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What do burgers, meatballs, pepperoni, and milk have in common? They are all popular plant-based items!
2023 has seen a massive uptick in the popularity of plant-based foods. According to Datassential’s 2023 Food Trends, 40% of consumers plan to purchase plant-based meat products in 2023. This presents a multitude of both challenges and opportunities for the restaurant industry.
While the plant-based food trend has been around for a while, recent years have seen rapid growth and a higher adaption rate, even by those who don’t follow a strict plant-based diet. With the uptick in consumers jumping on this trend, it begs the question, is it here to stay or just a fad, and what do restaurants need to know to incorporate plant-based items on their menu profitably and successfully? Moreover, what do distributors need to know to help their restaurant Partners stock the right plant-based items in the right quantities without building a supply larger than the demand? What products can manufacturers incorporate into their offerings that make sense, and how will they get these products into the hands of restaurants and on menus?
If you are a distributor or manufacturer, here is a guide for everything you need to know about the plant-based trend in restaurants, what that means for your business, and how Honor Foods can help.
The plant-based food trend refers to a growing number of people interested in trading in traditional meat and dairy products for products derived from plants and no animal by-products. While some choose vegetarian or vegan meals, others are looking for fan favorites made from plants, allowing them to enjoy popular items more healthily.
There are thousands of plant-based food items available. These can be unique to substitutes for traditionally less healthy food items, allowing consumer favorites to follow a health-conscious diet. For example, tater tots made of cauliflower, burgers made of vegetables, pasta made which chickpeas, steaks made of cauliflower, and noodles made of zucchini are all plant-based items.
There are many reasons the plant-based food trend has become so popular. One of the greatest is the health benefits associated with it. While there has been an increase in people choosing to adhere to a strict vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, a growing number of people are just incorporating plant-based options as a replacement for less healthy alternatives while still enjoying traditional choices. The broad range of plant-based items has allowed people adhering to popular diets such as keto or paleo, or those just looking to live a healthier lifestyle, to enjoy their favorite foods by substituting zucchini noodles for pasta.
One of the most exciting aspects of the plant-based food trend is that it is not just people who are vegan or vegetarian that are partaking in it. In fact, 62% of people say they eat at least one meatless meal a week, according to the Bloomberg group, while still consuming traditional meat products for other meals. Their reasons vary, but one of the main ones is simply a desire to eat healthier. Many who enjoy working out want to include plant-based protein in their regiment. Others with health concerns such as high cholesterol find incorporating plant-based meals to be one avenue to a healthier life style. Other sites simply being curious to try the products or order them at restaurants simply because the menu items sound delicious.
According to Datassential, the number of plant-based food items on menus has grown 2800% since 2018. The demand is there, creating a need for manufacturers to continue to invent and offer plant-based menu alternatives and distributors to sell a wider variety of items to end users. According to the Food Institute, about 48% of restaurants provide plant-based options, compared to 30% in 2012. In addition, there has been an increase in the number of restaurants whose menus are primarily centered around the idea of a plant-based diet and, even more, the concept of clean and healthy eating, which often includes many plant-based menu items.
According to Future Market Insights, the plant-based food industry is expected to grow three times its current size by 2023. With the current trend of a greater focus on healthy eating and lifestyles, the plant-based market is expected to stick around and play a huge role, even for those who still consume traditional meat products.
Many experts say the plant-based food industry needs to rely on innovation to stay relevant. Continuing to create new recipes and having menus offer a variety of plant-based items will keep consumers interested in trying new products. Redistribution is a great way to allow manufacturers and distributors to help grow the plant-based segment of their business because it will enable more end users to access a wider variety of plant-based products with a smaller quantity commitment from distributors who visit their facility frequently.
The future of the plant-based food trend lies in innovation and accessibility and is expected to continue to grow. Right now, many restaurant menus still have a limited number of plant-based items available. This presents great room to grow as consumers continue to look to order these items. While more plant-based items are lining menus across the country, there is still a vast gap in plant-based alternatives compared to what can be found in the grocery store. The reason is shelf life and expense, as well as chef experience.
Plant-based food items are often new to chefs. Because the trend is new, many chefs don’t have the same experience or diversity in training with these items as traditional meat items. As the trend continues, chefs are adding more diverse recipe ideas to their repertoire, increasing popularity. One of the other significant challenges the food service industry faces when looking to include plant-based menu items is the cost factor. Often the ingredients are more expensive to source and have a shorter shelf life. As the popularity of plant-based food items continues to grow, there is a chance some ingredients will become more prevalent. This, combined with more popularity, means ordering in larger quantities will help bring the operating cost down, establishing a better profit margin for restaurants without a considerable increase in menu prices that will deter consumers.
A wide variety of plant-based food items is available for redistributors to sell. One of the most common are companies like Beyond Meat, offering everything from plant-based burgers to plant-based wings to plant-based meatballs and, well, beyond. Other available items include dairy alternatives, plant-based pasta, and more!
One of the best ways for distributors to help restaurants succeed in the plant-based sector is to have a variety of plant-based items available, along with the more traditional menu items, and have them available at reasonable quantities and prices. By having their typical distributors have items available readily, without a large quantity or price commitment, restaurants can help decrease the barrier of entry to the plant-based food market for restaurants. This is where redistribution can help.
Honor Foods is a premier food redistribution company that offers various items to distributors from different manufactures. Redistribution, by nature, is designed to allow distributors to provide more products in lower quantities and products. This decreases risk for distributors and end users and will give restaurants more room for creativity, trial, and error regarding menu items and their popularity. When it comes to the plant-based food trend, having access to a wider variety of items at a lower quantity allows distributors to see what types of plant-based items restaurants are interested in, giving restaurants the freedom to try out different products and see what works on their menu and with their customers.
By working with a redistributor like Honor Foods, manufacturers can get plant-based items in the hands of distributors and, ultimately, food service providers in lower quantities, making them more likely to try incorporating new items in a new segment on their menu because it reduces the financial risk associated with new menu items, especially in a segment they may not have tried in their restaurant before. In addition, working with a redistributor like Honor Foods allows manufacturers to reach new markets they wouldn’t otherwise penetrate.
All signs point to the plant-based food trend staying for the foreseeable future. Now is the time to adapt and innovate in all areas of the food industry, including the manufacturer and distributor levels. Consumers are interested in plant-based items, meaning restaurants are interested in plant-based food items. Distributors have a great chance to increase their product offerings at minimal risk with the help of redistributors like Honor Foods. Manufacturers can add new popular items to their offerings and grow in a new segment of people. As demand for plant-based items grows from consumers and restaurants alike, will your business be in a position to evolve and grow with the market?
About Honor Foods
Honor Foods, a Burris Logistics Company, was founded in 1949 as a redistributor of prepared foods. Since then, Honor Foods has grown into a premier provider of frozen, refrigerated, dry, and dairy products representing more than 300 brand-name food suppliers and carrying more than 3,000 items. For more information about Honor Foods, please visit honorfoods.com.