Demand for higher quality and British food has grown by up to 100 per cent, according to the Soil Association
Caterers were looking to stock quality British produce instead of engaging in a ‘race for the bottom’ on price, according to Soil Association senior catering mark manager, Rich Watts.
Caterers holding the Soil Association’s Food for Life Catering Mark increased their spending on British food by £14 million in 2016, to £49.7m.
The scheme has encouraged ‘positive changes’ in the catering sector to local, sustainable and ethical products with points given for spending on different schemes such as LEAF, RSPCA, Fairtrade and Organic.
Eating out is the fastest growing sector of the UK food market and could offer significant opportunities for British producers as Mr Watts predicted the sector would continue to grow.
UK eating out commercial market was worth £85.4bn in 2015 with a growth rate of 2.9 compared to flat retail sales.
Mr Watts said: “Instead of a race for the bottom in terms of sourcing the cheapest ingredients for public sector catering, the award celebrates those who are making change for the better.
“It does not just reward the steps taken by the caterer to refocus on sustainable and ethical food, but recognises British food and farmers,” he said.
“There are obvious opportunities for UK farmers in supplying into the catering sector, and as more caterers look to source local food we’re only expecting demand to grow”
Half of English schoolchildren now eat meals which hold the award and £71.6m was spent on ‘ethical schemes’ in schools annually.
There was a 100 per cent increase in ‘free range’ sales, with £6m spent on free range pork and poultry.