October 17, 2021

Think twice about avocados

As global catering begins to take flight again, chef and inflight caterer Marc Warde, of Niche Free From Kitchen/Libero urges hospitality buyers to think twice when menu planning, and put conscious sustainability top of mind…

Despite the pandemic, sustainability is still very much on the agenda and as hospitality buying restarts we need to ask ourselves do we really understand what it is to have a sustainable supply chain? Are we all doing our bit? In the A-Z of rethinking the products we use, let’s start with avocados.

It is no longer enough to just rely on the ‘governance’ of products. Buyers must do their own homework to ensure their supply chains meet and exceed the goals they want to achieve and portray, honestly. There are many questions to ask: Where does the item come from? Where is it sourced? Who grows it? How? Are the producers looked after? How far does each item travel? It is complex and takes time to fully realise the true cost of being sustainable, but consciences have been stirred, and it is time to act now, however small the steps you take…

Think economic sustainability

Profit is not a dirty word in all this. Being economically sustainable is essential otherwise businesses fail and that doesn’t help anyone. But that economically sustainable profit should not come to your business at the cost of social and environmental sustainability elsewhere. 

Think environmental sustainability

The positive, negative or neutral impact of the supply chain on the natural environment is the topic we hear most on – the move from fossil fuels to electric, from plastic to wooden cutlery, compostable cardboard etc. But the reality is that sustainability is made up of many parts and we must go further. 

Think social sustainability

Ask yourself: Are those in my supply chain being rewarded and treated fairly? How does the production of the commodities I order sustain the lives of those producing them? Are my buying decisions ultimately enhancing lives? Is my supply chain treating people and animals well. Question whether it is socially sustainable or even morally acceptable for your living standards to be far better than those producing the commodities you buy?

Think seasonal sustainability

Before picking an ingredient like avocado for your menus think about the sourcing and how they will get onboard. Seasonality in onboard menus is a bit of a sham. Most menus tend to reflect the price paid or the perceived social class of the cabin. In the front it’s avocado, asparagus, caviar and the like, in the back its peas, carrots and broccoli. Most Economy-served chicken comes from intensive farming. Most likely that chicken never saw the light of day in its brief existence. None of this reflects seasonality, sustainability or the reality of what people actually want to eat, it’s mostly about affordability or cost, and pleasing the majority. Of course exceptions to exist and are noted. They show it can be done.

Rethink the retro

The avocado is a revived global superfood, a reimagining of the retro throw-back from middle-class dinner parties of the 1970s and 1980s – then frequently stuffed with prawns and topped with Marie Rose sauce. Now it is born anew in many guises, but at what cost?

Count the true cost

The flourishing global demand is causing prices to rise, and it is therefore becoming difficult for local communities to afford to purchase a food stuff that is native and culturally associated with their region. These pressures will worsen in the coming years with China increasingly looking to import avocados as a rising middle-class demands access to a Western diet.

Consider food security

Each avocado requires a purported 80-300 litres of water to grow. Given the high profit to be made, growing avocados is often prioritised above other crops. Since avocados tend to be grown for export and not for the locals, this has a negative impact on local food security. Also, the water is exported within the fruit itself is lost to the local ecosystem where the fruit was grown. 

Wake up to the water issue

In the UK alone, avocado imports contain over 25m cubic metres of virtual water each year – that’s 10,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools! With global temperatures rising and water becoming scarce, this has serious impacts on local drinking water supplies. 

Understand your markets

The avocado story is further complicated by a strong presence of drug cartels in the central region of Michoacán which produces 80% of Mexican avocados.

Marc is part of our campaign PLANET Action Group focused on onboard sustainability. He urges: “Educate yourself on the sustainability story of the ingredients you use. Check out Rotten Docuseries on Netflix, the true stories of the food supply chain, revealing truths behind chocolate, sugar, bottled water, avocado and other family favourites.”

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