July 25, 2024

A flexitarian future

When it comes to omnivorous diets, moderation and balance are key. April Waterston invites gategroup's culinary team to explore the flexitarian trend

Molly Brandt
Oliver Fisher
Philipp Dischinger

The gategroup culinary team includes Molly Brandt, Executive Chef Culinary Innovation; Oliver Fisher, Director of Culinary Excellence and Philipp Dischinger, Executive Chef for Food Solutions

Do you see flexitariansim as a growing trend in passenger diets? If so, how might this impact inflight menus?

Flexitarianism is a growing trend among consumers. We base our menu decisions on specific data insights. For instance, we know that one in four Americans reported eating less meat in a nationwide survey in 2020, and the EU predicts a sustained decline in meat consumption over the next decade. It is no longer enough to simply group vegetables together and call it an entrée. Instead, we focus on offering more thoughtful, complete, and compelling vegetarian dishes. We are also taking a modern approach to meat-based dishes by shifting the protein off the center of the plate and highlighting supporting elements.

How do you apply food trends to airline meals considering the constraints of inflight catering?

In the airline catering space, it’s crucial to differentiate between short-lived trends and enduring movements like flexitarianism due to the long lead time from development to flight delivery. While the trend of eating less meat is apparent, taste remains the top priority in food decisions, as per an IFIC 2023 Food Health Report. Creating something delicious at 30,000 feet is a challenge, considering the complexities of airline catering. Personally, I view developing vegetarian entrees as an opportunity to craft compelling options that even non-vegetarians or flexitarians would choose over meat-focused dishes.

Is the flexitarian trend driven by sustainability, health or both?

People are choosing to eat less meat for various reasons, but the chart toppers seem to include environmental/sustainability, health, and animal welfare concerns. Livestock production notably contributes to greenhouse gases, driving the growth of the faux-meat industry. However, these products faced criticism for being ultra-processed and instead of being healthier are in fact similar to real meat in nutrition. Despite setbacks, the faux-meat industry continues to introduce new products, indicating a complex interplay of factors driving the flexitarian trend, not simply one or the other.

gategroup caters beyond aviation. What learnings can you bring from your other markets to inflight?

Our immersion in various food sectors provides us with invaluable insights into the flexitarian movement, where consumers are increasingly seeking plant-based options without fully committing to a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. By staying abreast of innovations in plant-based ingredients across food markets, we gain a profound understanding of the desires of today’s consumers, including those who fly with us. This knowledge allows us to anticipate and fulfill the evolving expectations of inflight passengers, ensuring that our menus align with current dietary preferences and lifestyle choices.

Sustainable food packaging and serviceware concepts are also key. what is gategroup’s position on sustainable equipment?

We are deeply committed to sustainability across all facets of our operations, including our approach to food packaging and serviceware. Our subsidiary packaging company deSter plays a pivotal role in advancing sustainable practices within the industry, drawing upon expertise from both aviation and broader food solutions sectors.
One of our flagship initiatives, the Circular Value Chain, epitomises our dedication to sustainability. This innovative concept revolves around the use of reusable packaging manufactured by deSter, which is integrated into our delivery of delicious meals to various outlets such as supermarkets and coffee shops.
After enjoying their meal, consumers are encouraged to return the reusable packaging in exchange for a deposit – a system developed in-house to promote recycling and reduce waste.