sustainable food purchasing

November 15, 2021 •

5 min reading

Tips for sustainable food sourcing practices courtesy of Beelong

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In order to understand its level of sustainability and environmentally-friendly practices, EHL allowed the Beelong start-up to analyse every product and ingredient used in cooking for the school's busy food court. The Beelong audit replied to some simple questions: How to choose food products that are more environmentally friendly? How to buy professionally using criteria other than price, quality or packaging? 

What is Beelong all about?

Beelong was born on the EHL Campus Lausanne in 2008 and has developed into a successful start-up, led by EHL Alumni Charlotte and Mathias. It started with a single purpose: helping food and beverage professionals in finding more environmentally friendly products to offer to their consumers. Beelong has since grown tremendously and offers services to improve transparency, traceability and sustainability in F&B outlets. Beelong is currently based in the EHL Innovation Village, and because of the proximity, a collaboration with EHL came as a natural move.

The Sustainability Department along with the F&B and Purchasing Teams at EHL, wanting to better the F&B offer, decided to collaborate and allow Beelong to use their now well established tools to track where each ingredient comes from and how sustainable it really is. Beelong focused their analysis on the busy EHL Food Court from October 2020 to March 2021. This time frame allowed for the seasonality analysis of products used on site. Accompanied by Pierre Gordien from the EHL food purchasing department, Beelong thoroughly examined each ingredient used in the many EHL recipes, and came to various conclusions which allowed Executive Chef, Christian Segui, to make appropriate decisions with regards to the food offer.

EHL is particularly sensitive to the sustainability of the foods it offers. As a training institution for future leaders in the hotel and restaurant industry, chefs and buyers have an important role to play in education. Given the volumes of goods consumed, a simple change in frying oil, for example, is already an important step forward. 

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The EHL food court analysis

The Beelong indicator evaluates the food according to five main criteria:

  • Origin of the foodstuffs
  • Seasonality
  • Method of production
  • Impact on climate & resources
  • Product transformation

A foodstuff, a dish or a restaurant’s purchases will obtain a grade of between A and E, determining their environmental performance. The Beelong audit has allowed the F&B department to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their food court.

Unsurprisingly, 98% of the food is produced in-house, which is an asset when making decisions as it leaves greater flexibility, but also more pressure. 92% of food offered comes from fresh produce, and 41% has attained various labels certifying the quality of the food. In addition, 78% of the produce offered is seasonal, which is impressive - but still leaves room for improvement.

Organic food is not yet a priority but is building momentum and the teams are working on improving the 1% of organic food currently offered. This should be complemented by the produce coming from the EHL garden which is grown without pesticides. Encouragingly, only 19% of food comes from outside of Switzerland or the EU.


Sustainable catering practices: Key changes implemented

Pierre Gordien, EHL Food Purchaser: 

"The Beelong study allowed us to take a real look at our purchasing, and was an additional tool to emphasize our conscious and sustainable food policy at EHL. In fact, I would say that the biggest obstacle has been overcoming the current rule that price is our first selection criteria. It is essential today to stop using ingredients that come from afar and to refocus our purchases on European sources, and as much as we can afford, on Swiss sources.

This does not mean that our spending budget will increase. It just means that we are more aware of where our food choices come from, and have become more adept at negotiating alternatives with our distributors. It also implies that we have to reduce or ban the less sustainable products.

In seafood we have stopped buying endangered species. We are trying to move towards seasonal products and labelled products for farmed fish such as ASC (Acquaculture Stewardship Council), and this without compromising our quality standards. This is not always easy because most of these products are often more expensive than conventional products.

For example, regarding the tiger shrimps, the purchasing department looked for price alternatives with the ASC label. When we finally found something, our Chef did not appreciate the quality. So instead of looking for another alternative, the real solution was to simply not use shrimp anymore!"

Christian Segui, Executive Chef:

"It was important for us to improve our purchasing and production model, to find alternatives wherever possible. For example, the Asia food corner had to reduce its carbon footprint, and it was a great creative team effort to find alternatives on all fronts.

We have significantly reduced orange juice at breakfast when oranges are not in season and offer apple juice instead.

New Zealand lamb scored very low because of the distance and the antibiotics it has to endure. We now use Irish or French lamb, which is more expensive but performs better. We have replaced foreign beef steaks with Swiss beef, which has grazed in the area and supports local farmers. In fact, it's not more expensive and it's better quality.

We have introduced "Meatless Wednesdays" as a vegetarian initiative. We are adapting a varied and attractive offer by proposing dishes based on vegetable proteins (Tempe, Tofu, Soya Bean) as well as ovos and lactose products."

Thomas Marie, Head Baker: 

“The challenge was to find raw materials that correspond to our way of working. We've managed to find everything we wanted in Swiss quality produce: 95% of the ingredients for the bakery are local, whether it is flour, butter, sugar, salt, milk or even yeast.”

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Why turn to a sustainability F&B company like Beelong?

With 30% of damage to the environment generated in Switzerland by food*, caterers and players in the food industry (producers, transformers, distributors, etc.) have a crucial role to play.

Whether in terms of CO2 emissions, pollution, impact on climate and biodiversity, waste management or even working conditions and food safety, the choices made each day by professionals in relation to food have major consequences. Due to the volume of meals served each day by restaurants, whether institutional or commercial, the entire branch must assume certain responsibilities in respect to their partners, customers and the environment.

But to buy in a more sustainable way, there must be access to information! Beelong thus wishes to contribute to the development of transparency on the food market by making accessible environmental information on products. Beelong today works with numerous caterers, brands and distributors throughout Switzerland, all players concerned about the future of our planet and the transparency of the food industry.

* Source: Office fédéral de l’environnement (OFEV – Swiss federal office for the environment), 2011.

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Contributing Beyond Education

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Beatrice Venturini
Written by
Beatrice Venturini

EHL Insights content editor