ISS Guckenheimer, Metz Culinary Management and Sodexo top the 2024 Protein Sustainability Scorecard

The Humane Society of the United States recently released its annual report ranking foodservice management companies’ protein sustainability efforts.
Some foodservice providers are leaning into vegetables as center of the plate. | Photo: Shutterstock.

When it comes to increasing consumption of plant-based food, corporate workplace foodservice provider ISS Guckenheimer is leading the way in the onsite foodservice industry, according to The Humane Society of the United States’ (HSUS) 2024 protein sustainability scorecard.

The goal behind the scorecard is to both identify companies that prioritize sustainability as well as identify the companies that do not. The scorecard is based on three main areas: transparency, goals and a plan of action.

“All companies should be transparent about their sustainability targets, goals and progress. Customers deserve to know which companies are following through and which companies are falling short of their commitments,” said Kate Watts, director of Food Service Innovation at HSUS. “The HSUS Protein Sustainability Scorecard was created to provide the public and customers with a hard look at what companies are actually doing to keep their promises.”

The data was gathered through surveys, with each company on the list receiving an invitation to fill out the survey. If they did not, HSUS let them know that it would be filled out for them using publicly available information.

Watts said that this year’s report was particularly exciting for a number of reasons, but especially as foodservice management companies seemed to make further commitments.

“Several companies increased their original plant-based goals, and several adopted animal protein reduction goals, which is a wonderful complimentary goal; companies that are having success increasing plant-based meals are naturally seeing a reduction in their reliance on animal proteins,” she said” she said.

In addition, Watts said the numbers were far more accurate this year, as HSUS asked the companies to provide more supplemental documentation than they had in years past.

Watts said she hopes the Protein Sustainability Scorecard brings awareness to the issue of food-related carbon emissions.

“There are still a large number of companies that are not paying attention to this. They are putting out statements related to their sustainability efforts that are not inclusive of anything related to their food emissions,” she said. “ Companies are not making the connection. That potential for impact is there and it is their social responsibility to make changes to address that.”

Here’s a deep into the top three performers in protein sustainability this year and a look at their strategy when it comes to plant-forward fare.

1. ISS Guckenheimer

The San Antonio, Texas-based foodservice provider topped the list for the third year in a row, with a score of 465 and a grade of A+. In the report, HSUS said that ISS Guckenheimer is leading the way in protein sustainability in on-site dining. The company has the most aggressive plant-based goal—55% of all offerings will be plant-based by 2025, with a complementary goal to reduce annual protein purchase annually by the end of 2027. In addition, the company also has a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the food it serves, globally by at least 25% by 2030.  The company currently serves an average of 51% plant-based meals.

When it comes to plant-forward fare, the company takes the strategy of using plant-based food as center of the plate. ISS Guckenheimer has developed a toolkit dubbed PowerPlant which centers around that philosophy.

”Yeah, it started originally with trying to make the vegetable kind of the hero ingredient of the plate,” said Pete Rukule, VP of culinary for ISS Guckenheimer.  “In the beginning I really started out on trying to represent local, regional farmers, really get seasonal ingredients, very intentional.”

The foodservice provider has also recently tried out the idea of plant-forward as the default, notably through its new program dubbed Terra Fagioli. The menu lineup features climate friendly and plant-forward dishes including a variety of Barilla Chickpea and Red Lentil pastas.

“It's driving people to have just a great experience without focusing so much on the fact that it's plant based. We definitely market it that way. And it's the default,” said Rukule.

Moving forward, much of ISS Guckenheimers new programming will be focused on plant-forward cuisine, he said.

“We're programming a plant- based station in every one of our cafes. The way that we're able to drive this 55% is through our central menu,” he said.

The company has also teamed up with HSUS on its plant-forward initiatives. Last year, the foodservice provider completed a virtual culinary workshop with the HSUS, and even piloted at least four new plant-based options on its menus each week for five weeks. Guckenheimer chefs who complete the training then serve as Plant-Based Ambassadors and educate future chefs on plant-based cuisine.

Rukule encouraged other foodservice players to lean into partnerships when it comes to establishing and reaching sustainability goals.

“I would recommend anybody if they needed support or help to partner with the Humane Society on what they can do and how they can get better data, or make some better decisions, wherever they're at, in their journey to help start the process, but they're generally pretty been a great partner,” he said.

2. Metz Culinary Management

Metz Culinary Management, based in Dallas, Pennsylvania, tied for second place with a score of 445 and an A+ grade. The company has set a goal to serve 50% plant-based meals by 2025 and will reduce animal protein purchases by 5% annually from 2025 through 2027. The foodservice provider currently serves an average of 31-35% plant-based meals.

HSUS also has a strong partnership with Metz; the two teamed up on virtual culinary workshops in the fall of 2022. During that process, the HSUS culinary team developed 10 plant-based recipes for Niagara University. Those recipes are currently in Metz’s recipe database for all of its accounts to use. The two have plans to collaborate on more plant-based culinary workshops in 2024.

Similar to other high-ranking companies, Metz has leaned into marketing its sustainability efforts and also continues to train and educate chefs and team members on plant-forward fare.

Metz is also tracking data to measure meat reduction efforts and pursing education opportunities.

“To maintain momentum toward our goal, we will conduct a vegetarian recipe competition among our chefs later this year. The competition will challenge them to create delicious new dishes to add to our already diverse plant-based recipe database,” said Brian Bachman, Metz VP of purchasing for culinary, in a statement.

3. Sodexo

Rounding out the top three and tied for second place in the ranking is Maryland-based foodservice provider Sodexo. The company earned a score of 445 and an A+ grade. The company has established a goal of 33% plant-based menus by 2025. Sodexo’s USA Campus segment, however, aimed even higher, committing to 50% plant-based meals by 2025. Currently, the foodservice provider serves an average of 26%-30% plant-based meals.

In the report, HSUS said that Sodexo is working on reducing its overall reliance on animal proteins as center-of-the-plate ingredients. Sodexo USA shared that over the years, approximately one-third of its emissions are tied to animal-based ingredient purchases.

The foodservice provider’s key strategy as it pertains to reducing carbon emissions includes increasing the portion of plant-based menus and reducing the portion sizes of animal proteins.

“Sodexo USA has shown year after year that the public goals above are a top priority for the company; it has set annual benchmarks for its largest segments, including campus, hospital and health care and corporate dining operations,” said HSUS in the report.

Sodexo also recently provided an update as to its plant-based numbers by segment. As of spring 2024, campus planned menus include 45% plant-based entrees, patient menus are 31% plant-based, retail is 28% and corporate dining’s Modern Recipe programs will follow the 50/50 approach, meaning plant-based and plant-forward dishes will comprise 50% of menus, with a minimum of 35% plant-based dishes by 2025.



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