For many consumers, the idea that the salad they eat plays a role in reshaping the food industry may sound like biting off more than they can chew. But at SaladStop!, it’s a fact that’s keeping in tradition with an eco-conscious model—one that involves sustainable partnerships and a vision that strives to ingrain itself into society.
“Making a difference starts with each and every one of us. The biggest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it. We are all responsible for our actions and we can all make a difference,” says Katherine Braha, director and co-founder of SaladStop!
Even though SaladStop! has become a staple in the Philippines since its arrival in local shores, the brand still continuously works through campaigns that portray a healthy lifestyle as a key game plan in the wake of natural threats. This year, the Specialty Food Retailers, Inc. (SFRI) franchise’s response to the growing movement for stronger sustainable policies originates from three points of contact: food, farm, and recycling.
“We need to be aware of our sources and preparation processes. This commitment is reflected in every step of our process and fuels us to serve our customers better as we open our salad counters every day,” says Steven Sarmenta, executive vice president and general manager of Specialty Food Retailers, Inc.
It sounds a little rosy, yes, but during the Eat Wide Awake, Live Wide Awake tour held in Tagaytay City last week where two new seasonal menus were also revealed—the ahi ono grain bowl and the Howdy! salad and wrap—even a food chain like SaladStop! is helping drive the conversation on sustainability by pooling its resources and dispatching editors and journalists to meet the people behind Kalye Luntian where they source vegetables to encourage more people to continuously examine, question, and rethink the process by which people consume food.
“Going back to the source allows us to ask the right questions with regard to the food we serve. We need to be aware of our sources and preparation processes—spurring transparency in the food industry,” says Steven Sarmenta, SFRI executive vice president and general manager.
Efforts like this somehow erode the idea that corporations place more emphasis on profit. The bigger picture many people are unaware of is that while there are indeed some companies that have shameful chapters and human rights failures being swept aggressively under the rug, there are still those that actually live up to their pluralistic image.
At Kalye Luntian, where Romaine and relationships cultivated collaborations between the Cavite community and an ever-expanding SaladStop! consumer base, farm representatives Carlo Amoranto, Tate de Guzman, and Carlo Garcia see their responsibility in growing and supplying produce that not only meets client expectations but also reinforces a positive cycle of change.
“This farm is actually a giant compost,” they say. “A lot of our science and technology is embedded into the soil. A lot of traditional farming rely heavily on fertilizers and chemical inputs through the growth cycle of the vegetables. But if we have a good solid base, the plants will be healthy. You could see the soil in the greenhouses is very different from the soil outside it.”
Kalye Luntian’s history started off without a clear direction. But in a span of nearly six years, the eight-hectare farm has built upon itself a master blueprint that could grow lettuce, Italian kale, arugula, and coffee; exclusively deliver 1.8 tons of Romaine a week to SaladStop! stores; and even embody inclusivity.
“We want to be able to affect the local community positively. There’s actually a school here that we support and the senior citizens support,” reveals Amoranto in addition to the 16 local employees working in the farm.
Although coming close to perfecting the existing model came—and still comes—at a cost: “The first three years were the hardest because there was a lot of trial and error,” says Garcia. Their signature Greenhouse 1, built a year after they started, served as an experimentation lab where “we learned all our procedures and systems,” says Amoranto.
“For Romaine, air circulation is vital because they’re susceptible to a lot of problems during its growth cycle,” says de Guzman. “We intend to leave the Romaine until it’s required. We don’t like storing to ensure freshness and quality. It’s harvested the day it’s required.”
The bigger picture many people are unaware of is that while there are indeed some companies that have shameful chapters and human rights failures being swept aggressively under the rug, there are still those that actually live up to their pluralistic image.
But even if Kalye Luntian has captured the fundamental recipe that enabled them to thrive with SaladStop!, there are stark realities that remind them that more needs to be done on a much larger scale.
Climate change, according to the three, has heavily affected agriculture in recent years that it’s now become the norm in their business. “Before we could predict yield, but it’s changed. We have to react to the weather so we can’t plan early on,” says Garcia
“So if you look at our historical records throughout the years, we could actually see the fluctuation points of the temperature, how the plants performed in certain times of the year, you could actually see the difference,” says Amoranto. “Is it more challenging now? Yes. To the point that it’s unpredictable. Last year the rainy season was so short but sobrang todo and then the summer was brutal for so long and then it changes. “
Perhaps that’s why SaladStop! and Kalye Luntian’s relationship is affirming. Never mind the moody critics who say the wraps and salads aren’t really healthy or that it’s capitalizing on public demand for plastic-free dining experiences by releasing its own set of reusable steel straws, bamboo cutlery, and P220 eco tote.
All this clamor nevertheless leads more consumers to stretch further into territory that they otherwise wouldn’t have even considered in the first place. Campaigns like Eat Wide Awake, Live Wide Awake represent a meeting point for all those who speak—and wish to speak—the same language: that to create a more sustainable future, the idea needs to be visible.
Even if it starts from the salad you eat.