As the U.S. continues to navigate the global pandemic environment, restaurant operators have had to quickly and frequently adjust their operations to meet ever-changing requirements to keep their businesses open and profitable. While consumers now expect to-go and curbside dining options as the new norm, research shows that they also continue to expect on-trend menu items; including, healthy and wholesome options.
As the demand for healthy dining continues to rise along with plant-based protein innovation and consumer awareness, restaurant operators will benefit from meeting these trends to increase profitability in the post-pandemic environment.
Consumers Are Actively Seeking Plant-Based Menu Options
While diners have embraced the new contactless nature of dining, they are still looking for new, on-trend offerings that break up the monotony of quarantine and help them stay healthy.
The global pandemic has raised awareness to the importance of maintaining a strong immune system and consumers are now looking to food to help manage their health and wellness into the future, particularly as we start the new year. Data supports that wholesome dining trends including plant-based protein items and vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian and other diet-related options, are here to stay.
“The diners of this generation are looking for dishes that give them the experience they’re looking for; they’re savvy, know their dietary preferences and are cognizant of their health, now more than ever,” says Chef Neil Doherty, Sysco’s Senior Director of Culinary Development. “People want their food to provide nutrition for their body and they want to be empowered with menu choices that support their personal sense of wellness—however they define it.”
According to Datassential, a data and insights company serving the food and beverage industry, 70% of Americans believe a healthy diet will help with recovery if they contract COVID-19 and 51% wish that immunity-boosting foods and ingredients were an option at all the places they go out to eat.
Whether they’re looking for vegan options due to lifestyle preferences or plant-based protein items to help them maintain a healthier and more active lifestyle, consumers want to know that these options exist at the restaurants they order from.
The Rise and Evolution of Plant-Based Protein and Demand for Protein Diversity
Within the plant-based and healthy dining trend, the plant-based protein market is rapidly evolving and expanding…and the stakes are high. The global plant-based protein market size is projected to grow from $10.3 billion in 2020 to $14.5 billion by 2025 .
Some consumers are looking for a wider variety of meatless protein while others to enhance their health, while others are opting for plant-based protein because they believe it’s a better choice for the planet. Plus, with more transparent food labeling and easier access to nutrition information and innovations, consumers are hungry for the latest on-trend items in this space, not just meatless burgers.
The product that helped to catapult plant-based eating into the mainstream – the Beyond Meat plant-based burger — actually began under an exclusive arrangement with Sysco’s Cutting Edge Solutions platform to distribute the innovative offering to foodservice customers. On the heels of this successful launch, Sysco launched its own plant-based burger in 2019 under its Sysco Simply label, the company’s brand that aims to meet consumer demand for varied dietary and lifestyle choices. Nowadays you can find a plant-based burger at many fast food restaurants across the U.S.
Sysco recently helped launch another protein-packed, plant-based food: Gold&Green Foods’ Pulled Oats, launched in the United States earlier this year exclusively through Sysco’s Cutting Edge Solutions platform and the Sysco Simply brand. This flavorful superfood blend, already gaining popularity in Europe, is 100% plant-based with no additives and a short list of clean ingredients: oats, fava beans, yellow peas, oil and salt. Its “pulled” texture is extremely versatile and easily replaces meat across a variety of cuisine types.
As consumers look toward shorter ingredient lists and more diversity in healthy and wholesome menu items, the plant-based protein market is quickly expanding to provide more options and different ingredients for consumers to choose from including oat, pea, flax, and chia proteins.
By partnering with Sysco, restaurant owners and operators can get insight to consumer behaviors along with the tools and resources they need to stay ahead of trends like plant-based proteins and healthy menu items to stay profitable well into the future.
Sysco is the global leader in selling, marketing and distributing food products to restaurants, healthcare and educational facilities, lodging establishments and other customers who prepare meals away from home. Its family of products also includes equipment and supplies for the foodservice and hospitality industries. With more than 57,000 associates, the company operates 326 distribution facilities worldwide and serves more than 625,000 customer locations.