Moving Forward with Plant Proteins
Perhaps no food category has better long-term growth prospects than plant-based.
According to Technomic’s Ignite foodservice industry intelligence platform, plant-based proteins’ menu penetration will grow nearly 35% by the end of 2022.1 The global financial services firm UBS, meanwhile, projects that the global plant-based meat market will be worth $51 billion by 2025.2 Its recent survey of 3,000 consumers and 50 restaurant franchisees in the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany also revealed that Americans were far more likely than their European counterparts to have tried plant-based meats. And among the 18% of consumers surveyed by ADM who tried plant-based products for the first time over the past year, a whopping 92% said they’d purchase them again.3
Given these findings, it seems likely that operators who focus their new menu development on plant-based ingredients and plant-forward dishes may have an edge.
Consider that 28% of consumers ate more protein from plant sources in 2020 than in 2019, according to the International Food Information Council (IFIC)’s 2020 Food & Health Survey. While some choose plant-based products and dishes to match their environmental and sustainability ethos, 43% assume that a product described as plant-based is healthier than one that isn’t.4
Innovative suppliers and operators don’t just watch these shifts in consumer attitudes and behavior. They drive them with appropriate plant-forward protein products, as well as issue-aware package, menu and online messaging.
Fortunately, operators don’t have to start from scratch to add plant-based or plant-forward options to their menus. Instead, they can look to innovative suppliers for ingredients that deliver the flavor and health benefits today’s consumers are craving.
Perdue was one of the first protein suppliers to enter the plant-forward space, launching its PERDUE® CHICKEN PLUS® product line of hybrid nuggets, tenders and patties in June 2019. Featuring a 60/40 blend of 100% all-natural, No Antibiotics Ever white-meat chicken and a medley of cauliflower, chickpeas and plant proteins, PERDUE® CHICKEN PLUS® products come fully cooked and ready to bake or fry. It even boasts 10 grams of chicken protein and a quarter cup of vegetables in every serving.
Operators can expect success when they combine appropriate plant-based or plant-forward items with trend-aware, values-driven messaging.
Starbucks, for example, highlights its plant-based efforts as part of its sustainability commitment: “The company’s goal is to expand plant-based choices as an environmentally friendly menu contributes to our goal to be a resource positive company. Starbucks continues to introduce new drinks and food to menus globally while innovating with plant-based ingredients across key platforms.” The chain even recently tested a 100% plant-based menu at one of its Seattle stores.5
And in 2020, Panera announced its intention to offer a plant-based entrée in every menu category by the end of 2021. “Our aspiration long-term is that our menu looks more like 50% plant-based,” Vice President of Food Values, Sustainability and PR Sara Burnett told Restaurant Business last year. “The broader trend is a shift in diet culture, a shift away from … restriction and shame and guilt [toward] the idea of wellness and, ‘How do I add to my diet? How do I eat more leafy greens? How do I do better each day?’ … What we want to see for our future is this idea of food positivity. How do we add the good back to food?”6
As plant-forward dining and plant-based proteins move toward ubiquity, operators can demonstrate their support through partnerships, products and promotions. There’s no time like the present.
- Cobe, Patricia, and Lalley, Heather, “The Future of Plant-Based Meats and Proteins,” Restaurant Business, Feb. 2, 2021
- Stott, Andrew, “Plant-based meats,” UBS
- Poinski, Megan, “Consumer trends shifting toward health and wellness, ADM finds,” Food Dive, Sept. 3, 2020
- 2020 Food & Health Survey (International Food Information Council, April 2020)
- Maze, Jonathan, “Starbucks Is Making a Big Bet on Plants,” Restaurant Business, Feb. 3, 2021
- Lalley, Heather, “Panera to Amplify Its Plant-Based Offerings,” Restaurant Business, Jan. 16, 2020