GAITHERSBURG, Md., April 9, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Americans eat more meat than any other developed nation – a lifestyle choice that can take a toll on health and the environment. A new report just released by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future indicates that Sodexo's Meatless Monday initiative has helped the leader in Quality of Daily Life Solutions accomplish its goal of serving healthier, more sustainable choices while maintaining sales and increasing customer satisfaction.
"It's one thing to know from a nutritional perspective that reducing your intake of saturated fats is an important component of a healthy lifestyle. But it's a whole other challenge to make that case to a nation of serious meat lovers," said Nitu Gupta, vice president food and nutrition brand management, Sodexo. "The popularity of the Meatless Monday initiative demonstrates the fact that it indeed can be done through education combined with great tasting plant-based menu options."
Sodexo launched its Meatless Monday initiative in January 2011 in the company's health care, government and corporate divisions as part of its ongoing effort to work as a strategic partner in meeting client objectives for sustainability, health and wellness and support for local communities. The program included new plant-based options and communications material that educated diners on the benefits of eating less meat and more vegetables. According to the survey of 245 sites, the Meatless Monday program helped accomplish several important Sodexo goals. 87 percent of respondents noted that it demonstrated Sodexo's commitment to health and 71 percent reported that it made vegetarian options more appealing.
One of the most significant findings was that 49 percent of food service directors who implemented the Meatless Monday program saw an increase in purchases of vegetables during the promotion and 30 percent saw a decrease in meat purchases, which shows the potential of Meatless Monday to shift consumers toward more plant-based options.
"Small steps toward making healthier and more sustainable food choices, like the ones called for in Meatless Monday, can have an enormous impact when implemented on a large scale by companies like Sodexo," said Dr. Robert Lawrence of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. "Reducing meat and increasing vegetable consumption has a host of positive benefits for our health and can ease our footprint on the environment by conserving fresh water and energy."
According to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, global food and animal production is responsible for a significant percentage of human contributions to climate change and it is also a substantial source of both water use and pollution worldwide. Just switching from a single hamburger to a plant-based option can decrease an individual's environmental impact by a factor of six or greater.
A growing body of research also suggests that even a modest reduction of meat and saturated fat in the diet can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke and certain cancers and increase longevity. Meatless Monday helps encourage people to try nutrient-rich alternatives to meat, such as, beans, whole grains and leafy greens – setting a pattern for the week that can sustain healthy diets over time.
The survey also found that the program was simple to start and had staying power. Of the 74 percent who offered Meatless Monday, the majority of providers, 76 percent, said that the campaign was "easy" or "very easy" to implement and 65 percent said they will continue to promote the campaign with an additional 24 percent noting that they may continue.
The research showed that the majority of sites did not see an adverse effect on retail sales while there was a net positive in consumer response. One account saw a 5 percent improvement in customer satisfaction as a direct result of the Meatless Monday program and noted that customers were willing to pay as much for meatless entrees as for those containing meat.
The survey also indicates opportunities to improve future health promotions. Sodexo's implementation of the Meatless Monday program was most successful among health care clients who placed greater importance on the health benefits of reducing meat consumption. More focus on education about the health benefits of Meatless Monday has the potential to increase adoption rates and consumer satisfaction in other sectors.
"Sodexo was one of the early leaders in the Meatless Monday movement, which is now in 22 countries and embraced by celebrities like Mario Batali and Oprah, restaurants, bloggers, students and entire communities," said Peggy Neu, president, The Monday Campaigns. "Sodexo demonstrated that consumers can be 'nudged' toward healthier options when novel recipes that appeal to the eye and the palate are coupled with education and weekly promotions."
Download the full report for complete details. This report is also available for download on the Johns Hopkins School of Public Heath website. Visit Meatless Monday online to read additional facts about the specific health and environmental benefits associated with reduced meat consumption.
About Sodexo in North America
Sodexo, Inc. (www.sodexoUSA.com), leading Quality of Daily Life Solutions company in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, delivers On-site Service Solutions in Corporate, Education, Health Care, Government, Remote Site segments and Motivation Solutions such as Esteem Pass. Sodexo, Inc., headquartered in Gaithersburg, Md., funds all administrative costs for Sodexo Foundation (www.SodexoFoundation.org), an independent charitable organization that, since its founding in 1999, has made more than $17 million in grants to end childhood hunger in America. Visit the corporate blog at www.sodexoUSA.com/blog.
About The Johns Hopkins Center For A Livable Future
The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, located at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, promotes research and develops and communicates information about the interrelationships among diet, food production, environment and human health. The Center also promotes policies that protect human health, the global environment and the ability to sustain life for future generations. Visit www.jhsph.edu/clf for more information.
About The Monday Campaigns
The Monday Campaigns is a non-profit organization associated with leading public health schools that dedicates the first day of every week to health. Meatless Monday, the first Monday campaign launched in 2003 in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has become a global movement of individuals and organizations seeking to cut out meat once a week for their personal health and the health of the planet. Visit. www.mondaycampaigns.org.
SOURCE Sodexo Inc.