Food for Life Served Here Bronze Award and beyond
Clare Hadway, our Food for Life Served Here Supplier Scheme Manager, talks to AiP's Amy Teichman to discover what large-scale caterers look for in a supplier and how to approach them for new business.
Amy Teichman is Quality and Nutrition Manager for Alliance in Partnership, Food for Life Served Here Award-holders since 2010.
In the early days, they applied the Bronze Award standards to their primary schools menus for contracts in the South and Midlands.
They now serve over 23,500 Food for Life Served Here meals every school day, mostly to our Gold standard.
1) CH: When applying the Bronze Award criteria to your menus, which standards are the most challenging and why?
AT: With regards to the Bronze standards, the main challenge is gathering the required evidence for our inspection to demonstrate that meat and meat products are farm assured. We have also found it difficult to source meat products such as bacon and sausage that comply. It’s hard to find bacon that meets the required animal welfare standards, and with regards to sausages, they often contain some of the undesirable additives such as MSG.
In terms of the challenges with fresh produce, we have sometimes found it challenging to source locally grown produce.
The biggest challenge for AiP currently is the point calculation that is required at Gold. This is something that our suppliers can really help with by providing a breakdown of what is spent on different products in metric units.
CH: At Bronze Award level, caterers also have to feature seasonal produce on their menus. Have you found your suppliers are able to help with this?
AT: Yes, we have good relationships with our produce suppliers and they highlight which products are in season. We then use this information to inform our customers.
CH: Caterers also have to share details of where their food is sourced with their customers in order to achieve the Bronze Award standards. So, it’s important for suppliers to have this information available for products such as meat, dairy, eggs, and produce.
2) CH: How did your suppliers help you overcome these challenges?
AT: We work closely with local suppliers, and although we do work with the large national wholesalers, we buy all of meat from butchers and this has enable us to work more closely with our suppliers.
This is the information we need from suppliers to help us overcome these challenges:
- Detailed specifications and prices (brochures do not provide enough detail)
- The correct evidence to back up Catering Mark claims, like declarations of welfare status and invoices that state the same. We mainly use Red Tractor standard meat, so we require our suppliers to state this on the invoices
- Information about product origin
CH: When you’re looking for new suppliers, do you specify these requirements in tenders/contracts?
AT: We don’t include that level of detail but we expect all suppliers to be able to meet the Bronze standards as a base line.
3) CH: Are there any products you have or do struggle to source?
- Processed meat products such as bacon and sausages
- Turkey can also be challenging to source
- It often more difficult to find Food for Life Served Here compliant halal meat than non-halal – there’s a gap in the market
- Organic dairy local to all of our schools is often hard to come by as well, although organic products are readily available now
CH: If any of our Food for Life Served Here Supplier Scheme members can provide these products, what’s the best way to communicate with caterers?
AT: When you get in touch, please provide detailed specifications, demonstrating how the products meet the Food for Life Served Here standards and prices.
4) CH: How did you find the move to Silver and Gold Award level, and how did your suppliers help?
AT: The main challenge is getting the details on our food spend from suppliers. This is key. We have found that organic is readily available, so this wasn’t an issue, but organic dairy that is produced locally to our schools can often be challenging to source.
5) CH: What influences your decision to work with a new supplier?
AT: Their ability to support us with the Bronze Award standards. We expect this as a minimum. We work with other suppliers to source products to meet the Silver and Gold Award standards. We also need our suppliers to be able to provide the correct evidence for our inspection.