White Castle serves Impossible Burgers now. IKEA introduced a vegan hot dog. But news today from Sodexo, a global food-service company, has the potential to be the most impactful vegan move of the past few years. Why? Because Sodexo food reaches tens of millions of people every day in corporate and hospital cafeterias, school dining halls, stadiums, and other institutions. The news: Sodexo has launched new menus featuring 200 plant-based recipes across its North American accounts.
The new dishes were developed in conjunction with the Humane Society of the United States and the World Resource Institute-Better Buying Lab with the dual goal of meeting demand for more vegan options and reducing food’s environmental impact. Recipes include dishes like smoky black bean tamales, chipotle quinoa burrito bowls, and kung pao cauliflower, which are certainly more interesting than the French fries, pizza, and chicken parm routinely served in my college’s cafeteria.
Sodexo is also savvy about how the dishes are named and marketed; its goal is not just to provide these as “that one vegan option on the menu” but to encourage even meat-eaters to incorporate more vegetables and plant-based foods into their diets.
“The current language set used to describe plant-based food isn’t creating the right stimulation in consumers’ brains to drive curiosity for trying new dishes,” Daniel Vennard, director of the Better Buying Lab at the World Resource Institute said in a statement. “Our work with Sodexo in testing naming conventions demonstrated that even a small change could significantly increase willingness to select a plant-based option.”
Given Sodexo’s massive global reach—just think of that buying power, too—the new menus have the potential to make a change in some of the least glamorous but most important places the world eats.