Clean label takeaways

How foodservice operators are keeping up with the demand for transparency.

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But it’s not just millennials who are concerned about the source of food or its quality. The rising tide of public interest in clean food is not expected to subside anytime soon, industry observers and foodservice directors say.

Here are some clean takeaways.

Be in the know 

Know what is considered clean; which ingredients and additives customers are asking about; and why a word may concern them, from gluten to GMO. “We need to stay on forefront of what science is telling us and be careful how we label something,” says Kyleen Harris, director of food and nutrition services for Abilene Public Schools in Abilene, Texas.

Embrace transparency

Provide ingredient information on menus and websites. Include local sources such as farmers or ranchers. Be open to letting customers tour the kitchen and talking to them about the products. “It’s important to tell our students to come see us. We can walk them through the process and answer questions they may have about the menu,” says chef Johnny Curet, dining services director at Rice University. 

Get the scoop

Talk to suppliers about product ingredients and sources. Suppliers may also know of local farmers and other sources for products. “One of our major vendors, Sysco, introduced us to [a farm that] raises hogs that are antibiotic- and steroid-free,” says Glenn Hixson, TouchPoint foodservice director at St. Vincent’s Health Care in Jacksonville, Fla.

Process, not processed

To provide clean-label foods, make sauces, broth, condiments, dressings and soups rather than purchasing them. For example, buying a whole chicken rather than a package of chicken breasts provides bones for creating your own chicken stock. "The decrease in product cost offsets the labor cost by far. It is not much more money than that for the whole product," says Executive Chef Jonathan Smith of TouchPoint.

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