If the world is really going to shift toward a diet based mostly on plants in the quest to take on the looming climate crisis and ensure our lands can support a growing population, we’ll have to push all industries and companies to embrace this change.
We’ll need more than fast-food companies and celebrity chefs to raise awareness about plant-based foods. After all, not all of us brave the drive-through window for a Beyond Taco at cult favorite Del Taco or an Impossible Whopper at the local Burger King on a daily basis. But many employees do work at places where foodservice companies serve up breakfast and lunch fare, whether they are eating at a cafeteria in a hospital, government agency complex or within a massive tech firm in Silicon Valley. If plant-based foods can make it there, the reality is that these options can make it anywhere.
To that end, foodservice giant Sodexo, working closely with WWF and Unilever’s food and beverage brand Knorr, is evangelizing plant-based foods wide and far, including at what Sodexo says is approximately 2,500 cafeterias in the U.S. and about as many across the pond in Europe.
And when these organizations say plant-based foods, we’re not talking about the fake burgers from the likes of Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat that are taking all of the oxygen out of the business newswires (and according to some nutritionists, are also taking some oxygen out of human health, but I digress).
No, this talk is about what are literally plant-based foods, focused on 50 ingredients that Knorr describes as the Future 50 Foods.
Many of us are already familiar with some of these foods: black beans, lentils, quinoa, kale and walnuts. But there are other foods that you may have only come across in some cooking magazines, travel shows or while venturing abroad: lotus root, black salsify, fonio and nopales (if you haven’t had a nopales taco, such as one shown above, while traveling around the western U.S., you’re missing out).
There are many reasons why Knorr singles out these foods. First of all, if prepared correctly, they taste fantastic (skip the ham and egg omelette, for example, and try one with squash blossoms). Second, these foods are nutritious and packed with good stuff your parents, doctor, dietician and trainer—not to mention Gwyneth Paltrow—have been telling you to ingest all these years. Furthermore, all of these 50 ingredients can be grown sustainably with minimal impact on people or the environment.
Ultimately, this Sodexo-Knorr-WWF alliance is also urging us to try out these foods (and love them) so that they can scale up and make our global agricultural food systems more resilient. In the end, if more people eat orange, yellow or heirloom tomatoes rather than the conventional red ones, for example, that helps us step away from the current monoculture agriculture systems critics say leave farms vulnerable to pests, diseases and environmental degradation.
Watch for some of these foods to land at a cafeteria near you, as Sodexo and Knorr employees work together to develop recipes that could give a new twist to yogurt parfaits, tartines and vegetable bowls.
Image credit: Yesica/Flickr
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.