June 19, 2024

In conversation with Marcus Nilsson

As the onboard catering landscape evolves to meet new market demands, Marcus Nilsson explains how En Route is up to the task

Marcus Nilsson is a commercial director of En Route. Prior to En Route, Marcus has held global senior roles in the airline catering industry as part of a career spanning more than 20 years. 

Q. What is En Route’s role in the airline catering industry?

We work with many of the world’s leading airlines and airline catering organisations to develop and design onboard food and packaging solutions.

Food, as we know, is such an important factor in an airline’s reputation, so we work closely with our clients and suppliers to develop solutions that align to their strategy.

In addition, by using our comprehensive logistics expertise and supply chain, we can deliver to, and source from, any region in the world.

Q. How do you perceive the evolving landscape of onboard dining experiences?

The industry is constantly evolving its onboard dining experience to cater to changing consumer preferences. Right now, dietary considerations and sustainability are two leading drivers in consumer behaviour. Airlines have really accelerated healthier meal offers for passengers, as well as special diets to include more vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options.

There is a real growing awareness of health and wellness among travellers. We are seeing more health-based signposting on menus across the world, which is impacting decision making.

Customisation continues to be a topic at the forefront of many of our interactions with our clients. This includes the ability to pre-order meals with specific ingredients or dietary requirements. Social media is a real driver of this, as customers are discovering lots of meal prep influencers, which is increasing their nutritional awareness.

Sustainability goes hand in hand in these discussions. Airlines continue to look to reduce food waste, source locally-produced ingredients, as well as minimising the use of single-use plastics in their meal service.

We have also seen more airlines with a focus on improving the onboard offerings across all cabins and a real push for enhancing their premium dining experience and providing a more restaurant and hotel-like atmosphere onboard. 

Q. How can airlines and catering suppliers collaborate to minimise their environmental footprint?

We are seeing more laser-like focus on areas that we can truly impact, particularly with regards to ESG. Our aim is to continue to create sustainable products and delivery methods that support the wellbeing of our passengers and our planet.

Collaboration is massively important. By working together to source sustainably, reduce waste, offer eco-friendly packaging, educate stakeholders and drive sustainability standards and sustainable change, we can make significant strides towards more sustainable onboard dining practices.

Q. Global supply chains are integral to the delivery of airline catering services. What strategies do you see as essential for ensuring the resilience and efficiency of these supply chains?

Visibility into the supply chain is key. You must be able to track inventory levels and monitor transport providers and shipments to be able to quickly respond to any potential supply chain disruptions. 

Maintaining optimal levels of inventory through effective demand forecasting and inventory management practises will help prevent stockouts during disruptions and ensure continuity of supply.

You also have to be willing to look at technology adoption. AI, machine learning and predictive analytics can help mitigate supply chain disruptions before they occur, improving overall efficiency and resilience. 

Q. As expectations for onboard dining experiences continue to rise, what opportunities do you foresee for collaboration between airlines and industry partners to elevate the quality and variety of inflight meals?

There are numerous opportunities for collaboration to elevate the quality and variety of inflight meals. For En Route, the focus is always on utilising a strong network of local suppliers and producers to source the best components and ingredients for our inflight solutions. It’s important to incorporate cultural influences to create a diverse and authentic passenger experience. Pre-order options would also allow the airlines to create an elevated passenger experience without increasing waste onboard.

Q. What advice would you offer to airlines seeking to stay ahead of the curve in delivering memorable dining experiences at altitude?

Ultimately, passengers want consistent quality and service on board! Focus on quality and consistency. Don’t be afraid to offer customisation and personalisation. This can really enhance the overall dining experience and make it more memorable for the passenger.

Use technology to streamline the ordering process, enhance menu visibility and collect feedback from passengers. Communicate your and your partners’ efforts to passengers to showcase the commitment to environmental responsibility.