Culinary News from The Culinary Institute of America

The 2015 Menus of Change Annual Report: Innovation and Plant-Forward Menus Are on the Rise, but So Are Consumer Confusion and Climate and Water Impacts

The Menus of Change Dashboard.
Wednesday night's Burger Bash at the Menus of Change Leadership Summit.

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Hyde Park, NY – The 2015 Menus of Change Annual Report was released at the 3rd Annual Menus of Change® Leadership Summit, held for the first time at the Hyde Park, NY campus of The Culinary Institute of America, which presents the initiative in partnership with Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. Each year, along with case studies and trend analysis, the annual report rates the foodservice industry’s progress toward addressing public health and environmental imperatives. Two advisory councils, comprised of leading scientists, analysts, and foodservice business leaders from across the country, provide scores—from 1 meaning significant decline or regress to 5 meaning significant progress—and write issue briefs supporting them.

The ratings this year presented a mixed picture. The foodservice industry is now a hotbed of innovation, earning a score of 4 for the remarkable array of new tools emerging from tech start-ups and the growing number of interdisciplinary initiatives appearing on college and university campuses devoted to improving the food system. One example was the launch of the CIA’s own Food Business School, the world’s first business school dedicated to entrepreneurship and innovation. The past year also saw positive trends in the realm of diet and health, with a decrease in the intake of trans fats and sugar-sweetened beverages, and a modest increase in the intake of whole fruits and whole grains.

However, actions by Congress to undermine nutritional programs for low-income Americans and school children signaled a step backward. Furthermore, despite clear evidence about how to optimize diet quality, confusion runs high among consumers about what to eat. This is largely due to misleading headlines, misunderstandings about the 2015 Dietary Guideline Advisory Committee’s report, and the relative rigor of some nutrition research over others. As a result, recent trends in diet and health received a score of 3, and consumer attitudes and behaviors about healthy, sustainable food a score of 2, each down a level from 2014. With a score of 1 for the second consecutive year, and greenhouse gas emissions and food insecurity both increasing, climate change remained the most intractable issue. The score for water sustainability also remained low this year, at 2, as the foodservice industry’s concern for water has not caught up with the severity of groundwater depletion and drought. That said, it was encouraging to see the substantial growth in support among private investors for new food and foodservice companies featuring plant-forward concepts and focusing on sustainable supply chains (earning an increased score of 4).

The Menus of Change leadership summit, held June 17–19 at the CIA’s new, state-of-the-art Marriott Pavilion, was attended by more than 350 chefs, food and foodservice leaders, industry consultants, academic researchers, and environmental experts. In addition, classes of CIA students attended with their faculty as part of their course work, and hundreds more from around the world joined on a live webcast.

Highlights of the conference included a Plant-Forward Burger Bash—featuring the traditional burger concept rethought in a variety of inventive ways, such as blending meat with mushrooms and other vegetables—as well as presentations from leading chefs, foodservice professionals, and other luminaries representing public health, environment, and business strategy. Helping foodservice professionals address this triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit is the goal of Menus of Change. Now in its third year, the initiative is showing proven results: As described in the annual report, Compass Group recently announced a commitment to four Menus of Change Principles of Healthy, Sustainable Menus. And one of three surveys detailed in the report found that three-quarters of past conference attendees are using the principles in their foodservice operations to revise menus, rework recipes, or change operational and sourcing practices.

“The past year’s scientific and government reports and media headlines, together with seismic shifts in consumer attitudes, signal that continual change in the foodservice industry is part of the new status quo,” says CIA President Tim Ryan. “Our partnership with Harvard—which has been in place for more than a decade—allows Menus of Change to present a unique integration of scientific, culinary, and business insights to help both our students and our industry’s leadership prepare for an increasingly disruptive landscape of business challenges, and great opportunities.”

The report, conference presentation slides and videos, and many other resources can be found at To keep up with more news about Menus of Change and its principles at work, subscribe to regular updates on the website and follow @CIALeadership on Twitter with #CIAMOC.

Photo Captions and H-Res Images:

Photo 1 (top photo): Tim Ryan, president of The Culinary Institute of America, opened the Menus of Change leadership summit, which took place in the college’s new Marriott Pavilion. (Photo credit: CIA/Phil Mansfield)
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Photo 2: The Menus of Change Dashboard rates the foodservice industry’s progress toward addressing public health and environmental imperatives. Download the full PDF now.(Photo credit: CIA)
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Photo 3: Eight different kinds of burgers were served during Wednesday night's Burger Bash including these two: a Moroccan Lamb-Eggplant Burger and a Shiitake Mushroom Beef Burger. (Photo credit: CIA/Phil Mansfield)
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About The Culinary Institute of America
Founded in 1946, The Culinary Institute of America is the world’s premier culinary college. Dedicated to driving leadership development for the foodservice and hospitality industry, the independent, not-for-profit CIA offers associate degrees in culinary arts and baking and pastry arts; bachelor’s degree majors in management, culinary science, and applied food studies; and executive education through its Food Business School. Its conferences and consulting services have made the CIA the think tank of the food industry in the areas of health & wellness, sustainability, world cuisines & cultures, and professional excellence & innovation. The college also offers certificate programs and courses for professionals and enthusiasts. Its worldwide network of 48,000 alumni includes leaders in every area of foodservice and hospitality. The CIA has campuses in New York, California, Texas, and Singapore.

About the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health brings together dedicated experts from many disciplines to educate new generations of global health leaders and produce powerful ideas that improve the lives and health of people everywhere. As a community of leading scientists, educators, and students from around the world, we work together to take innovative ideas from the laboratory to people’s lives—not only making scientific breakthroughs, but also working to change individual behaviors, public policies, and health care practices to create a healthier world.

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