Changing Tastes Overview
Changing Tastes believes that food choices are the deepest touchpoints for our concerns about our health, our culture and our planet. They also are the most important choices we make every day. That’s why Changing Tastes has worked exclusively since our founding in 2003 to create a more sustainable, healthy, delicious and profitable food system.
We do this by working with our clients to achieve greater success by understanding and finding opportunities at the intersection of five key trends that are driving change in our food system: sustainability, public health, information technology, demographics and the changing role of the culinary professional and foodservice industry. Our firm’s insights at the core of these forces are the basis for the strategy, innovation, sustainability and performance management services we provide to leading nonprofit, philanthropic, business and government institutions.
Our senior team brings more than five decades of experience in sustainability, food and agriculture, including the design of sustainability strategies and reporting programs for the world’s two largest foodservice companies. Our combined experience has informed the efforts of most of the nation’s largest restaurant and hospitality companies and several of the ten largest philanthropies and better known environmental organizations. We have also advised several of the nation’s best-known retail food brands.
Through our work, we have helped to catalyze some of the most significant changes in the food industry, such as working with the natural and organic food industry to reaccelerate growth by developing a new marketing strategy focused on personal health benefits. We’ve also helped the restaurant industry achieve leadership on antibiotic use in prior decades, providing ongoing industry involvement when the first congressional committees addressed the issue more than a decade ago. We have advised the design of sustainability strategies through sustainable sourcing and stakeholder engagement programs for the world’s two largest contract foodservice companies. Along the way, we have created more than $2 billion in additional revenue for the companies with which we have worked.
We’ve also created important new insights to view and manage food cost volatility risk using menu and recipe strategies with the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. We’ve helped well established programs like Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program redesign their approaches to better engage the foodservice industry.
Among the most currently visible consequences of our work is the recent movement in foodservice to focus on plant-forward dining, a term introduced by our founder in 2010, as a way to integrate both environmental and public health benefits into a coherent culinary strategy. Plant-forward dining is now a main area of focus for culinary innovation and foodservice strategy, and one we have popularized through our work with leading chefs, restaurant companies and through the Menus of Change™ initiative we helped create and now lead for the Culinary Institute of America and Harvard University School of Public Health.
Our First 14 Years
2003 — W.K. Kellogg Foundation
Worked with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in 2003 to begin a shift from sustainable agriculture to sustainable food, including the planning of a seminal “Food and Society” conference that introduced flavor and freshness, slow food and not just nutrition, to the lexicon of the family farmer movement and helped it become the local food movement.
2004-2005 — General Mills
Worked with General Mills in 2004-2005 to help them figure out their Cascadian Farms acquisition and ended up developing the first sustainability strategy for a major consumer food products company, including the development of a training curriculum on food and sustainability for more than 10,000 of their managers.
2004-2006 — Organic Trade Association
Worked with the Organic Trade Association from 2004-2006 to reaccelerate growth in the natural and organic food sector, putting in place a new focus on promoting organic food as “healthier for you,” and for animal products also not containing antibiotics and hormones, along with new strategic marketing and research efforts. This increased what had been a declining growth rate back to about 15%, where it has remained for over a decade.
2008-2011 — Sodexo
In 2008-2011, our founder, Arlin Wasserman, served as the first head of sustainability for Sodexo, and as a member of its executive team with responsibility for culinary and nutrition in North America. He created the company’s Better Tomorrow™ sustainability program, the first to integrate menu design with environmental, animal welfare, and social outcomes into both sourcing and menu design. During his tenure, he introduced the concept of plant forward dining as a way to achieve better health, environmental, and food cost outcomes.
2011 — City of San Francisco, Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver
In 2011, we developed a roadmap for investing in local food systems for the cities of San Francisco, Minneapolis, Portland, Seattle and Vancouver that continues to propel them as not only leaders in sustainability, but some of the most exciting restaurant cities in the U.S.
2012 — Culinary Institute of America and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
In 2012 we responded to the nascent interest of the Culinary Institute of America and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in having a sustainability program to parallel its nutrition programs by designing and creating Menus of Change™, which we believe may be the most significant sustainability education effort undertaken by a culinary school.
2015 — an unlikely Collaboration for Sustainable Seafood
In 2015, we created an unprecedented collaboration among leading and competing foodservice and restaurant companies to collaborate on a pre-competitive basis to improve performance on sustainable seafood. This resulted in some of the nation’s largest restaurant companies rapidly improving purchasing standards and also major companies jointly calling for changes in environmental regulation and management of our oceans, stepping outside the recommendations of industry trade groups.