On May 18, the day ‘Mercabarna with the communities’ was held; a half-day activity in which the current situation of the sector was analyzed, and the demands of sustainability in relation to nutrition, educational projects, regulations, purchasing policies and regarding its economic viability were discussed. An event held with full capacity, where professionals from the operating companies, suppliers and administration were able to share concerns and needs. Raimon Bagó, General Manager of SERHS Food, was one of the speakers.
Endorsed by the Foodservice commission of the Mercabarna Food Cluster, the event’s promoter, and with the support of Restauración Colectiva, as a specialist in the sector, for the organization and dissemination of the event, las week the “Mercabanar con las colectividades: cadena de valor hacia unos menús sostenibles y saludables” event took place; an activity in which 150 people signed up, all of them professionals from the RC operating companies and Mercabarna’s supplier firms. The objective, to bring the two groups closer together and to publicize and express concerns and needs of the collective catering sector.
The session was developed through two round tables and included, between one and the other, a brief visit to some spaces of the wholesale market such as the fruit area or the cooperatives.
“It is necessary for people to think and value how the menu arrives at their table every day”
After the welcome from Pablo Vilanova, director of Sustainability, Strategy and Innovation at Mercabarna, and the intervention of Sergio Gil, president of Fundación Restaurantes Sostenibles, who outlined a clear picture of how things are regarding sustainability, where we should evolve and how the restaurant industry can be involved in this paradigm shift, Raimon Bagó intervened as President of Acerco (Catalan Association of Collective Restoration Companies) and of the Foodservice Cluster of Catalonia.
Bagó offered some figures of the sector, especially highlighting and emphasizing that 10% of the citizens residing in Catalonia eat in a collective catering service daily. “There are thousands of meals a day, many of them served to vulnerable people (children, hospital patients, nursing homes…), which force us to be very professional, very responsible, demanding, and also very efficient”. The president of the Catalan employers’ association showed the strengths of the sector, highlighting about all, its resilience and demanding greater visibility and recognition, “it is necessary – he assured- that people know, think and value how the menu arrives at their table every day”. “We are a sector accustomed to suffering, that we weather almost any situation based on professionalism and adaptability, as has been shown in recent years with the issue of the pandemic, above all, but also with the problems of raw materials, transport, supplies, prices, etc.”.
Despite the positive tone of his intervention, “we have not come here to complain”, he did highlight the most serious problem that collective restoration suffers today, which is that of the exaggerated increase in prices… “increases that come to aggravate a situation already serious in itself, and dragged on for years, which keeps the sector without margin for much, since there is no way to pass on these increases”.
Healthy and sustainable menus… a long way to go, a long way to go
Under the genertic title ‘Nutrition, education, sustainability and health’, and moderated by Juanjo Jiménez, Director of Purchases of Aramark Spain, the following took part in the first-round table: Gemma Salvador (nutritionist dietitian of the General Subdirectorate oh Health Promotion. Agència of Public Health of Catalonia), Àngels Roca (general director of F. Roca), Pau López (director of Sustainable Food at Mercabarna) and Mariana Gasca (responsible for Sustainability at Mediterránea).
Gemma Salvador began by giving value to how much has been achieved “although there is still a long way to go”. With rigor, consensus, and a good alignment of all the parties involved, she assured, “it has been possible to advanced based on small changes. From the administration we have tried to contribute documents and research to support the projects of the companies. Recommendations that have taken hold over time and that are what have achieved that today, for example, 90% of school canteens are serving four or five pieces of fresh fruit a week for dessert, banishing industrial pastries and continuous sweets that were served a few years ago”. In this sense, Mariana Gasca emphasized communication and the educational projects that are carried out in many schools… “in the end”, she commented, “in matters related to nutrition, health habits, and sustainability, it is the children who are, in a certain way, educating parents by transferring what they learn in their centers”. Following the line of communication, Àngels Roca wanted to insist on the importance also of training and informing the directors of the schools “ because although it may seem that way to us, because of the environment in which we operate and the implication that we have, the message has not caught on yet… there are still many people to be convinced about the binomial food and health, and health and sustainability that, in the end, end up being indivisible concepts”.
In the end, and in summary, in order to have healthier and more sustainable school cafeterias, and therefore all kinds of communities, Gemma Salvador highlighted five points with which everyone agreed: more vegetable products, reduction of meat, reduction of plastic waste, control of food waste and, all of this, with the collaboration and participation of all parties (operators, suppliers, administration and also all the professionals who are working on the front line in the different services).
Pau López, on his part, insisted on the necessary involvement of all. “Neither Mercabarna as an institution nor wholesale market suppliers can turn a deaf ear to the issue of sustainability”. In fact, he continued, “Mercabarna is devoting a lot of effort and launching various projects and initiatives along these lines. From the very creation of a Sustainable Food Department, to the creation of the Foodback (a pioneer center in food exploitation), the Biomarket or the area of horticultural cooperatives, all our actions are carried out thinking of that paradigm shift that we all must form part”.
Making sustainability profitable
Finally, moderated by Enrique Ordóñez, Corporate Catering Manager at Grupo Quironsalud, the following took part in the second table: Albert Planas (Head of Purchasing and Logistincs at Serunion), Silvia Fillola (Director of Operations at Anna Ecológica – Grupo Veritas), Cristina Massot (Deputy Director General of Agrifood Industries and Quiality of the Department of Cliamte Action, Food and Rural Agenda) and Andrés González (manager of Colevisa).
In this second session, Cristina Massot intervened to comments on the general lines of the recently approved Green Public Procurement Action Plan for Catalonia 2022-2025, a plan approved with the aim of increasing, improving, and advancing in the application of environmental criteria in contracts so that the economic volume of the tenders that include these clauses is increased to 50% in the year 2025. Andrés González, on his part, highlighted that all the regulations that are in project of approved and the recommendations of the different administrations in the line of working and acting in a more sustainable and respectful way with the planet “represent new challenges for companies and also very exciting challenges for all professionals… what happens is that everything has a cost and has to be paid”. In the same sense, Albert Planas assured that the first thing to do “is to revalue the sector, to give it the importance is has and to allocate the necessary resources”. The two representatives of the companies celebrated the start of the conversation about the economic sustainability of the chain, from the point of view of economic efficiency and asked that the administrations work on the issue of the required criteria, keeping their feet on reality.
The table also began to debate on local and ecological products. In this sense, Silvia Fillola highlighted the great advantage for a supplier of “the security of annual planning and regularity, which only a community company can provide”.
SERHS Food Educa has managed the school canteen service of a group of centers of the Bages County Council since 2018. In the last two years, it has participated in a labor and training action promoted by the Public Employment Service of Catalonia and the Ministry of Labor and Social Economy, aimed at carrying out training practices in school canteens or transport services for young people in care and former care with a residence permit, between 16 and 21 years of age. A total of 10 people has ended up being hired by the company each year and that, in terms of SERHS Food, is a high percentatge.
It is about offering an opportunity for job placement and also regularization of the situation to people who at the same time also learn a profession and improve the learning of the Catalan language. This program is part of the values and sensitivity of the company by collaborating to the extent possible in each field of activity and environment in which it works.
TV3 echoed the story on the news, making a report that gathers the experience in the Valldaura school in Manresa of Brahim and the Ababacar Fatty. It can be found at the following link (as of minute 15:06).
Take Eat Easy has made a collaboration agreement with Amazcat, the local online shopping store, to sell the new Healthy & Sustainable cooked dishes on its website and to be able to enjoy them at home, at work or on your weekend outings. The purpose is to offer, based on the Mediterranean Diet, unique, complete dishes, with local and quality products. Balanced and varied meals designed to improve the daily diet.
Take Eat Easy is a new catering solution for companies based on 5th range cooked dishes, specially designed by a dietetics and nutrition team for individual consumption. In companies, and through a dispensing machine with refrigerated products, a wide range of refrigerated cooked dishes with a 15-day expiration date can be found available, arranged by family (PASTA • FISH • VEGGIE • CHICKEN • EGGS • MEAT • GOURMET). They are presented in very complete portions (300-400gr) and quality, ready to eat (microwave for 2-3 minutes). Now with this agreement you can also have them at home or at work by purchasing them on the online portal www.amazcat.cat.
Amazcat is presented as the new Catalan marketplace, focused on the proximity market, the “all-in-one” platform for electronic commerce in Catalonia. It is based on products made, manufactured or sold in Catalonia. You can buy it at a proximity producer or store knowing the origin of the product, with guaranteed quality. The first own online sales platform in Catalonia was launched at the end of October 2021, it has more than 500 associated businesses, and from Amazcat they have foreseen that in the coming weeks there will be about 300,000 users who will access the portal. However, the project is just in the most incipient phase. Parlem-Telecom is one of the benchmark partners, among other companies sensitive to local trade.
In relation to the range of dishes that can be purchased on the portal, it is the same as in the catalogue, about 25 in total that rotate and that can be found in the dispensing machines installed in a significant number of work centers that have opted for this innovative solution in their meals (www.takeeateasy.es). Dishes cooked properly, without haste, ingredient by ingredient, from Mataró’s own High Performance Kitchen. Natural foods, without added preservatives, with long cooking times that provide all the flavor and sweet textures. Artisanal cuisine is combined with innovation with a first-rate team. We work with quality-ecological-km 0 raw materials with the minimum impact of waste and avoiding food waste. 100% recyclable tray, minimizing packaging and at the same time reducing energy consumption and carbon footprint (CO₂).
It is estimated that the number of people within Europe who suffer some type of food allergy ranges between 11 and 26 million. If we extrapolate this data to everyone, it is estimated that between 220 and 520 million people suffer from a food allergy and this represents a major global burden for health. It is at Spanish level, where Eudec, SERHS Food specialized brand in traditional prepared dishes, takes advantage of this need to help this segment of the population with a new catalogue of 15 prepared dishes free of allergens.
All references in the new catalogue are suitable for coeliacs. Beyond gluten, the three foods that produce more allergies among children in Spain are eggs, cow’s milk and fish. However, this new Eudec project includes prepared dishes free of any of the 14 allergens defined by the Spanish Food Information Law, with which the proposal represents an important advance in the “Ready to Eat” kitchen offer.
Experience of Eudec and SERHS Food in the development of products for coeliacs
SERHS Food has an independent kitchen that guarantees the absence of allergens in food. The allergen-free production line of the High-Performance Kitchen of Mataró is independent and autonomous from the rest of the plant; since only the cardboard removal area is shared. It is therefore defined as a complete production line, which has its own cooking, preparation and packaging areas, avoiding 100% allergen contamination.
The first 15 allergen-free mono-ration dishes include various creations of vegetable cream, rice, quinoa salad, macaroni, gilthead or veal burger among others. All of them elaborated in a traditional way with proximity and seasonal products.
SERHS Food celebrates the first anniversary of the official inauguration of the High-Performance Kitchen in Mataró
Over this first year, the plant has increased its production by 40% and continues with a high rate of growth.
One year later, the commitment to innovative and efficient solutions to bring comprehensive support to managing professional catering is a success in every sense of the word. This Saturday April 21, the Mataró High-Performance Kitchen of SERHS Food, as well as its central offices, mark one complete year since their official inauguration, in which national authorities and those of the Maresme area took part.
As of today the plant, which covers 2500 m2, has increased its production by 40% and continues to grow at a very good pace. Over this first year, one of the mostly highly-rated spaces of the SERHS Food High-Performance Kitchen has been the independent allergen-free kitchen, which offers services principally to educational and healthcare centers.
Nevertheless, the office area and main arena have seen numerous visits from clients and companies interested in seeing the installations which reflect the philosophy of SERHS Food. This philosophy is directed at the commitment to prepare food products of the highest quality, following the basic principles of traditional cooking, and availing of the latest technology capable of providing the very highest standards of food safety and environmentally-friendly production.
During the circuit, especially designed for groups, all the steps making up the production process can be seen, from reception of the raw materials to the packaging of the finished product. Likewise, the main arena, with seating and a “showcooking” area, is often used for workshops, demonstrations and conferences, thus complementing visits to the installations.
Today, SERHS Food has a strong presence in Catalonia and is engaged in a major drive for growth in the Balearic Islands, Valencia and other parts of Spain. The Mataró High-Performance Kitchen has been devised with great versatility and flexibility to allow cooking of all kinds of recipes and formats for presentation and preservation, such as vacuum packing, ATM, pasteurization, sterilization and deep freezing.