As the Internet and globalization have made the world smaller, the world of food has actually become larger and more important than ever.
Once merely the sustenance our bodies needed to function, food now brings with it a variety of different connotations — some good, some not so good. Last month, as an example, we learned the first genetically modified salmon had been approved for sale in Canada. The announcement created a groundswell of controversy. While some hailed it as an initiative that would lead to greater food quality and production methods, others saw it as yet another sign of tampering with our natural food supply.
We live in a world that is constantly evolving. Carnivores are slowly being replaced by vegetarians, pescatarians and flexitarians. The movement to incorporate more plant-based foods in our diet is also quickly growing. Last year Michelin-star chef Alain Ducasse made headlines when his restaurant at the Plaza Athenée in Paris went meatless. Recently, the owners of Chase Hospitality Group in Toronto made a commitment to increase its restaurants’ plant-based food to 25 per cent of its menus. Last month, in a surprising move, the University of Toronto announced it would be severing ties with contract caterer Aramark, choosing instead to run the foodservice department at its downtown campus itself. The university cited the fact that today’s students are demanding made-from-scratch foods as the reason for the change and, as a result, will now serve more local produce, as well as less pre-prepared and processed foods.
Clearly, the continuing saga of healthy foods is creating new anxiety about what we eat. In the past, food choices were dictated by what tasted good. Today, and especially as we age, the relationship between diet and health is becoming better understood.
To that end, in late May, the Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts at George Brown College organized a one-day nutrition course, which attracted a sell-out crowd of more than 300 who came together to listen to medical experts talk about nutrition. Michael Moss, author of the best seller Salt Sugar Fat spoke about the increasing trend by large food processors to add salt, sugar and fat to our foods as a means of making their products convenient and irresistible.
After years of convenience driving restaurant and grocery sales, today’s consumer is clamouring for natural, healthy and better-tasting food, while also demanding the companies making the products and serving them are eco-friendly, ethically minded and socially conscious.
With a cacophony of voices screaming to be heard, today’s consumers are being forced to cut through the noise by doing their own research, and in the process, becoming their own advocates. Much of this is being spurred by the millennial cohort, who is fuelling the move to more natural, less processed and more authentic foods. It’s an educated group, and one that will continue to spur change in all aspects of the food chain. Operators and suppliers who ignore them do so at their own peril.