Research Finds Increased Student Demand for Low-Impact Meals

Dining hall run by Chartwells Higher Education

(Credit: Chartwells Higher Education)

by | Nov 2, 2023

Chartwells Higher Education and HowGood have found that using climate labeling for dining hall menu items significantly increased student demand for low-impact meals.

Chartwells partnered with HowGood in May of 2022 to measure the sustainability of its menu items. Metrics including emissions, processing, water usage, soil health, land use, biodiversity, and animal welfare were used to evaluate the social and environmental impact of foods listed on dining hall menus on partner campuses, revealing these impacts to dining hall-goers.

As a result of the program, Chartwells recorded a 37% rise in the production of recipes that received positive HowGood ratings. As student demand for low-impact recipes increased, Chartwell’s nationwide menu items with positive HowGood ratings rose from less than a third to nearly half of all menu items.

“We were thrilled to be the first and only food service provider to introduce holistic climate labels to university dining halls,” said Monalisa Prasad, director of sustainability at Chartwells Higher Education. “The feedback so far from students and campus partners has been overwhelmingly positive. We’re continuing to improve the program by offering a broader range of low-impact menu options and making positive impacts easier to understand through measures like simplified iconography.”

In order to improve recipes based on their emissions-reducing potential, Chartwell’s culinary team used HowGood’s Latis platform. The online platform offers insights across eight sustainability metrics for more than 33,000 ingredients, with 600 vetted data sources used in impact analyses.

Results Reflect Trend of Consumer Interest in Sustainable Purchasing

With this data informing food labeling, consumers are able to better comprehend the full scope of their purchasing decisions’ emissions impact–an understanding that consumers appear to care about increasingly more across industries.

In the travel and tourism industry, consumer demand for environmentally conscious options has increased, and the hospitality sector has responded with the Hospitality Alliance for Responsible Procurement to implement sustainable supply chains. Demand for eco-friendly products has also led to expected growth in the green packaging industry.

Some companies have also come under scrutiny by consumers for marketing their brand as a carbon-neutral option without full transparency over how emissions reductions are made. For instance, Delta was sued by a customer earlier this year for supposedly misleading carbon neutrality claims.

HowGood said its online platform responds to consumer demand for transparency and increased preference for sustainable products, and the results of Chartwell’s labeling program also appear to reveal rising consumer interest in environmentally friendly purchasing.

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