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The New Proteins – Plant-Based Meat Alternatives

Consumer demand for new, unique menu items is growing as people return to in-person dining. But inflationary pressures are forcing operators to pare down their menus, even at the risk of disappointing guests with menu fatigue.

One solution to both problems

If you are looking for an affordable way to refresh your menu, adding plant-based proteins and menu items is both on-trend and budget-friendly. One in five consumers (21%) are looking to reduce meat consumption, an increase of six percentage points since 20211. And, the trend shows no sign of letting up, as younger demographic groups lead the way. 40% of all consumers say they will purchase plant-based meat alternatives in 2023, with the number rising to 48% amongst millennials.2 Adding plant-based options to your menu has other benefits too. Not only do they provide healthier options for your guests to choose from, but they also show that you are being socially responsible. Climate change is extremely or very important to 55% of consumers, with 71% of ‘meat limiters’ (vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, and flexitarian) saying the same thing1.

Appeal broadly to your entire customer base

Not sure if your customers are that adventurous? You can appeal to your entire customer base by pairing plant-based proteins with something guests are familiar with to make a more approachable recipe and increase the likelihood that guests will order the item. Fan favorites like fries, tots, sweet potatoes, and mashed potatoes are popular comfort foods that everyone likes, and pair well with just about any plant-based protein. In fact, 58% of sweet potato fry eaters say sweet potato fries make a great side for vegetarian burgers3.

Be on the front end of the evolving plant-based meat alternative trend

The volume of branded plant-based meat retail sales has been flat or declining for 22 straight months4, raising the question of whether plant-based meat alternatives have limited appeal. However, consumer demand for clean, natural plant-forward options remains strong, for both personal health and for environmental reasons. Consumers just aren’t sure the current product offerings are delivering those needs. The category is evolving to meet those demands. One prediction suggests that restaurants will lead the way in the transformation of the non-meat protein category to simplified ingredients such as tofu, seitan, and tempeh.5

Content courtesy of Lamb Weston

For more helpful back-of-house tips and menu ideas, click here.

1 Datassential 2022 Plant-Forward Opportunity Report

2 Datassential Trendspotting 2023 Food Trends

3 Fry Pairings, Amplifry 2021

4 New York Times Beyond Meat is Struggling, and the Plant-Based Meat Industry Worries 11/21/22

5 Technomic 2023 Global Restaurant Trend Forecast