Comment: Just call me a Reducetarian

Hilton vice president of F&B strategy and development EMEA Emma Banks weighs in on the rise of veganism and how F&B strategy should be evolving alongside it

Emma Banks
Emma Banks

According to The Economist 8% of the world was declared vegan in 2018 and statistically it seems that twice as many women as men are vegan. In 2019, 600,000 people in the UK adopted the challenge of Veganuary and 87% were women. Online search engines are reporting spikes in the search for vegan and #vegan has reached more than 87 million posts on Instagram. The Economist then went on to name 2019 as the year of the vegan and it is reported that 26% of millennials are currently vegetarian or vegan. So, what is happening and why are people eating less meat?

The top reasons consumers cited eating less meat or animal-based products were health, weight management, animal welfare, environment, concerns over antibiotics and taste. The EAT-Lancet Commission published a study calling for a drastic change to food production and the human diet to avoid “catastrophic damage to the planet” on January 16 2019. The study recommended a reduction of meat intake by 50% globally and an increase in fruit, vegetables nuts and legumes. It is widely known that agriculture and rearing cattle is depleting the world's natural resources at an unsustainable rate and that animal farming is a major contributor to greenhouse gases. The Lancet called for mankind to adopt a daily diet to 'place consumption within the boundaries of the planet'.

Veganuary has certainly opened up the world of a non-animal product diet to a wider generation and has assisted in the charge of moving it away from a perceived, trendy young diet. In a world of customisation and personalisation, a huge food trend started to emerge in 2017 — flexitarian. Consumers who for one of the aforementioned reasons choose to reduce their intake of meat and animal products either throughout the day or over a set period of times. The world of the saint or sinner food trend emerged in 2018 and restaurants started to curate concepts or menus that satisfied both meat eaters and a growing base of consumers choosing to opt out of animal products and choosing what to eat and when, viewing themselves as being good by abstaining and treating themselves by eating meat.

The world of food and beverage has always been dynamic and a challenge but the hospitality industry is having to learn to adapt, and fast, as consumers' taste preferences change and develop. Sustainable food sources, local product, meat alternatives, fish alternatives, healthy snacking, fermented foods and vegetable-led menus are amongst some of the major food trends emerging in 2020. Couple this with diets such as vegan, vegetarian, keto, paleo and dairy free, it's clear to see that hospitality is having to deliver food and beverage with purpose to engage with the customer of 2020 and beyond. It is vital that we embrace these lifestyle choices and adopt them in our food and beverage operations, but we must remain clear in the clarity of concept and not become all manner of cuisines and product to confuse the offer and indeed your valued guest. Define the concept, be authentic, adopt a less is more approach and execute with precision and fl air. Ultimately, there has never been a better time to really invest in your culinary and front-of-house knowledge of food trends and take a long hard look at what your menus are trying to deliver.

When we programme our food and beverage it will be even more critical to ensure that we meet the needs of our guests who are either on a splurge and really treating themselves and those who are abstaining with a diet restriction. This discipline and skill will take the best culinary and front-of-house talent to execute, led by a clear property F&B strategy. The discipline and execution are vital as it is now clearly recognised that a great F&B proposition is the differentiator for your hotel property and a window into your property. In addition, your F&B operation will be contributing to a reduction in the environmental footprint.

I would consider myself a “reducetarian”. The term refers to individuals who reduce the amount of meat that they consume in order to improve their health, protect the environment, and spare farmed animals. The Reducetarian Foundation was founded in 2015 and I have unwittingly become a member. I am sure there are many of you out there!

Catch me at a Hilton property either enjoying a vegan poke bowl or juicy steak depending on the day! After all, I am also a customer.

About the author
Based at Hilton’s regional office in Dubai Emma Banks is the vice president of F&B strategy and development across EMEA, supporting Hilton’s trading and future pipeline of hotels.

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