The Mediterranean diet has served up a feeding frenzy of fanfare about the flavors and nutritional content of southern European and northern African cuisine. With its emphasis on olive oil, legumes, whole grains and vegetables, what once may have seemed a fad has become a cultural and culinary guidepost for flavorful, better-for-you fare.
Rooted in the better-for-you foodservice trend, consumer appetite for plant-based products is continuing its growth spurt. Given the prevalence of a more mindful approach to food consumption, especially among wellness-oriented millennials, plants seem to have found ample fertile ground for market growth.
With 76% of U.S. adults surveyed in agreement that plant-based foods are healthy, many consumers find them an important asset that helps them maintain or improve their well-being, according to the market intelligence firm Mintel.1 Consumers surveyed find plant-based protein an advantage that helps them achieve wellness goals like weight management (31%).1
But while 46% of Americans surveyed consider plant-based proteins better for you than animal-based options, 52% cite taste is the top reason for eating them.1 Sixty-five percent say taste is also the deciding factor when choosing plant-based foods in the grocery aisle, followed wellness-oriented attributes.1
“Despite the fact that health attributes, particularly free-from, factor strongly in consumer decisions when purchasing plant-based proteins, at the end of the day, taste is the driving force behind purchase and eating decisions,” said Billy Roberts, Senior Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel. 1 Roberts believes “growing consumer interest in better-for-you lifestyles will continue to drive interest in the category.”1
Taste of Success: Plant-Based Flavors Grow On Consumers, But Trust is a Must
While many Americans aged 18-34 agree that plant-based foods may be expensive, they are more likely to consider trusted brands worth the price.1 Forty-seven percent of millennials surveyed agree that brand name is an important consideration when deciding which plant-based foods to purchase.1
At a time when the popularity of plant-based foods is budding, it stands to reason that vegetable flavor profiles should break ground with consumers hungry for snacks that are both tasty and wholesome. As Roberts points out, “Americans are more and more avoiding food products with artificial ingredients and GMOs, and vegetarian, vegan and free-from foods have grown to be regarded as healthier options."1
The rise of plant-based foods was one of Mintel’s top global trends to watch in 2017, and it seems to have met expectations.2 Eleven percent of the global food and drink products launched between September 2016-August 2017 carried vegetarian claims--a nearly 4% increase from September 2006-August 2007.2 In the same time frames, vegan claims have sprouted up from under half a percent of global food and drink launches to nearly 5%.2 And compared to 2016, 39% of Indonesian and 34% of Thai consumers surveyed are opting for non-animal sources of protein like plants or grain.2
Sowing the Seeds of Menu Innovation
Now Baum+Whiteman have identified “Plant-Based Foods Go Mainstream” as their number one trend of the year for 2018.3 While the trend’s growth has been comparatively slow in the restaurant industry, the international food and restaurant consultants predict that restaurant operations will turn over a new leaf and get in sync with the “rapid consumer shift to ‘plant-based’ foods” that grocery store shelves reflect.3
Among the interesting stats Baum+Whiteman cites are a 52% increase in vegetable intake by consumers under age 40 (in contrast to those above 60 whose vegetable consumption has dropped 30%), and a 90% increase in vegan searches on Google last year.3 These two stats seem to feed off each other, given the link between younger consumers and Google, which flourished along with their rise as the first generation weaned on digital technology.
Baum+Whiteman reports that Google’s own noncommercial foodservice operation, along with Panera Bread, Hilton Hotels, Stanford University and Sodexo, is developing “plant-forward” items for its menus in a calculated shift away from meat-driven dining.3
Find out how our trusted brands can help grow sales of plant-based snacks at your foodservice operation and enhance your menu with a variety of vegetable flavor profiles. Reach out below.
As the grab-and-go foodservice trend continues to take hold of busy millennials, the definition of snacking seems to shift further from between-meal treat to convenient meal replacement. Recent survey results show that 92% of millennials eat snacks as meals at least once a week, 50% four times a week and 26% a minimum of seven times a week.1
Mintel has a strong feeling that texture will take hold as a major snack trend in 2018. Based on input from 60 expert analysts in more than a dozen countries,1 the global market and research firm has identified a wave of “new sensations”—the sensory experiences consumers enjoy from the mouthfeel of foods and beverages with distinctive textures—as a projected sales catalyst with a worldwide impact, according to Mintel’s Global Food & Drink Trends 2018.2
In our app-happy age of head-spinning technological advancement, where more and more consumers have goods and services under their thumb—literally—thanks to their mobile devices, big data is a big deal.
It’s all good when it comes to whole grains, which seem to be on the front lines of the feeding frenzy for better-for-you fare. According to the International Food Information Council’s 2017 Food and Health Survey, 84% of consumers recognize whole grains as good for you, placing the foodservice staple among the top three wellness-promoting components (only vitamin D and fiber edged higher).1
There’s a lot to love when it comes to social media. Today’s consumers certainly seem to think so. According to data from Mintel, a leading provider of market research, insight and analysis, 93% of Americans are social media users.1
Consumer demand for convenience seems to be picking up more and more speed in the foodservice industry. According to Mintel’s Foodservice Trends 2018, a quarter of consumers surveyed are dining out because they just don’t have the time to cook at home.1 What’s more, the shift away from traditional office environments to a remote workforce could help drive demand for all-day dining and delivery, especially with nearly one in 10 survey participants dining out to work remotely.2
Limited-time offers have gone a long way for a long time, and foodservice operators continue to get a lot of mileage out of them as go-to business boosters.