There’s More to Protein Than Meat

August 1, 2018

Plant proteins are challenging meat’s standing. Nuts, seeds, soy, grains and lentils are among the alternatives that pique consumer interest. Learn how to adapt to the trend and make it your friend.

Plant-based eating is changing everything. According to Datassential, 22% of consumers limit their meat and/or poultry consumption and are turning to plant-based eating, for a variety of different reasons, including health, variety, and sustainability (generally speaking, plants have a lower carbon footprint than animals raised for food). And with that trend, the conversation is increasingly turning to plant sources of protein.

“We’re seeing more interest in this type of eating from younger diners, especially Millennials but also Generation Z,” says Nestlé Professional corporate executive chef Christopher F. Donato. “Basically, that’s taking two forms: plant-based foods that are designed to mimic meat, like vegan ‘chicken’ nuggets made from soy protein or the new plant-based burger that looks and tastes like real beef; and plant foods that are naturally high in protein, like quinoa, lentils, and spinach. There’s a place for both on today’s menus.”

Sometimes referred to as meat analogs, meat substitutes are plant-based proteins that are meant to approximate at least some of the characteristics of meat, such as flavor, texture, and appearance. These include traditional soy- and gluten-based products (such as tofu, tempeh, and seitan, which have long been used in the Asian diet), as well as a newer group of manufactured products like branded veggie burgers, vegetarian bacon, and “shrimp” made from seaplants. While many of these are menued with vegetarians and vegans in mind, they also have applications to plant-forward/flexitarian customers.

Although buzzworthy protein solutions like The Impossible Burger (a vegan patty designed to look, taste, and even bleed like meat) have captured a lot of attention, there are plenty of traditional plant foods that are packed with protein. And, in fact, according to Datassential, these plant-based proteins appeal to a broader base than do products that mimic meat. Because so many consumers are very interested in increasing vegetables in their diet, as well as nuts, seeds, beans, and legumes, vegivore specialties that play up the natural flavors and textures of these items will satisfy their desire for a varied selection of delicious menu items. The key, says Donato, is to make them more craveable from a culinary perspective, using flavor and technique to create signature items.

High-protein vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole and ancient grains also hold appeal among consumers whose purchases are driven by health and nutrition. In fact, legumes are a weekly food choice for over half of consumers, while 36% eat seeds at least once a week, with snacking the predominant occasion.

Whole and ancient grains are a particularly on-trend source of plant protein, in particular quinoa, teff, amaranth, spelt, kamut, and sorghum. Two-thirds of operators have menued whole or ancient grains, with onsite operators most likely to offer them.

One popular possibility for introducing more plants into a diet that also incorporates meat are burgers and other items that blend ground beef or another traditional protein with a portion of grains or veggies, such as chopped mushrooms.

Source: Datassential, Plant-Based Eating SNAP! Keynote Report (2018)

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.

Did You Know?

49% of consumers want to increase their consumption of plant-based proteins (beans, nuts, certain grains, etc), compared to 15% who want more analog proteins (such as soy and tempeh, as well as new alternative proteins like shrimp made from seaplants and the Beyond Burger).

There are a variety of reasons for this, above and beyond nutrition. According to new research from Datassential, 44% of Gen Z consumers say they truly enjoy the taste of plant-based foods, while 21% of Millennials say they are increasing their consumption of plant-based products to support local farmers.

78% of consumers are aware of the term “plant-based proteins,” and 35% know what it is—second only to “plant-based alternatives.”

Source: Datassential, Plant-Based Eating SNAP! Keynote Report (2018

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