Is Your Food REAL?

February 18, 2016

Have you seen REAL certification? Here's your 101 on what it means.

Is your food REAL? Have you seen the REAL certification on a food product or a restaurant you frequent, and you’ve been wondering what it means? Here is your 101.

REAL stands for Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership. The goal of REAL Certification is to affect change in the food and foodservice industries by providing market-based incentives to promote more healthful and sustainable food and beverage offerings.  Modeled after the LEED standard, REAL Certified utilizes a flexible, point-based system that is implemented with the assistance of independent, third party registered dietitians. The comprehensive review process includes meeting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) through menu analysis, invoice and supply chain verification, interviews, and visual assessments of front and back of house operations.

Examples of KPIs include:

Responsible: What percentage of entrées contain a full serving of non-deep fried vegetables or fruits?

Epicurean: Are sauces, dressings and stocks made from scratch?

Agricultural: Is the most served meat (vegetable, seafood, eggs, etc.) locally sourced? Regionally sourced? Sustainably sourced? Organic/non-GMO? Pasture raised? Cage-Free?

Leadership: Are sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) listed on the children’s menu?

How do companies get certified? An establishment or foodservice operation undergoes a voluntary review process that assesses its nutrition and sustainability practices against the REAL Criteria. Only those that meet the minimum requirements are awarded certification, which is renewable on an annual basis.

Who can get certified: Restaurants, Caterers, Food Trucks, Grocers, Public Venues, and Dining Halls and Cafeterias at institutional, workplace and corporate sites. Packaged goods can also be certified.

REAL Certification was developed by the United States Healthful Food Council (USHFC), a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization dedicated to fighting diet-related disease by realigning the food industry’s incentives with consumers’ health interests. Their mission is to increase production and consumption of healthful and sustainable food for all communities.