NAHGAST: Eating out sustainably

The average German citizen eats out around 140 times a year – and this trend is on the increase, meaning that the relevance of the associated climate protection potential is also on the rise. It is found in a wide range of factors: which ingredients are used to prepare which meals? Where do the foodstuffs come from? How are they processed? With a view to exploiting this potential, the “NAHGAST” project at the Münster University of Applied Sciences is working on helping catering establishments and commercial kitchens to make the food they produce more sustainable.

Ranging from grilled sausages at the stadium to university refectory or canteen meals, to catering in hotels and take-away snack bars, right up to a 5-course meal in a restaurant: the out-of-home dining sector offers wide variety. In Germany, this sector plays an important role in the food products trade, alongside the food retail trade, accounting for a market share of about 30 per cent. The out-of-home dining sector, therefore, offers a wide range of possibilities for increased sustainability. Simply by lowering the percentage of meat, focusing on products that are seasonally and regionally available and reducing food waste, more than 20 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions could be avoided. This is the potential for climate protection that the “NAHGAST” project intends to exploit by developing a range of different ideas.

Engine for progress:

  • High relevance to and potential for climate protection
  • Comprehensive tool for evaluating dishes
  • Intervention kit: increasing consumer awareness

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Photo: FH Münster, Fachbereich Oecotrophologie - Facility Management

The NAHGAST calculator that has been developed, along with recommendations for a more sustainable approach to meal production, are available to restaurateurs and caterers as a digital intervention kit, enabling them to prepare dishes in a more sustainable way.

How sustainable is the food we prepare?

With the NAHGAST calculator, the project has developed a prototype which allows caterers to comprehensively evaluate the dishes they prepare according to ecological, social and health criteria, using a relatively simple technique. In the background, the calculator integrates established approaches to ecological assessment, such as the carbon and water footprint or calculations of resource consumption according to the MIPS concept, which is a fundamental measuring tool to assess the potential environmental impact of products and services. Social implications are measured by whether products come from fair trade organisations or carry recognised animal welfare labels. Health criteria include the energy or fibre content, for example. By linking the ratings to what is known as the sustainable level, i.e. the reference values for a sustainable way of life that are discussed in the scientific community, the calculator can rank the food prepared by a catering establishment according to its sustainability.

On the practical level, the NAHGAST calculator relieves caterers entirely of the burden of the assessment issues which they often find complicated. By means of a simple traffic light labelling system, users get an overview of the sustainability of the foods they prepare from an ecological, social and health perspective. Not only does NAHGAST make users aware of the impact their choices have in terms of sustainability, but also outlines specific ways caterers can take action. The topics range from procurement to recipe development, right up to energy management and avoiding food waste.

Making consumers more aware of sustainability

The social trend towards more sustainable and healthier eating habits is also important for the out-of-home dining sector; in the past, it has been unclear how catering establishments can best approach their customers on these topics.

The project therefore investigated how consumers can be motivated to make more sustainable choices. In this context, a series of scientific tests was run by partners on the ground to comprehensively trial interventions such as providing information, nudging and customer participation. Methods of approaching customers, such as providing detailed descriptions of the dishes, or placing the most sustainable meal choices in the most attractive areas of the serving counter, are presented in the practical toolkit.

Distribution as a digital “intervention kit”

The NAHGAST calculator, which was developed with various partners on the ground, the recommendations for a more sustainable approach to meal production and suggestions for approaching customers have been amalgamated into a so-called digital “intervention kit” for restaurateurs and caterers. In its current version, the prototype combines the complex demands for a scientifically-based evaluation of foodstuffs and the demands for clarity, simple implementation and reliability of the evaluation. With these tools, the project aims to support the commitment to more sustainability in the out-of-home dining sector.

The project was sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Photo: Wilfried Gerharz

“In the out-of-home dining sector, reducing the burden of complexity opens the door to producing a sustainable and climate-friendly range of dishes. Decision makers and employees in the out-of-home dining sector need simple tools that are suitable for use on a daily basis, so that they can routinely offer a more sustainable choice of food.”

Prof. Dr Petra Teitscheid, Münster University of Applied Sciences

Partners and sponsors

  • Fachhochschule Münster, Institut für Nachhaltige Ernährung (iSuN)
  • Wuppertal Institut für Klima, Umwelt, Energie
  • Technische Universität Berlin – Institut für Berufliche Bildung und Arbeitslehre
  • aid infodienst Ernährung, Landwirtschaft, Verbraucherschutz e. V.
  • Faktor 10 - Institut für nachhaltiges Wirtschaften gGmbH
  • LWL-Klinik Münster
  • Studierendenwerk Münster
  • Mensaverein Rheine an der Euregio Gesamtschule
  • Compass Group Deutschland GmbH
  • PACE Paparazzi Catering & Event GmbH
  • Upgrade Hospitality GmbH
  • Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF)

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