As a restaurateur, you either give your customers what they want or you could go out of business.

Where sustainability is concerned, you can leverage your customers’ opinions and attitudes to better understand what environmental efforts you should undertake, which could generate more sales.

A short case study from our neighbors to the North is helpful here.

Tips from a Canadian success story

In Canada, selling root beer and burgers is good business. With 845 locations, A&W Food Services of Canada, Inc. has a successful business model and is committed to reducing its environmental footprint. When they wondered where to begin their eco-efforts, they asked their customers.

The company crafted an environmental strategy focused on waste diversion, based on consumer market analysis and feedback.

“The majority of our sustainability initiatives are guest-led,” said Tyler Pronyk, director of distribution, equipment and packaging.

“We became the first national QSR chain to exclusively serve beef raised without the use of hormones and steroids, and that was sparked by consumer demand. (read more…)

Hal Hamilton founded and now is co-director of the Sustainable Food Lab in Hartland, Vt., which helps companies adopt sustainability practices, gathers data on sustainability efforts and shares that information to promote the sustainability movement. He talks with SmartBlogs about how the lab works and the future of sustainable agriculture.

How did the Sustainable Food Lab get started and what are the priorities?

The Food Lab first convened in June 2004 as a two-year leadership journey. Over the past 10 years it has expanded to include more than 60 member and partner organizations, including brand manufacturers like Unilever, Mars and Stonyfield; food service companies like Sysco, Sodexo and Aramark; retailers like Costco and Marks & Spencer; and NGOs like The Nature Conservancy, Rainforest Alliance and Oxfam.

The reason the Food Lab has grown is that businesses are integrating sustainability into their value chains and need to learn from one another about how to do this more effectively. (read more…)

Project Carton logoTo make products stand out on the grocery store shelf, food- and beverage-makers are investing in sustainable packaging that consumers can feel good about purchasing, both for its lower environmental impact and for its attractive, fashion-forward designs. And as packaging becomes almost as important as the product it holds, packaging design has been elevated to an art form. In fact, the visual appeal of a product’s packaging design has been found to influence a consumer’s purchasing decision as much as original preference for a product, according to a study published in the journal Proceedings for the National Academy of Sciences, which used eye-tracking technology to measure visual interaction with four products.

Enter Project Carton, the Fashion Institute of Technology‘s exhibit of gable-top cartons created by students in the school’s packaging design program for a competition sponsored by Evergreen Packaging at FIT in fall 2012. The exhibition, which is on display until Jan. (read more…)

Two hot topics in the food world grew even hotter last year, converging as companies across the globe sought better solutions to stem the tide of food waste and get more food to the people who need it.

In the U.S., Americans toss more than 40 million tons of food waste on the landfills every year, with much of it coming from supermarkets and restaurants that throw away food that’s still good but past its sell-by date. Somewhere between 25% and 40% of the food produced in the United States will never be eaten, according to data from the Food Waste Reduction Alliance.

Meanwhile, 50 million Americans, including about 16 million children, suffer from food insecurity, according to the Agriculture Department. Children go hungry as tons of edible food gets sent to the dump — it’s a problem supermarket retailers and restaurant chains are taking aim at in greater numbers.

Harvesting the power of restaurants

Composting may play a key role for restaurants in the future, but in many markets eateries have focused more of their efforts on sharing their extra food with the hungry. (read more…)

The Beef Checkoff sponsored this blog post. Visit http://factsaboutbeef.com to learn more. Dr. Kim Stackhouse-Lawson is the Director of Sustainability Research at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff, and is currently leading the Beef Checkoff sustainability effort, which marks the first and largest sustainability project that has ever been attempted in the beef community. She received her PhD in Animal Science from the University of California, Davis, and was a postdoctoral fellow with the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University.

SB: What was the impetus for the Beef Checkoff’s sustainability project? Farmers and ranchers recognized the need to benchmark the sustainability of beef production and better understand sustainability improvements from the past in order to produce more sustainable beef in the future. So in 2010, they chose to invest their own dollars, through the Beef Checkoff, in research to benchmark the environmental, economic and social sustainability of beef. (read more…)