Started in 2013 as a single salad bar in Amsterdam, SLA has now become a well-known name in the Dutch food scene with 16 stores in 8 different cities. In a conversation with Hans Bruning, managing director, we gain insight into the company's ambitious vision. SLA aims to serve healthy, sustainable, and delicious meals, and they are succeeding! They are taking significant steps by focusing on plant-based ingredients, operating a practically zero-waste kitchen, and engaging in fair partnerships.
"We want to let people experience how delicious plant-based eating can be"
The success of SLA originates from a deeply rooted motivation to do good. Bruning explains, "SLA started from the intrinsic motivation to do things right, and that is embedded in our concept, both in terms of sustainability and health." In the kitchen, they primarily work with fresh, organic products and minimize the use of sugars.
The use of seasonal ingredients is also evident in the annually changing menu. "We want the menu to align with the ingredients available at that moment," Bruning says. This approach ensures that guests can always enjoy fresh and sustainable dishes, including a variety of salads, plant-based meals, juices, and soups.
Packaging choices and preparations for the upcoming SUP measures
At SLA, they strive to make the right decisions regarding packaging, with the SUP (Single-Use Plastics) measures also playing a role. Bruning emphasizes that it's challenging for the company to deal with this, but at the same time necessary. "The financial barrier is needed to encourage people to exhibit the right behavior. You can see this with plastic bags in supermarkets as well, where usage has decreased by 80%."
Regarding the search for the most sustainable packaging, Bruning says the following: "We used sugar cane containers for a long time, which ultimately turned out to contain PFAS. At that time, we were not aware of its harmful effects, but we immediately started looking for an alternative. We compared various suppliers, and TakeAware emerged as the best option. We have the best that is currently available."
Starting from January 1, 2024, new SUP measures will come into effect, requiring all on-site consumption food establishments to switch to reusable, plastic-free, or high-quality recyclable packaging. Although SLA currently uses reusable packaging and is satisfied with it, Bruning believes that offering these packages alone is not sufficient. He emphasizes, "You can offer reusables, but if there isn't enough reason for people to change their behavior, they won't use them."
The first step towards sustainable entrepreneurship: "Just start"
What tips would he share with entrepreneurs who also want to take a step towards more sustainable entrepreneurship? "I believe everyone knows where to start, but the thing is: you have to start. That's actually the only advice. There are plenty of examples of companies that have made the switch and shown that it can really work. You just have to want it."
Regarding how SLA applies this, Bruning says: "We don't say 'taste the magic of veggies' for nothing. We want people to experience how delicious it is to eat plant-based, and if we all eat a little less animal protein, it can have a big impact."