Plant-based food

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Meat-limiters Driving Change

Meat-limiters Driving Change

by David Klemt

Plant-based food bowl

You’re likely familiar with dietary terms like vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, and even flexitarian, but what about meat-limiter?

As the name implies, a meat-limiter is a person actively choosing to reduce their meat intake. It’s also an umbrella term that includes vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, or flexitarian diets.

Earlier this year, Datassential took a look at plant-based opportunities. Over the course of a week, 1,500 Americans ages 18 to 88 were surveyed online.

Datassential conducted their research with three partners:

  • The Culinary Institute of America
  • Food for Climate League
  • Menus of Change University Research Collaborative

The results are revealed within Datassential’s “2022 Plant-Forward Opportunity” report. To access a number of free reports, sign up with Datassential today.

Meat-limiter Guests

Just over a quarter of Americans—29 percent—are meat-limiters in some way. That number climbs to 36 percent for Gen Z, per this Datassential survey.

Of four major diets (vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, flexitarian), vegetarian and vegan are the least common. The overall US population consists overwhelmingly of meat eaters (71 percent). Nearly a quarter, 22 percent, are flexitarian.

For Gen Z, those same numbers are 65 percent and 19 percent, respectively. Interestingly, Gen Z has more vegetarians and vegans than other generations.

But then there’s this: When it comes to the daily consumption of animal proteins, Gen Z is at the top. It’s Millennials who consume the most plant-based proteins on a daily basis.

Animal proteins are still at the top across generations. However, people are consciously reducing their meat intake and seeking plant-based alternatives.

What’s Driving Meat-limiters?

In comparison to 2021, Datassential hit on a compelling finding. A mere six percent of the US population was actively reducing meat intake last year.

That number has skyrocketed in 2022. This year, per Datassential, 21 percent of consumers can be considered meat-limiters.

Given the pandemic, it makes sense to assume this dietary change is due to personal health. However, climate change is a major driver.

Overall, 55 percent of consumers feel climate change is important. That number climbs to 71 percent for meat-limiters, 69 percent of students.

Half of consumers also feel that plant-based foods, in general, are better for the planet. Nearly half (47 percent) feel these foods are also more sustainable. Again, the number increases for meat-limiters and students (and Millennials, as well).

Interestingly, two-thirds of consumers feel traditional plant-based food items are healthier than new plant-based meat alternatives. However, a little over 60 percent of consumers find both plant-based food categories healthy.


Before proceeding, it’s important to recognize that a survey of just 1,500 people comes with a margin of error.

Still, the results are compelling and provide insight into today’s consumer. Among the top insights:

  • Consumers are trying more plant-based menu items.
  • Climate change and sustainability are driving consumer decisions.
  • More consumers are concerned with their health.

Per Datassential, one way to appeal to a wide range of guests is offering “mixed dishes.” These are menu items that combine animal and plant proteins. Another way forward is menuing plant-forward dishes that include a small amount of meat, poultry, fish, or dairy.

If we accept that only a tiny fraction of the US population is vegetarian or vegan, targeting flexitarians and daily meat eaters in this way makes sense.

Image: Yoav Aziz on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Plant-based Performance is Nuanced

Plant-based Performance is Nuanced

by David Klemt

LikeMeat plant-based burgers in skillet with onions

The World Resources Institute is making the case that the success of plant-based products on-premise will require menu changes.

In particular, changes need to be made menu item descriptions. Drilling down even further, the language we use in descriptions is crucial to performance.

Simply put, just offering recognizable plant-based brands and their products isn’t enough.

Speaking to Guests

When it comes to plant-based food items, there are multiple consumer segments to consider.

For example, there are those who are all-in on plant-based. Targeting this group is easy—promote the fact that you have the products they want.

There’s also the previous group’s counterpart: uninterested in these food items. It’s likely you’re simply never going to convince them to even try plant-based menu items.

Of course, there are the consumers in between. If succeeding with plant-based menu items will translate to more guests engaging with your business, increasing traffic and revenue, speaks to your brand in an authentic way, and matters to the community you serve, these are the guests you need to win over.

But as stated above, simply putting Impossible, Beyond, LikeMeat, or other brands on your menu likely isn’t enough. This is something some fast-casual brands are experiencing. Plant-based performance, as evidence and anecdotes appears to show, is nuanced.

Announcing plant-based alternatives seems to result in a quick rise in sales. However, that initial interest doesn’t appear to last long. And when sales slow an operator either finds themselves sitting on stock, lowering prices, or both.

Again, if succeeding with plant-based items is good for your brand, you’ll need to do some work.

Language Matters

The World Resources Institute (WRI) addressed this topic last week via video presentation. Titled “Messaging that Works: Engaging Diners in Climate Action,” the nearly hour-long video states that language matters for plant-based buy-in.

A study conducted by the WRI found that “nudging” guests with the right messaging boosted plant-based sales. The institute tested ten “framing themes” with ten associated themes.

Two types of messages “came out on top by a long way,” according to presentation host Edwina Hughes:

  • Small change, big impact
  • Joining a movement

Per the WRI’s study, those two themes resulted in around double the demand for plant-based items as other themes.

The first theme speaks to a person’s personal agency, or their actions and the impact they can have on their own lives.

Joining a movement relates to social norms. In particular, suggesting something is a movement tells someone that there are like-minded people already engaged with this concept, product, lifestyle, etc.

Putting this to Use

Menu descriptions, table talkers, POS messaging, and social media can all play a role. Again, this is only if this is important to your brand and guests. If plant-based menu items aren’t authentic to your business, the “Small change, big impact” messaging may not be of interest to you.

For operators who want to succeed with plant-based items, the WRI presentation suggests a “nudge.” In relation to the first theme from above, the process would be:

  • Personal empowerment statement: A person can have a positive impact on the environment.
  • Easily attainable action: Substitute one meat-based meal for a plant-based one.
  • Easily understood personal outcome: A positive result that can come from their purchase.

When it comes to the movement theme, operators can use the following nudge, provided by the WRI as an example during their presentation:

“Ninety percent of Americans [size and/or relevance of group] making the change to eat less meat [group’s behavior] choose plant-based dishes that have less impact [call to action].”

Plant-based menu items aren’t really a trend anymore, but they’re also not quite mainstream. If they’re going to perform stronger in the QSR and other segments, they’ll need better messaging.

Additional Takeaway

The lessons learned from WRI’s presentation aren’t limited to the performance of plant-based menu items. Nudges can work for all manner of products in all types of concepts.

When you look at your menu with a truly critical eye, ask yourself:

  • Does it have attention-grabbing descriptions?
  • Do the descriptions accurately describe the items?
  • Would you be swayed by your descriptions?
  • Are there any calls to action?

If you can’t answer yes to most or all of those, your menu would likely benefit from revisions.

Your menu isn’t just a catalogue of food, drinks, and prices. Rather, it’s a powerful sales and marketing tool. Take the time to leverage it accordingly.

Image: LikeMeat on Unsplash