It's all about me

As per­son­alised nu­tri­tion be­comes in­creas­ingly main­stream, Jo Austin asks the ex­perts how air­lines, rail op­er­a­tors and cater­ers can pre­pare for the rein­ven­tion of Spe­cial Meals

Onboard Hospitality - - Special Meals -

On a re­cent flight from Dublin catered by dnata, 60% of pas­sen­gers on­board had re­quested a spe­cial meal. In­creas­ingly it seems ev­ery­one has their own 'spe­cial' life­style food regime and busi­nesses are bat­tling to keep up. Judg­ing by my su­per­mar­ket ac­count, the re­tail world is onto this, mon­i­tor­ing my choices and tai­lor­ing my of­fers to re­flect my eat­ing habits. Even my dog’s diet is at­tract­ing re­wards. But what about when I travel? I have yet to see this data-sci­ence im­pact the in­flight cater­ing of­fer.

Ma­ri­ette Abra­hams, nu­tri­tion busi­ness con­sul­tant and founder of MA Con­sult­ing in Por­tu­gal, be­lieves it is only a mat­ter of time be­fore per­sonal eat­ing habits re­ally come to the fore. She says: “The per­son­alised nu­tri­tion in­dus­try has been grow­ing at an in­cred­i­ble pace over the last two years and it is pre­dicted to en­joy double digit growth for some years to come. It is about un­der­stand­ing the con­sumer and en­sur­ing that the right prod­uct is avail­able to them at the right time. It in­volves un­der­stand­ing their food, emo­tional, phys­i­cal and health goals as well as their mo­ti­va­tions for at­tain­ing them. The only way this can be achieved is by un­der­stand­ing how con­sumers think, how they be­have and what they ac­tu­ally choose, us­ing real-time data as well as data-sci­ence which will show the trends, the in­flu­ences, and in­di­vid­ual re­sponses.”

Choices, choices

Spe­cial meals are well es­tab­lished within air­line cater­ing and pre-or­der­ing for these

Spe­cial meals are not per­son­alised to the in­di­vid­ual pas­sen­ger as

yet, although this is pos­si­ble with soft­ware

is very much the norm. And in the world of pri­vate jets this has al­ready gone a step fur­ther with ev­ery meal loaded po­ten­tially tai­lored to the ex­act re­quire­ments of each pre­mium pas­sen­ger. Says Marc Warde, freefrom air­line con­sul­tant: “Tech­nol­ogy makes it pos­si­ble for ev­ery pas­sen­ger to have what they want and d de­serve so long as they are will­ing t to pay and the air­line is will­ing to em­brace change an and ac­com­mo­date more choice. For some it will be or­der­ing a meal from their favourit favourite restau­rant to be served on­board the flight, for oth­ers it will be a di­etary re­quire­ment or life­style choice.”

Warde’s e’s bu busi­ness is based around spe­cial meals of a no non-re­li­gious na­ture, meet­ing pas­sen­gers' rs' al al­lergy and di­etary needs. With so much of the pop­u­la­tion now pay­ing real at­ten­tion on t to what they eat, pas­sen­gers in­creas­ingly y ex ex­pect the op­tion to have what they need and want. Food al­ler­gies are not a fad and are e he here to stay. If any­thing, peo­ple’s aware­ness s is g grow­ing so de­mand is greater than ever, r, he in­sists.

Steve Walp Walpole, head of food, Ugo Food and con­sul­tant ant c chef, be­lieves it's time to re­name spe­cial l me meals. He says: ”More and more peo­ple un­der­stand diet is im­por­tant but don’t know how to eat well so get hooked on a fad or a diet scheme. Spe­cial Meals should be re­named ‘per­son­alised meals’ and need to re­flect pas­sen­ger life­styles and al­ler­gies and the cross-over be­tween re­li­gion, health and life­style.

“Air­lines are wak­ing up a lit­tle bit to the ve­gan diet – and in fact some air­lines are ahead of su­per­mar­kets in the choices they of­fer – but these can be ex­pen­sive. They are also work­ing to im­prove pre- and post-flight op­tions in their air­port lounges. Bri­tish Air­ways’ Flight Wellbeing pro­gramme is ahead of the game – of­fer­ing lighter op­tions and less-re­fined prod­ucts, but at the end of the day air­lines are cash driven. On low-cost car­ri­ers most peo­ple tend to buy their meals at the air­port be­fore board­ing as there is a wider se­lec­tion and a less pro­cessed, pre­mium prod­uct."

Changes in the u.s.

Walpole adds: “In the U.S. pas­sen­gers have his­tor­i­cally had poor food choice on­board but this is re­ally show­ing im­prove­ment in pre­mium classes. There are more health is­sues and free-from de­mands in the U.S. now and peo­ple are very quick to change their di­ets and fol­low flash trends on so­cial me­dia i.e: “Gwyneth Pal­trow is not eat­ing any­thing green this week – so nei­ther will I.”

As part of Delta’s strong fo­cus on per­son­al­is­ing the on­board ex­pe­ri­ence, Delta One pas­sen­gers fly­ing from the U.S. to Europe are now able to choose their

first meal in ad­vance. Launched in June, plans are al­ready un­der­way to ex­tend this ‘pick your plate’ ser­vice to Asian and Aus­tralian routes fol­low­ing strong cus­tomer feed­back.

Lisa Bauer, Delta’s vice pres­i­dent on­board ser­vices, says: "We want to make din­ing at 30,000 feet feel like din­ing at a favourite restau­rant and giv­ing cus­tomers the abil­ity to choose their meal in ad­vance is a big part of that. It speeds up the process for our flight at­ten­dants too, giv­ing them more time to spend with cus­tomers."

El­i­gi­ble Delta pas­sen­gers re­ceive an email three days prior to their flight ask­ing them to choose from op­tions which in­clude chef-cu­rated meals by Lin­ton Hop­kins out of At­lanta; from Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospi­tal­ity Group out of New York, and chef duo Jon Shook and Vinny Do­tol out of L.A.

dig­i­tal sup­port

As the dig­i­tal­i­sa­tion of the pas­sen­ger jour­ney be­comes more en­hanced, with in­te­gra­tion into cater­ing pro­duc­tion and lo­gis­tic sys­tems, the process of pre-or­der­ing all prod­ucts and meals within hours of de­par­ture is rapidly be­com­ing the ‘norm’. Launched in May, Re­tail in Mo­tion’s crew food app al­ready gives crew mem­bers the chance to choose and or­der the meals they want to eat on­board right up to the last hour be­fore a flight.

Ste­fan Pater­mann, ceo Re­tail in Mo­tion on says: sa “This is an­other step in our strat­egy of build­ing ing a plat­form to dig­i­talise the pas­sen­ger, as­seng crew and prod­uct jour­ney.” ur­ney.”

Users browse meals avail­able l bl and can choose the date and flight they want the meal de­liv­ered to. They pay with their credit or debit card.

When their flight is over, they can rate their meal ex­pe­ri­ence, from de­liv­ery and pre­sen­ta­tion to the taste of the food.

In the back-of­fice of the app, pro­gramme ad­min­is­tra­tors can eas­ily and in­tu­itively man­age food cat­e­gories, prod­ucts, prices, avail­abil­ity and more. Any changes made in the back­end are ap­plied to the app in real-time, so that they are avail­able straight away for the crew.

The app ad­min­is­tra­tors can mon­i­tor the whole op­er­a­tional process and as it can link into mul­ti­ple cater­ing com­pa­nies, it can po­ten­tially serve both crew and pas­sen­gers through new dig­i­tal touch­points.

Marc Warde adds: “Pre--

For those who can’t or don’t pre-or­der, pre­cise food la­belling on in­flight prod­ucts has be­come


Spe­cial meals should be re­named ‘per­son­alised meals’ to suit life­styles

and al­ler­gies

or­der is a long-es­tab­lished dis­ci­pline within air­lines for spe­cial meals and as an op­tion in First and Busi­ness but the trend to­wards per­son­al­i­sa­tion means this is chang­ing, broad­en­ing the op­por­tu­nity. Many air­lines have em­braced tech­nol­ogy that makes pre­order­ing pos­si­ble wher­ever you sit on the air­craft, but like most things it does of course come at a price. “Spe­cial meals have al­ways been a pre-re­served en­ti­tle­ment that pas­sen­gers can pre-or­der be­fore they board but they are not per­son­alised to the in­di­vid­ual pas­sen­ger as yet, although this is en­tirely pos­si­ble with mod­ern soft­ware.

“His­tor­i­cally some spe­cial meals have been noth­ing short of ap­palling, so get­ting it right is rep­u­ta­tion­ally im­por­tant for air­lines. The caveat that most air­lines use of: ‘may con­tain traces of the al­lergy you are try­ing to avoid’ no longer cuts the mus­tard!”

Laura Friedrichs of lead­ing Ger­man air­line caterer, Franken­berg,

is tai­lor­ing qual­ity frozen meals to meet in­creased de­mand for per­son­alised nu­tri­tion. She says: “Over five per­cent of our air­line meals are spe­cial meals and this con­tin­ues to rise. These pas­sen­gers place a high im­por­tance on their nu­tri­tion and are very likely to com­ment on the meals on so­cial me­dia so air­lines are be­gin­ning to pay more at­ten­tion to the of­fer in this cat­e­gory.

“We of­fer nearly all spe­cial meal codes and our prod­uct de­vel­op­ment kitchen is con­stantly work­ing on new meals, in co­op­er­a­tion with international and celebrity chefs, to re­flect food trends and en­sure au­then­tic and tasty recipes in all the cat­e­gories.

“For many air­lines we pro­duce only-ha­lal meals but we also re­spond to re­quests for ve­gan/ veg­e­tar­ian dishes, lacto-free, gluten-free, Asian, Hindu meals, di­a­betic and low fat or low salt.”

Get­ting it right

As­sum­ing the choices are right, the key to meet­ing per­son­alised de­mand will be the tech­nol­ogy for pre-or­der­ing. Nik Loukas, of In flight feed, points to a cou­ple of air­lines get­ting it right. “Fin­nair has al­ways been in­no­va­tive with its meal plans and its Nordic Bistro pre-or­der ser­vice is free for Busi­ness pas­sen­gers. There is also a pre-or­der, buy-on­board ser­vice for Econ­omy which in­cludes savoury sand­wiches and sal­ads as well as a ded­i­cated kids’ meal. The Sky Bistro al­lows pas­sen­gers to mix and match their meal op­tions – se­lect­ing choices (to buy) that meet their needs or pre-or­der­ing from a range of

Al­ler­gen in­for­ma­tion and full nu­tri­tional in­put is more and more im­por­tant for per­son­alised nu­tri­tion

nearly 20 spe­cial meal cat­e­gories."

Turk­ish Air­lines fea­tures a 'fly good, feel good' cam­paign and Air Europa has fo­cused on healthy in­flight con­cepts cou­pled with some fan­tas­tic de­sign el­e­ments too. "Not only is it great to look at, but it's also very tasty,” says Loukas.

In re­sponse to the in­creas­ing num­ber of pas­sen­gers with food al­ler­gies, es­pe­cially chil­dren, All Nip­pon Air­ways (ANA) in­tro­duced a new 'Seven Al­ler­gen-Free Child Meal' this year made free from seven com­mon al­ler­gens in­clud­ing wheat, buck­wheat, dairy prod­ucts, eggs, peanuts, shrimp and crabs.

ANA also has a “Seven Al­ler­gen-Free Meal” and a “27 Al­ler­gen-Free Meal” for adults, and a “27 Al­ler­gen-Free Baby Meal,” which is for in­fants aged un­der two. For flights de­part­ing from Ja­pan, or­ders are ac­cepted up to 24 hours be­fore de­par­ture, for those go­ing to Ja­pan, up to 48 hours.

Cre­at­ing a range of ex­cel­lent-qual­ity meal choices, which meet nu­mer­ous spe­cial meal re­quire­ments will be the prac­ti­cal so­lu­tion to this grow­ing chal­lenge.

Stephen Tem­ple­ton, global head of culi­nary at dnata, says: "For too long air­lines have had this trend on the back burner and seen it as a nui­sance. We have to cre­ate li­braries of dishes that work, and present spe­cial meals so they look as good as any other meal served on­board."

Food la­belling

For those who can’t or don’t pre-or­der, pre­cise food la­belling on in­flight prod­ucts has be­come vi­tal.

Walpole says: “His­tor­i­cally air­line food has been quite pro­cessed and we have to make sure that the in­for­ma­tion on al­ler­gies and calo­ries is avail­able be­cause once you are on an air­craft you have to eat what’s on­board, or noth­ing. Gone are the days of eat­ing food just to fill up. Pas­sen­gers want op­tions and cater­ers must con­sider bal­anc­ing less sugar, less fat and more whole­grain. Most pas­sen­gers have a food regime they want to stick to and reg­u­lar trav­ellers need to com­bat bad food.”

Friedrichs adds: “We are able to fully la­bel prod­ucts, not only the al­ler­gen in­for­ma­tion but also with full nu­tri­tional in­put, and this is more and more im­por­tant for per­son­alised nu­tri­tion. It gives the pas­sen­ger full con­trol of what they are eat­ing and al­lows them to plan their daily calo­rie and nu­tri­tional in­put.”

Meet­ing ev­ery in­di­vid­ual’s per­son­alised nu­tri­tion pref­er­ence on­board clearly has its chal­lenges but as in­vest­ment in data-an­a­lyt­ics in­creases and tech-savvy trav­ellers in­creas­ingly look on­line to plan ev­ery el­e­ment of their jour­ney, it’s clear se­lect­ing a ‘spe­cial’ meal will in­creas­ingly be­come the norm.

Op­po­site page, clock­wise from top left: Franken­berg cater all spe­cial meals with the fo­cus on fresh flavour; Air Europa is fo­cused of free and al­ler­gen­free op­tions; Ugo of­fers a range of gluten-free Fusilli, Ravi­o­lini and Tortel­loni. This page, clock­wise from top left: ANA's al­ler­gen-free chil­dren's meal; Aus­trian Air's spe­cial al meal of­fer­ing; BA's part­ner­ship art­ner­ship with M&S en­sures full ll nu­tri­tional/ al­lergy la­belling

Clock­wise from top left: BA of­fers fresh fruit as part of its Flight Wellbeing pro­gramme; Delta's veg­e­tar­ian of­fer­ing;Air New Zealand's plant-based Im­pos­si­ble Burger pro­vides a meat-free al­ter­na­tive made from the roots of soy plants

Clock­wise from top left: dnata aims to en­sure all its spe­cial meals have the same at­ten­tion to de­tail; Kosher meals from Langer­huize

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