Aviation food represents one of the biggest revenue drivers for onboard. Yet, with increasing trends in passengers either bringing their own food when travelling, or buying food in flight rather than opting for free meal options – how can suppliers and carriers continue to best cater to and impress customers?
Find out more as the WTCE team look at current food and beverage trends and why there’s a renewed drive towards seasonal, local and organic (S-L-O) offerings.
Why go organic?
Embracing organic products and seasonality for onboard offerings doesn’t just cover the food & beverage sector. Products may also include:
- cutlery or tableware
- health beauty products
- sanitation products
Although, it’s clear that the most sought-after product sector with the clearest roadmaps to profitability is indeed food and drink service. For the purposes of this article, we will largely be focusing on inflight food and beverage which, when revitalised with more more seasonal, local and organic produce, can potentially:
- help to reduce food waste onboard
- reduce food disposal costs
- align with larger consumer trends in food
- ensure higher quality offerings
- boost buy onboard revenues
and, whilst considerations like pricing and flight scheduling may resonate more strongly with passengers when purchasing, the above benefits offer undeniable synergy with customer concerns.
More so than that, locally-sourced, organic and seasonal in-flight and lounge options offer an opportunity to generate ancillary revenue from business and first-class passengers. This cannot be underestimated when consideration that, although making up only 12% of all airline passengers, business travellers can account for as much as 75% of a flight’s income for some airlines.
So, local, seasonal and organic offerings are a way to match passenger expectations of both their own and a carrier’s responsibility. But they are also a way to woo passengers with experiences that excite them and entice them back to air travel.
“The global market for in-flight catering services is driven by…enhanced focus on choice, quality and consistency supported by innovation in bringing about the best quality meals on-board.”
And to entice passengers across all classes back, a number of airlines are revitalising their menus with innovative methods.
As gourmet airline food, much like vegan, free-from and halal offerings (which, however, cannot be organic under EU law) can provide airlines with a roadmap to meeting passenger expectations, they can cater to a number of customer bases with a growing voices in the industry.
Air France are reportedly working with chefs to bring fine dining onboard, including exclusively-organic children’s menu items, for ‘La Premiére,’ the carrier’s first class.
And as a number of carriers, like Finnair, move from a business model focusing on in-flight retail to put greater emphasis on buy onboard, there is potentially a lot more room for personalisation via the channels of food and drink.
If customers can buy items they particularly want on board, all whilst contributing to a greener supply chain, the industry may be able to solve two problems at once.
Seasonal and local food in lounges and onboard
Seasonality, both onboard, and in airports is becoming an area of burgeoning growth for the travel catering industry. In fact, a recent study identified locally-procured food as a key market consideration.
However, this is more often than not balanced against consumer expectations of readily available and diverse onboard and lounge offerings. The demand for yearlong availability of, say, frozen fruits is forcing suppliers to reconsider the efficacy of sourcing and airline food preparation across their entire supply chain and what can but sustainably, and realistically achieved. Likewise, it’s forcing carriers to re-evaluate what’s most important to their customer base and business model.
For example, some airlines have been revitalising their catering companies with fresh, locally sourced ingredients which also cut down on transportation time and costs.
Since 2019, Singapore Airlines has been using greens from AeroFarms. This is not only a vertical farm but one that’s near Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. The company also has plans to replicate this proximity at other major airports in the near future.
Other airlines have teamed up with celebrity chefs to design new menus and have been working with increasing regularity with local businesses. For example, American Airlines brought Aurora business-owner Tamara Turner’s Silver Spoon Desserts’ on board in their domestic premium cabins.
The Canadian carrier, Porter Airlines have selecting onboard products including:
- entrées and side dishes
for new menus based chiefly on their locality, the use of quality ingredients and for their focus on sustainability.
Alaska airlines has partnered with food and beverage providers and small businesses local to the Pacific Northwest, including Straightaway Cocktails.
Now passengers in premium ‘Mint’ class onboard transatlantic JetBlue flights can also enjoy newly added menu items including seasonal favourites like clam soup and Buratta with baby beats.
But it’s not just for the sake of sustainability that companies are making these changes. They can also be used as a creative driver to encourage positive associations with an airline’s brand.
Alongside local favourites, Emirates airline’s Business Class lounges served mince pies, traditional Stollen cake, and spiced lady fingers during the Christmas season. First Class lounges also had winter favourites including gingerbread profiteroles and dark chocolate salted caramel tarts and around the globe.
Although, it’s undeniable that whether it’s a key driver or a by-product of these decisions, airlines and suppliers alike are more than conscious of the efforts they need to make towards a greener future.
And it’s not just airline food packaging, but onboard food and beverage offerings themselves that can contribute to buyers and suppliers vision of a greener future.
There are now a number of airlines including Delta and Japan Airlines that allow passenger to opt-out of in-flight meals to reduce both food and packaging waste.
Korean Air are also among carriers introducing eco-friendly meals that can also help reduce carbon emissions from a number of sources onboard.
Among other food market trends, another study highlighted that the “enduring trend of environmental sustainability augurs well for long term growth of in-flight catering”.
All Nippon Airways, for example, are using bamboo shoots in inflight food. Grown in Nobeoka, they were developed to tackle the issue of abandoned bamboo groves. The airline also serves out-of-market rice in employee cafeterias.
Tourvest retail services have announced the launch of a new product range, available inflight, including products by Scrapples, an all-natural healthy snacks brand made using ‘wonky’ fruit.
And other Japanese carriers like ZIPAIR are innovating even more with “meals featuring a protein rich edible insect in powder form”. Namely, crickets from leading producer Gryllus inc. which offers a protein-rich alternative to meat and fish.
Overall, it’s the opinion of many onboard suppliers, including WTCE exhibitor PLAYin Choc’s Dominic Simler, that corporate social responsibility (CSR) must, as a necessity, include sustainability.
S-L-O (seasonal, local, organic)
Integrating “greener” options onboard (whether they’re more sustainable, organic, or dictated by the seasons) has been proven by a number of carriers to be not only a viable option, but a potentially lucrative one.
It could be in a bid to support local growers and suppliers. Often, these decisions are made by a carrier to better cater to business and first class passengers. Or it could be in an attempt to promote sustainability and reduce waste by learning more about passenger expectations and wants onboard.
Whatever the reason, selecting seasonal, organic or locally-source (SLO) products presents an emerging area of onboard revenue generation with potentially massive upsides for the future of the food and beverage industry.
WTCE exhibitors with organic and seasonal solutions
As the main marketplace for airline and rail buyers of inflight catering, passenger comfort and onboard services, WTCE has an extensive list of exhibitors showcasing relevant solutions. View some of them below.
Saveurs et Nature
‘Chocolats de Pauline’ is a unique, fully organic and committed brand. They offer sustainable value by upgrading the premium chocolate segment with natural and organic products.
Paradies GmbH offers high-quality bedding for a healthy and restful sleep – Made in Germany. They have innovative product solutions for hotels, airlines and ships including their “Softy” range using Greentex organic cotton.
Castello Monte Vibiano
Pioneers of sustainability, in 2009 the campany was the first farm in the world to be certified with zero CO2 emissions. 100% genetically certified Italian, all-natural quality with natural-sustainable principles.