarely focused on the professional stakeholders in the food system, as is the case in this study.