CASE STUDY BEAN MEALS
BeanMeals: Mainstreaming UK-grown beans in healthy meals
3Keel is working with the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford to investigate how to promote a healthier diet incorporating home-grown beans, which has a lower environmental impact and also enhances local and national enterprise
BeanMeals brings together researchers from the Universities of Oxford, Hertfordshire, Hull, Liverpool and Warwick to develop and analyse systemic innovations for reducing consumption of foods that are high in saturated fat, salt and sugar in institutional and home-cooking. A central focus is on two quick-cooking navy bean varieties (the type of bean used to make baked beans), which have recently been developed for UK growing conditions by the University of Warwick. The Capulet and Godiva beans are suitable for a wide range of easily-prepared institutional- and home-cooked meals with lower fat, salt and sugar content.
3Keel’s role in the project to date has been to investigate the UK value chain from a business perspective, looking at opportunities for increasing production, processing and consumption. Our initial output, a report researched and written by 3Keel consultants Katie Jones and Will Nicholson, was published in 2023 and describes UK demand and supply of plant-based alternatives to meat for human consumption, and the role of beans. The aim is to provide a better understanding of the current and potential future demand and how these fit into a broader shift to plant-based foods.
3Keel’s work for the report covered analysis of:
- Public commitments being made by caterers on plant-based foods, and where beans fit into the picture
- Wider demand trends in the UK for plant-based foods, and where beans fit into this
- Current UK production and import levels of beans
Among the key findings, the report identified that there is a clear opportunity to bring multiple benefits to the UK food system as a whole, and specifically to commitments for net zero, by shifting production of and demand for UK beans at the same time. By linking supply and demand and ensuring that the essential processing facilities are in place, UK production and consumption of beans could increase in tandem. This co-ordinated effort is lacking at present, acting as a barrier to change.
Following the initial report, 3Keel’s work on the project is focusing on understanding the perspectives of stakeholders involved in the value chain: caterers, wholesalers, processors and growers. The aim is to understand opportunities and barriers to growth, investigating innovations that might facilitate an increase in supply and demand of UK beans, in what format, and where investments might be necessary.
As part of the work, in November 2023, 3Keel supported at a workshop that invited external stakeholders to look at the levers of change and innovations across the entire UK supply chain that are needed to reduce the import of beans and increase native production, lessening the environmental costs of shipping and opening new local enterprise opportunities.
3Keel presented three potential innovations: i) Financial schemes to de-risk and incentivise bean production as part of broader systemic shifts towards regenerative agriculture; ii) Establishing farmer clusters so farmers can share knowledge about growing beans & expensive capital equipment, iii) The potential to set up a food sector-wide initiative to support the consumption end of the value chain – promoting and raising awareness of the health and environmental benefits of eating more beans.
The next phase of the project will include the 3Keel team taking a deeper dive into the opportunities identified as offering the greatest potential for driving impactful change, and how these could be enacted to reshape the UK value chain.
Dr Monika Zurek, Senior Researcher, ECI, says that “3Keel’s work shed light on the manifold perspectives of businesses in the bean value chain with respect to the main bottlenecks in the current system as well as on options for change. This provided the project with a very useful in depth understanding on the main actors in the system and the issues that need to be considered for food system change towards healthier and more sustainable nutrition in schools.”
You can find out more on the ECI website: https://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/beanmeals