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Published 04.03.2017

Protein Bowls Combine Two Trends Into a Single Dish

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The definition of “healthy” continues to evolve. Today’s health-driven consumers want foods that do something for them – give them energy, keep their heart healthy, boost brainpower. The demand for positive nutrition, coupled with several popular diets, has fueled the recent focus on protein. Consumers say they can’t get enough protein – it’s the health attribute they want the most on menus. They report that it keeps them full, gives them the energy they need to get through the day, and positively impacts their overall health. They also want to feel good about the protein sources they are choosing, seeking out antibiotic-free and natural chicken or turkey – 3 out of 4 consumers say removing antibiotics and hormones makes them more likely to purchase a product and nearly 30% of consumers say they will pay more for antibiotic-free and hormone-free foods.

Consumers will find plenty of protein featured in another current menu trend – the bowl. The rise of build-your-own meals at fast casual restaurants is contributing to a shifting lifestyle. Consumers are eating at their desk or in front of a computer more often, making easy-to-eat, easy-to-customize meal bowls more desirable. Like protein, consumers love them – 62% say they are likely to try a bowl at a restaurant. They ‘re not going anywhere, either – nearly 60% of operators say bowls are a long-term trend.

These protein bowls – also called “power bowls,” “powerhouse bowls,” “energy bowls,” or any number of related terms – are often packed with superfoods, fresh greens, good fats, and healthy proteins like chicken and turkey. Due to its versatility and popularity with consumers, chicken is featured in over 1/3 of these bowls. Many protein bowls start with a healthy base like ancient grains, leafy vegetables, or cauliflower rice, which is topped with lean proteins, often with healthy descriptors like grilled, all-natural, “raised without antibiotics,” or organic. In fact, antibiotic-free options have grown 35% on chain menus in the past year, while “natural chicken” has grown 26%.

Customers can customize their protein bowl with superfoods like pomegranate seeds or avocado and add flavor with healthy dressings and drizzles (yogurt, tahini) and garnishes (almonds, pumpkin seeds). Because bowls are an easily customizable platform, they can also showcase different cuisines or be utilized at particular dayparts, from a breakfast power bowl with egg whites and no-antibiotics-ever turkey sausage, to a Mexican protein bowl with shredded organic chipotle chicken, brown rice, pico de gallo, and queso fresco at lunch or dinner.

At Crazy Bowls & Wraps, based in Missouri, the menu features a High-Protein Bowl which swaps out the grain for two servings of protein – patrons can choose from options like grilled chicken breast, crunchy chicken breast, or Alaskan salmon. Chicago-based Protein Bar centers the entire restaurant concept on protein. The brand’s Korean BiBi-Q Bowl features all-natural chicken, diced cucumber, radish, spinach, pickled carrots, and a sweet and spicy Korean chili sauce.

Of course, the last step in delivering a sought-after protein bowl is to artfully arrange the ingredients into a pleasing pattern to make the entire creation Instagram-worthy.

PUT THIS TREND INTO ACTION

To satisfy consumer needs for these protein-centric bowls, operators must look to versatile products that can be easily incorporated into a variety of protein bowl recipes and customizable protein bowl offerings. Perdue Foodservice offers a range of fresh and frozen NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER, 100% vegetarian-fed chicken and turkey products that can be seamlessly implemented into protein bowls in a multitude of ways – from grilled or fried to marinated or sautéed, the possibilities are endless. To elevate protein bowl selections even further, PERDUE® HARVESTLAND® Organic chicken is non-GMO, contains NO ANTIBIOTICS EVER, and is fed a 100% vegetarian diet, all of which are claims that can be translated onto menus to help satisfy consumer demand for a healthy protein selection.

ON MENUS

Low-Carb Protein Bowl
Scrambled egg whites, grilled chicken, roasted tomato sauce on black beans with lettuce, jalapenos, salsa, and guacamole.
CAFÉ VIDA
Los Angeles, CA

Chipotle Chicken Protein Bowl
All-natural chicken breast, baby spinach, baby kale, romaine lettuce, black beans, red quinoa, brown rice, cheddar cheese, and tomato with chipotle aioli.
NATURE’S TABLE
Orland, FL (HQ) 

KEY STATS

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+71% - GROWTH OF THE WORD “PROTEIN” ON MENUS IN THE PAST FOUR YEARS
- Datassential MenuTrends

76% OF CONSUMERS SAY THEY ARE MORE LIKELY TO BUY HORMONE AND ANTIBIOTIC-FREE FOODS
- Datassential TIPS: Spring 2016

1 in 5 OPERATORS SAY THEY ARE LIKELY TO ADD BOWLS TO THE MENU IN THE FUTURE
- Datassential MenuTrends Keynote Report: The New Healthy

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