#Plantbased

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.

Takeaway

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

Plants Dominate 2022 NRA Show

Plants Dominate 2022 National Restaurant Association Show

by David Klemt

Plantspired plant-based foods

The National Restaurant Association Show is back in a big way, and meat alternative brands are establishing themselves as much more than a trend.

In particular, plant-based brands made their presence known in the Lakeside Center.

However, some big companies also showcased their animal alternatives in the South Building. Among them, Beyond and Daiya.

Notably, Daiya brought with them their freshly reformulated cream cheese alternative. They also had a creamy, flavorful queso at their booth.

Chik’n

Unsurprisingly, meatless chicken—often stylized as “chik’n”—dominated the NRA Show floor.

Morning Star Farms chicken

However, exhibitors showed off more than just nuggets and fingers. This year was more about innovation.

For example, more than one company is rolling out chik’n wings. Of course, there are no bones, so they’re more akin to nuggets.

Essentially, these chicken alternatives are boneless “wings.” And as we all know, boneless chicken wings are just chicken chunks with better marketing.

Really, it’s the seasoning, heat, and shape that define the chik’n wing. At least, that’s what they are for now. I expect further innovation and refinement for these wings.

Daring plant-based chicken

Interestingly, some brands appear to be taking on the chicken breast. Now, there weren’t many meatless companies featuring these on the NRA Show floor. Still, there were a couple and their products looked the part.

The textures are also quite close to their meaty counterparts. But I think there’s still work to do.

Plant-based Seafood

Of all the plant-based alternatives, seafood was the star. The CEOs of big brands have been working on these products for several years.

Well, we certainly saw the fruits of their investments at this year’s NRA Show.

Fish fillets, crab cakes, fish patties (including salmon), fish sticks, tuna flakes, shrimp… All were available to sample at exhibitor booths.

Crucially, the flavors and textures were close to the real thing. However, the shrimp mostly relied on being coated in seasoning to mimic their animal-based counterpart.

That said, seeing so many brands committed to bringing plant-based seafood to market was impressive.

Further, the seafood-focused companies are touting the eco-friendliness of their products. Plant-based seafood, they say, can help stop overfishing and stop the reduction of biodiversity in our oceans.

If they appeal to consumers and reduce harm to the planet, these products could perform well in foodservice. Good for the planet and good for the bottom line seems like a win-win to me.

Takeaway

As the 2022 NRA Show showed, plant-based is no longer a trend. These products ceased being a fad long ago.

Now, it’s clear the category is here to stay. The products categories like chik’n are seeing more innovation. Seafood will improve. Other meat alternatives are also improving.

Of course, whether they’re healthy, well, that’s another story. However, consumers seem to want these items regardless.

One thing is obvious, though: The plant-based category is proliferating and will soon reach ubiquity.

Images taken by author

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

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

How is Plant-based Performing?

How is Plant-based Performing On-premise?

by David Klemt

Plant-based food bowl

With plant-based food options making their way to global fast food chains, it’s clear the category is continuing to heat up.

In fact, it’s likely time to stop referring to plant-based menu items as a trend. Obviously, they’re here to stay.

But how are these items actually performing on-premise? Is the category experiencing real growth or barely noticeable?

“Proliferation”

We’re full throttle into the holiday season. People are focusing on spending time with family and friends.

And what does that mean? Gathering for meals.

So, if restaurant traffic is going to tick up, it makes sense to see if plant-based should be more prevalent on menus.

To that end, Datassential revealed data on this category two weeks ago during their “Holidays Ahead!” webinar. Of four trend-tracking designations—Inception, Adoption, Proliferation, Ubiquity—Datassential notes plant-based menu items are in the Proliferation stage on-premise.

Analyzing data from 2011 to 2021, Datassential showed that the category started growing in terms of menu placement in 2018. As of this year, plant-based items are on nearly five percent of restaurant menus.

That may not seem like impressive growth. However, there was zero-point-zero-percent growth between 2011 and 2014. In 2015 and 2016, Datassential shows that only 0.1 percent of restaurants offered plant-based menu items. That growth doubled in 2017 (0.2 percent), then doubled again in 2018 (0.4 percent).

In 2019, the category quadrupled to inclusion on 1.6 percent of restaurant menus. Last year, that growth more than doubled to 3.5 percent.

According to Datassential, 28 percent of consumers like or love plant-based menu items. Interestingly, the research agency finds that all types of consumers like plant-based items, not just vegetarians or vegans.

The Datassential breakdown of plant-based menu proliferation by restaurant category is as follows:

  • Fast Casual: 11.5%
  • Casual Dining: 5.4%
  • Midscale: 3.9%
  • Quick Service: 3.4%
  • Fine Dining: 1.8%

Chains are more likely, at this time, to feature plant-based menu items.

Upscale Options

Wanting to include plant-based options and knowing where to start are two different things.

As it happens, Datassential featured a timely real-world menu to that should inspire operators this season.

Watercourse Foods in Denver, Colorado, offers mains and sides that will resonate with holiday diners:

  • Seitan Roast (wheat, soy, blend of herbs) which stands in for roast turkey.
  • Pot Pie consisting of carrots, celery, onions and mushroom.
  • Root Vegetable Stuffing made with root veggies (obviously), savory herbs, and housemade bread.
  • Mac and Cheese featuring shells tossed in cheese fondue and topped with shiitake “bacon” bits and breadcrumbs.

As you’ll notice, you don’t need to limit your menu to products from Beyond or Impossible. Obviously, you can leverage their brand recognition but you can also utilize your current plant-based inventory to create housemade menu items.

If you’re ready to embrace plants at your restaurant or bar, activate your kitchen team. With a bit of creativity you can take advantage on the rise in popularity of everything plant-based.

Image: Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

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