IKEA and Vredeseilanden put sustainable food on the daily menu

IKEA and Vredeseilanden put sustainable food on the daily menu


Since 2013 IKEA Food and Vredeseilanden act in close cooperation to make the food supply in IKEA’s branches more sustainable. The introduction of vegetarian balls, the supply of certified fish and shellfish, the reduction of food waste, a better cooperation with producers and providers… Those are only a few of the initiatives IKEA took to offer more sustainable food products.

Working together on five principles

“The cooperation between IKEA Food and Vredeseilanden started after discussions about IKEA dishes being offered at low prices”, relates Merlijn Crébolder (Food Manager IKEA Belgium). “In response to the many reactions, I sent an e-mail to IKEA to invite them to meet us”, says Katharina Beelen from Vredeseilanden. “During our talk it soon became clear that IKEA Food isn’t blind to the society’s concerns, and that they are driven to always do better. Very soon we started looking for a way to work together towards a more sustainable policy. Thus, sustainable food became one of the cornerstones of IKEA’s global action plan on sustainability, in which IKEA Belgium aspired to be the best.”

Since then IKEA Food and Vredeseilanden focus on a number of themes. Below we sketch an overview of the main results and realisations.

1. Less meat

The production of meat causes a big ecological footprint. Moreover, the overconsumption of meat results in health problems. Decreasing the supply of meat, then, is a giant step towards a more sustainable and healthy menu. After a couple of years, IKEA can present some satisfactory results:

  • In the customers’ restaurant the new vegetarian dish is a big success. Whereas the vegetarian dish used to consist only of pasta, it is now a well-balanced meal, whose nutritional value is checked by nutritionists.
  • In the staff’s restaurant there is a meat, fish and vegetarian dish every day. The latter is reasonably-priced in order to encourage the employees to make a healthy choice.
  • In the course of 2016 the bistro supply will be further developed as well. In 2014 a Fish Sandwich was already introduced.

Whoever says IKEA, also says Swedish meatballs. The meatball supply has been adapted. There used to be portions of 10, 15 and 20 meatballs. Now only portions of 10 and portions of 15 meatballs are being offered. One of the most obvious evolutions, however, was the introduction of the vegetarian balls. These are very well suited for variation as regards its side dish, such as mashed potatoes, quinoa or couscous.

2. Less squandering and waste

“Our figures show that we can still take steps to counter food waste”, Merlijn says. As regards the recycling of waste, IKEA has already made progress, among others by equipping all of its establishments with containers to collect leftovers, which are then brought to a biogas installation so they can be turned into energy. All the deep-frying oil is recovered to turn into biodiesel. IKEA keeps focussing on this.

3. Local and seasonal

“Our core products – salmon and meatballs – always come from Sweden. The more local products, such as chicory, are bought from Belgian producers as much as possible,” Merlijn explains. In the meantime, the supply of products in the staff’s as well as the customers’ restaurant is completely seasonal. In winter we don’t serve tomato, for example, in the salad bar. Pumpkin soup, on the other hand, is put on the menu in autumn.

4. Environment-friendly production

Environmentally friendly production involves many challenges. An important step IKEA has already taken to decrease the impact on the environment is taking beef off our local menus (the production of beef results in a big ecological footprint).

Meanwhile, IKEA also offers a range of environmentally friendly products:

  • All coffee carries the UTZ-label, in the restaurants as well as in the Swedish shop.
  • In the Swedish shops the number of biological products has been increased.
  • One of the two soups that are offered on a regular basis, is biological.

5. Fair trade – I-way

IKEA wants to give form to the fair trade principle by establishing direct trading relations with its suppliers. “We work together intensively and transparently. Our suppliers endorse our I-way code of conduct, in which requirements are established, among others, that suppliers have to meet as regards growth or production, for example. We regularly coordinate in order to make the supply chains even more transparent. Our suppliers show great enthusiasm to take this course with us”, says Merlijn Crébolder.

6. Sustainable fish

IKEA Belgium has been certified as a company. All the fish that IKEA Belgium offers is 100% certified by MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) or ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council) as well. The choice to only offer sustainably labelled fish also has an impact on the menu. Shrimp-stuffed tomatoes have disappeared from the menu, because there are no certified shrimps. “It is our responsibility to promote sustainable fish” Merlijn adds.

Destination: sustainability

The cooperation between IKEA Belgium and Vredeseilanden helps both sides to strive for a more sustainable society.

In the global IKEA group, IKEA Belgium has often been first to take initiatives regarding sustainable food in recent years. “We often receive questions on how we deal with things here”, Merlijn says. “You can notice that everyone is much more occupied with these questions than three years ago, even though it is often quite complex. To take steps towards more sustainability is to permanently weigh the pros and cons. On the one hand, regarding your operating result in the short term and on the other hand, regarding the great ambitions you have as a company and the social responsibility you want to bear”.

For Vredeseilanden, the cooperation with IKEA Belgium provides a wealth of knowledge. “We gain a better insight in the way in which other large or institutional kitchens can also push back their ecological footprint and establish better relations with their suppliers”, concludes Katharina Beelen, Program Advisor Sustainable Catering at Vredeseilanden.