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FOCUS 70: Embedding Sustainability Into Food

Thomas Zhuo, APAC Digital Partnerships Director, and Roshith Rajan, APAC Corporate Responsibility Director discuss Sodexo’s partnership with start-ups to drive innovative, sustainable food services in Singapore and across Asia Pacific.  

 

Tell us about Sodexo’s sustainable food program in the domain of food tech.  

Roshith: Sodexo’s mission is to improve the Quality of Life of the people we serve and the communities they live in. As a company that serves 11.2 million consumers in 12 territories across APAC, we have a moral responsibility to address environmental challenges and create social impact.  

For us, the fight against food waste with a single-minded focus on prevention is the single biggest environmental impact action that we can take. We implement solutions that reduce waste at every point in the food service value chain. Through our data and behaviour driven program, WasteWatch, our teams can easily capture food waste data and take action to drive behavioural change, be it food waste generated in the kitchen or consumer food waste. In Singapore, we have implemented WasteWatch in education institutes, hospitals and multi-national corporations, where we also proactively educate consumers on mindful consumption. Globally, WasteWatch will be deployed across 3,000 client sites by 2020, including additional sites in Singapore. 

In addition, we work closely with local partners to integrate a range of innovative plant-based and plant-forward options throughout our menus, driving shifts in consumer perception and behaviour towards more sustainable diets.  

 

How is Sodexo innovating its food programme?  

Thomas: The service industry is transforming at an exponential speed, driven by consumer trends, digitalisation and disruptive technologies. To serve today’s digital-savvy consumers, our focus lies in transforming the consumer experience from a traditional offline experience to a digitally-enabled one, which opens up the opportunity for Sodexo to design and provide more value-added services. 

We have invested in a Chinese start-up, AEYE-GO, in November 2018 through Sodexo Ventures, Sodexo’s venture capital fund. AEYE-GO is a cutting-edge self-checkout system based on artificial intelligence (AI) image recognition technology, offering both tray and facial recognition options for fast and personalized check-outs. This technology enables us to automate the payment for food, easing queues and enhancing user experience. After a successful pilot, Sodexo is deploying the solution in several client sites in China. 

 

As a leader in the food services industry, does Sodexo work with agri-tech producers to cultivate a more sustainable food system? 

Roshith: Consumers are getting increasingly sophisticated and they expect food to be exciting, tasty, sustainable and value-for-money all at the same time. As the demand for plant-rich diets rise, Sodexo chefs globally have developed menus that feature over 200 new plant-based recipes. This minimises our impact on the environment while promoting better health.  

Responsible sourcing is another key tenet of our commitment and we work closely with Small and Medium Enterprises, as well as women-owned and minority-owned businesses to source fresh, local ingredients. We have a commitment to deliver €10 billion in business value to such diverse businesses. From fruits and vegetables to seafood and animal protein, the focus on environmentally-friendly ingredients in our menus drives a reduction in carbon footprint.  

From time to time, we host innovation dialogues to enable conversations with food producers and stay ahead of new food trends. We explore opportunities to partner with local producers to deliver new taste sensations to our consumers and increase the availability of fresh, locally-grown products. 

 

With Singapore's efforts to develop its agri-tech program and supporting start-ups, how is this relevant to Sodexo's strategies?  

Thomas: We partnered with a start-up and piloted a smart retail solution that digitises the café experience at Sodexo APAC House in Singapore. This RFID-enabled solution provides employees convenient access to meals without the need to queue in long lines. Payment is cashless and carried out over a mobile app making the transaction fuss-free – this not only frees up floor space required by cashier counters for better use, but also improves labour productivity. We are constantly on the look out to collaborate with start-ups to bring green and innovative solutions to our consumers. 

Interview with Thomas Zhuo, APAC Digital Partnerships Director, and Roshith Rajan, APAC Corporate Responsibility Director, for FOCUS #70. To read more articles from this issue, download your digital copy here

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