Thursday, September 15, 2011

Multi-million dollar opportunity looms for enterprising food service providers!

Money makes the world go around, right?

Here's hoping that in the case of school food, that's true.

Two days ago I helped out with a story by CTV's Avis Favaro. It was about a school in my neck of the woods that no longer has a cafeteria.

It seems that their food service provider, Brown's Dining Solutions, decided that they themselves were incapable of providing schools with healthier fare (as dictated by the new Ontario School Food Policy) and still make a profit.

To me that statement's shocking. It's shocking because the new Ontario School Food Policy is so unbelievably watered down that even Pizza Pizza managed to nearly instantaneously conform. If they could do it, virtually overnight, why not Brown's?

So how nutritionally lacking was Brown's food to begin with?

According to the CTV story, Brown's reports that 80% of what they used to sell would now be gone.

Can you imagine just how nutritiously bereft Brown's Dining Solutions foods must have been if this incredibly weak school food policy nixes 80% of them?

Brown's decision to bail also shocks me because I would have thought that their response to the changes, just like Pizza Pizza's, would have been to rapidly reformulate and keep selling ever so slightly less awful foods.

Not the folks at Brown's. Apparently they are either unwilling or unable to figure out how to make profitable, tasty, healthy foods.

I'm also guessing Brown's won't be the only outfit to choose caving over creativity.

And therein lies the opportunity.

I would imagine that there are enormous profits to be made in the establishment of a company that's capable of crafting and delivering delicious, fresh, and healthy cafeteria fare. School food reform is hopefully only in its infancy and I'd wager too, we'll see similar reforms trickle over time into our other public institutions (hospitals, government buildings, etc).

My thought?

If I was a medium sized local grocer, many of who are already trying to carve out niches for themselves as healthier, and purposely carry more local and/or organic produce, crafting lower sodium supermarket takeout and ready made meals, etc., I'd consider getting involved with the schools, even if at the start it's only on a small, local, couple of schools level.

The grocer would already have the connections and the knowledge to actively purchase and price local produce, they'd already understand how to cook ready made meals in large volumes, and likely have mechanisms in place that dictate menus based on regularly changing produce pricing and availability. They would also likely be able to parlay their involvement in schools into media friendly publicity and at the same time, ingratiate themselves with parents and multiple, recurrent generations of children.

I'm not saying any of this would be easy, and I'm sure Brown's and anyone else out truly do have real barriers to overcome, but I simply can't believe they're insurmountable.

Sounds like one hell of an opportunity.