For many, a new year represents a fresh start. For foodservice industry professionals the new year is a great opportunity to consider emerging food and beverage trends for 2018. And this year, the most defining national trend is quite clear – plant-based foods will be all the rage.
Need proof? Here’s what the experts are saying.
- Baum+Whitman’s food trend report identifies plant-based foods going mainstream as the 2018 trend of the year
- “Innova shows there has been a huge rise in plant-based everything”
- Mintel research group experienced a 25% increase in vegetarian claims and a 257% increase in vegan claims in new grocery store products between 2012 and 2016
- Nielsen market research shows plant-based food sales grew by 8.1% last year
- People are eager to learn more – Google reported “plant-based diet” as one of 2017’s top searched by Canadians
Inevitably, vegan and vegetarian diners, formerly seen as the “complicated ones” in a dinner party, are thrilled to see their beloved plant-based foods becoming more available. It’s not however, just vegans and vegetarians celebrating this trend. Plant-based foods satisfy consumers’ appetite for healthier food alternatives, environmentally sustainable foods and socially-conscious products. Environmentalists and health-conscious foodies alike are also excited.
And the good news for meat lovers who are hesitant? A shift towards plant-based foods doesn’t have to be absolute. Novel terms such as “flexitarian”, “che-gan”, “reducitarians” and trends such as “Meatless Mondays” or “meat-free before 6” show the popularity and acceptance of lifestyles that are less strict and therefore, much more inviting.
No matter how you phrase it, more consumers are searching for plant-based foods. Approximately 1/3 of Canadians currently eat plant-based proteins and 43% are actively trying to increase their plant-based food consumption. Baum and Whitman’s trends report predicts demand for plant-based protein will grow 10% annually in the future.
Now, where do restaurants fit in? Unfortunately, so far it seems restaurants are behind the curve in keeping up with this trend. In order to keep diners satisfied, it is wise to begin exploring plant-based protein alternatives.
Here are four good reasons to incorporate plant-based foods into your menu:
1. It doesn’t have to “taste like deprivation”
The best news for diners and chefs alike is that plant-based foods DO taste good. No matter how much consumers claim they care about the nutrition and environmental impact of their food, taste has always been, and will continue to be, king. As demonstrated by Toronto’s successful restaurant Planta, plant-based foods can indeed taste good and appeal to a wide variety of customers.
2. Your guests will be thrilled (and your service staff relieved)
With more people adopting vegetarian habits, dining out in a large group can be challenging. Sometimes, groups are limited to selecting restaurants that offer at least a handful of vegetarian options. In order to attract more customers and reassure event organizers, including more plant-based foods is necessary. According to some reports, even steakhouses are planning on multiplying their vegetable options to eliminate “no” votes from non-steak eaters.
From a service staff’s perspective, it is becoming increasingly common to be asked which menu options are vegan or vegetarian. Instead of sweating and shifting around nervously, the more veg options the better for waiters as well.
Discerning diners will be thrilled to find quality plant-based alternatives on your menu. Dinner party hosts will breathe a sigh of relief when you reassure them that you have menu options for everyone in their group. And finally, waiters can feel confident that the restaurant’s menu will be able to meet everyone’s needs. Really, it’s a win-win-WIN!
3. Become an Industry Leader
As leaders in the world of food and beverage, restaurants are very well positioned to shape and define this emerging trend and making it tasty! Forget about the bland veggie burgers and plain salads, because it’s time to give plant-based foods some love and attention. Diners looking to add more plant-based foods to their diet will be delighted and inspired by the creative and flavourful options on your menus. By creating a lasting impression with diners and proving that plant-based can be delicious, you can capture this trend while positioning yourself as leaders in the industry.
4. Save Money by Keeping Food Costs Low
It’s no industry secret, restaurant margins are low. With costs of meat increasing and prime meat cuts often the largest part of food cost, moving to alternate sources of protein can help to meet margin requirements. By keeping food costs low, restaurants can remain accessible, sustainable and profitable.
The final question to consider is what kind of plant-based foods you should be serving.
Credit must be given to companies like “Impossible Foods” and “Beyond Meat”, who have made leaps and bounds in the area of plant-based foods that mimic the taste, texture and functionality of meat. However, culinary trends from last year including hyper-local sourcing and natural ingredients/minimally processed foods contradict the very nature of these products. While their efforts must be applauded, it is important to remember that these products are indeed, highly processed.
Don’t fret though, there remain certain foods that can satisfy all of these trends and even the pickiest consumer will struggle to find a flaw. Cue, tempeh to center stage.
Perhaps one of the best plant-based protein alternatives around, tempeh is a fermented, soy-based product traditionally from Indonesia. Often described as tofu’s more versatile, less-processed and more nutritious cousin, it’s a wonder more Canadians aren’t regularly consuming tempeh.
From a cooking perspective, tempeh is incredibly versatile. Delicious steamed, fried, baked, crumbled… you name it and tempeh is up to the task. It’s much firmer than tofu with a slightly nutty, umami flavor. Try it in burgers, curries, soups, stews, as a salad-topper, in wraps and sandwiches, because tempeh’s versatility is limited only by your imagination.
Now to the most important question of all… where can I find tempeh?
There are many incredible tempeh producers in Canada. It is exciting to see more and more people engaging in the making process and allowing the goodness of tempeh to become more widely available in Canada.