“At Vacherin, we recognise that wasted food is bad for our environment, but it’s also bad for business.”

VACHERIN were highly commended for the waste no food award at the food made good awards 2018

Every year, the UK food service industry throws out a million tonnes of food, enough food to fill the Shard almost 11 times.

At Vacherin, we recognise that wasted food is bad for our environment, but it’s also bad for business.

This is why we continue to work hard, developing new and more efficient ways of managing our food; celebrating less-used ingredients, cutting our waste, and ensuring any unavoidable waste reaches its most sustainable end-point.

Innovative chefs

Over the year of 2017, Vacherin’s Executive Chefs have developed a huge range of recipes to tackle avoidable food waste, by making use of the leftover pulp from our popular made-to-order juices in baked goods and veggie burgers. As well as training our chefs internally about using these surplus products that would be binned into a sell-able product, we have promoted a ‘food waste’ recipe on the One Planet Plate website in association with WWF and the SRA.

I’mperfect

Launched in 2015, Vacherin’s I’mPerfect Initiative works with our fruit & veg suppliers to source produce which does not meet rigorous cosmetic standards of larger retailers. Also known as “wonky” fruit & veg, Vacherin’s chefs use this produce in hospitality and cafe operations, diverting it from either being turned back into the ground at the farm, or sent to landfill/compost at the retail level. In 2017/18, we sourced almost 7000kg of fruit & veg, a massive increase of 80% since the previous year.

Identifying the wasted ingredients

As well as sourcing coffee with strong ethical principles, we also ensure used coffee grounds meet a low-carbon end. Using bio-bean as our recycling partner results in 60% less emissions than sending coffee grounds to landfill, 30% less than anaerobic digestion, and extracts far greater value from the individual waste stream than when sent for composting. At some of our larger sites we monitor food waste every single day. This is reported on to clients monthly with actions to continually reduce. Recently, we noticed that porridge waste was very high in a site and therefore sought to improve this with reducing pre-made portions, and sitting down with the chef development team creating recipes such as protein bars and smoothies for leftover porridge that can be eaten and sold the next day.

Championing chefs

This project was led by our chefs. Our Director of Food, Dan Kelly, showed extreme passion for not wasting food and spearheaded the wonky veg I’mperfect project. Our chef development team worked tirelessly to understand what the wastage problem was in the business and sought ways to innovate leftovers into another dish. The input of Ops managers trying the idea of reselling surplus food as a new dish which would aid gross profit (the predominant marker of success in this industry) really helped drive the project forward. 

Involving the whole team

A few of the team were affected by the media around the volume of food being wasted in the country. I think this opened up people’s eye in their own sites to see the risks and opportunities. Chefs teaching chefs about the opportunities and recipes helped bring the idea to life. The demonstrations allowed people to taste for themselves that yesterday’s porridge could be made into a genuinely tasty oat based protein ball that also can look great and sell well. You could see the body language of the chefs change from the start of the training to skepticism to enthusiasm when they tasted the food. The recipes are also not prescriptive, they’re a baseline to let chefs use their creativity and hand back control. That helps.

Starting with the source

The start of prepping for the recipes was to see what foods were most wasted in sites. At a few of our larger sites, we monitor food waste daily so speaking to the site teams it was easy to see what the key offenders were; porridge and veg scraps. For the I’mperfect produce, this required conversations with our suppliers on what was available and what volumes existed to understand how we might manage the purchasing between our individually operating sites  For coffee grounds, it was an education of why coffee grounds are better off in a separate waste stream to general food waste, to justify the collection cost to clients. With a lot of these, the potential for a ‘good news story’ also helped.  

Over 2017/18, Vacherin’s Executive Chefs have developed a huge range of recipes to tackle avoidable food waste, for instance by making use of the leftover pulp from our popular made-to-order juices in baked goods and veggie burgers. The use of the deadline for One Planet Plate helped spur on perfecting the recipe ready for a public sphere. Enabling chefs to use their creativity helped. We’ve got a few sites now who take leftover veg scraps, dry them and turn them into crumbs. These add incredible flavour and colour to dishes such as letting customers customise soups and adding decoration to food in hospitality. For Imperfect produce, our company head chef sends out availability to all chefs in the business weekly. This works two fold, as the company top chef he is well respected so coming from him, the email will get read. It also acts as a constant reminder to source sustainably from more than just our purchasing head or CSR lead.

We still have a few challenges around availability of wonky veg versus the quantity of people who want to use it but in saying that, in 2017/18, we sourced almost 7000kg of fruit & veg, a massive increase of 80% on the previous year. So it’s going pretty well. Chefs really want to use it, the idea has been embedded in their minds. The sales on the surplus food I don’t yet have data on – that’s a newer project –  but anecdotally we’ve heard very positive things.
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