2007 Menu Development study: Footloose and trans fat-free

B&I on top of cutting-edge menu development.

Trans fat, ethnic, organic and local are the hot buttons for operators, but much work remains, according to the FSD's 2007 Menu Development study.

College and university foodservice operations are often heralded for responding more quickly than other segments to emerging customer demands and leading noncommercial foodservice into new frontiers. But FSD's most recent Menu Development Study shows that the Corporate Dining segment (otherwise known as Business-and-Industry, or B&I) is currently on the leading edge of today's hottest industry trends.

For example: 48% of B&I respondents are using trans fat-free frying oils, compared to the noncommercial average of 39%. In addition, 26% of B&I operators have eliminated trans fats from their salad oils, while 10% have stopped purchasing prepared products containing trans fats.

One of the most recent operations to eliminate trans fat is the cafeteria at the Government Printing Office in Washington, DC, operated by Fame Food Management. Carmine Catalano, foodservice director, says that despite the fact that operators aren't required to disclose trans fat content, “we decided to eliminate them altogether; they're just not good for you."

The effort is designed to reduce risk to employees, he adds, in keeping with the growing tendency of corporations to include foodservice in enterprise-wide wellness improvement programs.

A number of other contract management firms also have committed time and money to deal with the trans fat issue. Sodexho recently passed the one-year mark in its effort to go trans fat-free. In addition to switching to zero trans fat (ZTF) oils and shortenings, the company has sourced a large number of trans fat-free products, including salad dressings, sauces, soups, baked goods, condiments, breaded chicken, pasta and tortillas.

Sodexo uses ZTF, rather than trans fat-free, to describe its menu items to bring itself in line with nutritional definitions set down by the Food and Drug Administration. ZTF refers to products with less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving.

B&I operators are also sourcing more organic products in three of four product categories, the FSD study shows: Snacks, Meat/Seafood and Dairy. Colleges are the leaders in purchasing organic produce, with B&I a close second in rankings.

And although hospitals are sourcing more local Dairy and Produce and Nursing Homes buy the most local Meat/Seafood, B&I is not far behind in all product categories.

In fact, Bon Appetit Management Company, with 400 accounts in B&I and Education, recently announced that its expenditures on foods and products from local farmers and artisans grew 83% from 2005 to 2006 “far exceed[ing] that of any other foodservice company," says FarmToCollege.org.

Yet, the noncommercial market has yet to embrace each of these trends fully. FSD's study shows that 61% of operators are still using trans fats in frying oils and salad oils, while more than 90% have not eliminated trans fats from baked goods (purchased or made from scratch).

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