Plant-based diets have been around for millennia. It’s an ever-evolving diet as people’s exposure to produce grown across the globe becomes more accessible and advances in crop development and food science continue. People choose plant-based diets for numerous reasons from ethics, environmental activism, culture, health, or just because it’s cheaper. Maybe these reasons resonate with you, or maybe they don’t! But one thing is for sure; this lifestyle that is often associated with hippies, millennials, or Hinduism is a rising trend that is here to stay. The Internal Fresh Produce Association’s July 2022 Conference was themed around plant-based meals. Below, we dive into the reasons this trend is growing, and how you can jump on board to expand your customer base.
Consumers are focusing on produce as the star of the plate for various reasons. Vegans, vegetarians, and the newest category-flexitarians, which are people that mostly eat a plant-based diet but still eat meat on occasion, do so for environmental and ethical reasons. The rising concern for climate change, animal welfare, and environmental justice has made this lifestyle a sort of activism for thousands. A second reason people engage in this lifestyle is to improve their health. It’s no question that plants provide important nutrients for a person’s survival, and they taste pretty dang good too, especially when covered in butter and oil. Research continues to show that plant-based diets, especially whole foods diets, decrease heart disease, reverse type II diabetes, and numerous other benefits (see article here). However, there’s one reason that should resonate with those in the food service industry-it’s cheaper than meat!
There are numerous reasons why the meat industry has seen such a large increase in prices over the last year, but one thing is for certain, the price is not going back down anytime soon. Depending on where beef is up 20-31%, chicken is up 13-20%, and pork is seeing a 14%. That makes things like lentils, celery root steak, and potatoes much more appealing. New York strip ranges from $10-15 per pound, whereas celery root is under $3 per pound. Chefs around the nation are shrinking their portions of meat and filling up the plate with plants because it makes financial sense.
Restaurants are adding more plant-based main courses and alternatives to continue to expand their customer base and help their bottom line. There are a few simple things to keep in mind when developing plant-based menu items. Firstly, make sure to have foods high in caloric density like potatoes, corn, legumes, or winter squashes as a base. This will help your consumer feel more satiated and like they indulged in a rich and fulfilling meal. Secondly, make it interesting! Nothing is worse to a plant-based eater than picking a restaurant that advertises plant-based options and is blander than the tablecloth. Texture, flavor, and experimentation are well-loved by the plant eater. Lastly, highlight local and seasonal produce. Since environment and ethics is such a huge motivation for many people to eat plant-based, it is important for eaters to feel like they are doing good by eating appropriate seasonal produce and supporting local farms. This can help in the branding and marketing of your plant-based menu. For more information about our local farmers, local product list, or our quality produce, check out www.producesourcepartners.com or call customer service at 804.262.8300.