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Vegan plate with vegetables and fruit

The Vegan Revolution

September 1, 2022

Learn how you can appeal to your vegan patrons. Nonanimal proteins have soared in popularity and fit in with most menus. We have stats and suggestions.

The term “vegan” now appears on 20% of U.S. menus, and has grown 99.5% over the past four years, according to Datassential.1 Showing up most often on fast-casual menus, 81% of consumers understand what vegan food is, and 20% love or like it.

For a food item to be considered vegan, it cannot contain any products originating from animals, meaning no animal protein, eggs, or dairy of any kind. On the surface, a vegan diet can seem overly restrictive (in comparison, vegetarian diets typically include eggs and dairy).

So how, and why, have vegan offerings grown so rapidly over the past four years? To be clear, consumers are not adopting strict vegan diets in droves. In fact, according to Statista, just 5% of consumers label themselves as vegan.2 Consumers are, however, becoming more flexible in their eating behaviors, more concerned with sustainability, and more interested in trying new foods.

A few initiatives nudging consumers toward plant-based living include:

  • Veganuary – More than 629,000 people signed up to go vegan in January 2022 during the latest Veganuary vegan campaign. Not all participants remained vegan after January, but for one month they pledged to forego meat products
  • Veguary – Similar to Veganuary, this vegan campaign runs during Black History Month in February and highlights the contributions of Black vegan trailblazers and the benefits of going vegan
  • College and University Menus – By far, with 88% of colleges and universities menuing vegan items according to Technomic, these establishments are catering to young diners’ cravings, and could be affecting future menu choices once these students graduate3
  • Availability of Plant-Based Offerings – With plant-based offerings widely available in retail stores, and 47% of restaurants offering them on the menu according to Technomic, it’s easier than it’s ever been to eat a vegan diet3
  • More Flexitarians, in General – Rather than committing to a vegan or vegetarian diet, many consumers are choosing to adopt a flexible diet that incorporates more plant-based foods and less meat, according to The Hartman Group4

Menu Ideas

Take inspiration from your existing menu and swap out animal protein for vegan options. Offer the new iterations as limited-time offers, late-night specials, at a vegan pop-up event, and more.

  • Vegan breakfast sandwiches to enjoy in-house or to go can be topped with plant-based sausage or chicken, vegan cheese, and an animal-free egg
  • Vegetarian or vegan burgers are typically the most popular with operators who are interested in adding something meat-free to the menu. You can purchase frozen, ready-made vegan patties or make your own black bean or lentil patties in-house
  • Vegan charcuterie can include an array of grilled flatbread and whole grain crisps alongside raw and roasted vegetables, hummus, dairy-free dips, and olive oil.

 

Plant-Based Opportunities for the Taking

The following plant-based foods currently have 1% or less menu penetration, but are already enjoyed by consumers, according to Datassential.5 Adding a few to your menu can set you apart from the competition.

Item

Percent of consumers who love or like it

Plant-based chicken

 

17%

Plant-based eggs

 

7%

Plant-based bacon

 

10%

Plant-based seafood

 

9%

Cashew cheese

 

8%

Nondairy ice cream

 

26%

 
   

What’s Next for Plant-Based Food?

Now that consumers have accepted plant-based milks and meat substitutes, Euromonitor predicts new offerings will start to increase in the form of vegan cheese, fish, seafood, baked goods, and chocolate.6 Further alternatives to animal-based proteins are being seen for eggs, crab, pulled pork, lamb, and more.7

Chef cutting vegetables

Make It With Minor’s®: Vegan Alfredo

Chef Felix Marietta prepares Winter Squash Bisque, and Chef Logan McCoy prepares Grilled Eggplant Coddled Eggs using Minor’s Vegan Alfredo.

Sources: 1. Datassential SNAP! (2022). 2. Statista, Diets and Nutrition in the U.S. in 2022 (2022). 3. Technomic Ignite (2022). 4. The Hartman Group, Health & Wellness 2021 (2021). 5. Datassential Trendspotting, Plant-Based Trends (2022). 6. Euromonitor, The Rise of Vegan and Vegetarian Food (2021). 7. Restaurant Business, The Future of Plant-Based Meats and Proteins (2021).

The information provided is based on a general industry overview, and is not specific to your business operation. Each business is unique and decisions related to your business should be made after consultation with appropriate experts.

Platter of vegan appetizers

Vegan Cuisine Soaring in Popularity

Plant-based foods are hugely popular. Get ahead of the wave and feature vegan dishes—no animal products whatsoever. Its trend line is up 97% in the past four years!