Dubai-based F&B professionals, The French Dairy Board and the EU highlight the importance of sustainability

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A cross-section of Dubai’s food sector has come together to focus on food sustainability in the region as part of the French Dairy Board’s commitment to sustainable development during a roundtable, “Sustainability & the City” 

Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Representatives from the Dubai food scene have to come together to discuss and understand the importance of food sustainability during an event organised by the French Dairy Board and the European Union.

The roundtable was part of an initiative launched by the French Dairy Board in 2020, with the support of the European Union, a campaign created to highlight the need for sustainable development within the French dairy sector. 

It covers the entire dairy supply chain by focusing on four key areas of sustainability performance, including economic & social, food safety, food nutrition, and responsible production (animal welfare and the environment). 

With the UAE importing billions of dirhams of food every year, there is still an opportunity to be sustainable. French cream follows strict production rules, so despite being exported around the world, this high-quality product is still incredibly sustainable thanks to the measures that have been implemented in France. 

Attendees at the event included many of the leading lights in the Dubai food and beverage scene, including Orit Abdurahman, founder and CEO of Boon Coffee Roaster; Sophie Corcut, Brand & Sustainability Manager at Spinneys; Kathy Johnston, Chief Chocolate Officer of Mirzam Chocolate; and Omar Shihab, Sustainability Lead, General manager, Founder of BOCA DIFC. 

The group also included Samantha Wood, founder of impartial restaurant review site, Foodiva; Chef Russel Impiazzi, Executive Chef and Chef Romain Castet, Executive Patry Chef, Sofitel Dubai the Obelisk; Eugenie Dronneau, Founder and CEO of the Foodkarma app; and food influencer Diana Zavzeatii of @BusyAvocado.

Topics of discussion included the need to influence and teach others to adopt a sustainable approach, where the UAE is now and how the community embraces sustainability, the need to source sustainable food both locally and internationally, and food waste.

Addressing quality, sustainable sourcing Chef Romain said: “As a pastry chef, the quality of ingredients is essential. I can’t compromise when it comes to sourcing items like French cream. I know what French cows eat and how they are treated, so I know the cream is the best, but also sustainably produced.”

Chef Russel reiterated the point by highlighting the importance of making small wins that are easy to achieve. He said: “It is important to keep sustainability top of mind and highlight the small ways you can reduce food waste. We need to move away from the waste mentality that just because it’s easy to throw something away doesn’t mean we should.”

According to Omar Shihad there is still a lot of education needed for consumers to have a better understanding of where the produce they are served in a restaurant comes from.

He said: “It is important to explain the values and the back stories behind where products come from. There is a perception that as a restaurateur we’re all big, profit hungry corporates, however by highlighting the story behind the produce allows the consumer to understand these are not products everyone has access to and it is not a case of simply just marking up the price. There is a lot of education and that is very important.”

The panel also discussed COVID-19, addressing the devasting impact it has had on the food industry and pushing sustainability down the agenda.

Samantha Wood said: “I do think because of COVID, sustainability has taken a backseat. We were getting somewhere in terms of education and awareness and getting the consumer to think differently and ask the right questions, whether in the supermarket or a restaurant.  I think because of COVID, other priorities have superseded the movement.”

Eugenie Dronneau, the CEO of Foodkarma, an app that connects F&B businesses who have surplus food with consumers, underscored the importance of providing people with the relevant tools. 

“From the beginning, we set out to educate the market, to change the mindset and show it can be done. In the 13 years I’ve been in this country, we’ve moved forward massively, there’s a real focus on making sustainability in the food sector work, and it’s fantastic to see it happening.”

The discussion also focused on influencers and their impact on food waste, with many providing firsthand experiences where they witnessed the volume of food leftover resulting from trying to achieve the perfect picture.

The panel concluded with a conversation on the important role schools have in educating the next generation of ‘plastic revolutionaries’.

Marie-Laure Martin, International Project Manager, French Dairy Board said: “Whether a pastry chef, owner of a restaurant or coffee shops, food influencer, creator of ethical and sustainable apps, there are many solutions and options available to implement sustainability throughout the food industry – everyone has a role to play.”