Did you know that one in four Australians identify as flexitarian or are actively reducing meat consumption1? Expanding the plant-based meal offerings on your menu allows you to cater to a wide range of customers.
There are many different approaches to plant-based eating, from people who simply want to eat meat less often to people who consume no animal products or by-products of any kind.
- Flexitarian: actively chooses to eat less meat, whether that means reducing the amount on the plate or avoiding meat on certain days of the week. A flexitarian diet aims to include more plant-based foods in the diet including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, soy and soy products, nuts, and seeds.
- Vegetarian: does not eat meat of any kind, but may consume animal by-products.
- Lacto-ovo vegetarian: eats dairy products and eggs, but not meat.
- Ovo-vegetarian: eats eggs, but not dairy products or meat.
- Lacto-vegetarian: eats dairy products, but not eggs or meat.
- Vegan: does not eat meat, eggs, dairy products, or any other ingredients created from or produced by animals, including honey and gelatin.
- Pescatarian: eats fish, seafood, eggs and dairy products, but no red meat, pork or chicken.
Why people are eating more plants
Like many lifestyle choices, there are multiple reasons people might choose to follow a plant-based diet. Understanding these reasons can help you connect with your guests and shape your menu around their preferences.
Plant-based foods can be a good source of vitamins, minerals, dietary fibre, healthy fats and even protein. Some people reduce or eliminate animal products from their diet because of dietary intolerances (like dairy), health conditions, or general well-being. 40 per cent of Australians choose to eat plant-based for health reasons1.
Another factor for some who choose to eat less meat is cost. For example, dried beans and canned legumes are a cost-effective alternative to high-priced meat products, and they are also a good source of protein.
Others choose not to eat meat because of ethical reasons and their interest in animal welfare. A common consumer concern is the general treatment of the animals and the animal’s living conditions2. And some don’t believe that humans have the right to kill animals for food3. 18 per cent of Australians choose to eat plant-based because it aligns with their values on animal welfare.
Several religions advise their followers to avoid eating meat or animal-based products. For example, Hindus and Buddhists have a strong tradition of vegetarianism, Jainists follow a vegan diet, and Seventh-Day Adventists promote lacto-ovo-vegetarianism.
Still another reason that people limit meat from their diets is concern for the environmental impact, whereas plant-based diets represent one opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs)4. 28 per cent of Australians choose to eat plant-based because they think it’s better for the environment1.
- Sensory and preference
Finally, there are some people who simply don’t enjoy eating animal products due to their characteristic taste, texture, or smell.
Adding more plants on the menu
It’s a good idea to integrate vegan and vegetarian dishes with the rest of the menu. This draws more attention to your plant-based recipes and avoids creating a stigma around non-meat dishes. Research shows integrating plant based options within the main menu help draw the attention of consumers and increase sales of plant-based items5. Make sure your descriptions are just as appealing as the rest of the menu, and these dishes may become some of your guests’ new favourites.
Choosing an alternative centre of plate
If you’re not using meat in your dish, there are many other interesting ways to use a variety of plant-based foods to create a satisfying meal.
- Plant-based meat alternatives
Close to familiar meat form and texture. May contain spices or other flavouring to simulate meat taste. Substitute wherever you would use meat.
Comes in many forms including extra firm, firm, soft and silken. Soft, smooth and flavourless on its own, it is a prime candidate for flavourful marinades, sauces, and seasonings. Add to soups, stir-fries, and scrambles.
Sold in flat, rectangular pieces. Has a slightly earthy taste and chewy texture. Crumble and add to soups, salads, or pasta, or serve in a sandwich.
Made from cooked wheat gluten, it has a chewy texture and is a good source of protein. It’s commonly used in Asian dishes.
- Pulses (beans and lentils)
Available dry or canned. Firm texture, may have slightly nutty flavour. Add to soups, salads, stews or casseroles, or make into “meat” balls.
Porcini, shiitake, and portobello mushrooms add umami flavour and hearty texture. Can be eaten raw, cooked in salads, sauces, soups, and sandwiches, or grilled.
Choose unripe or canned in water or brine to avoid sweetness. Grill and shred like pulled pork, slice into “steaks,” or add to stir fry and salads.
Mild taste absorbs flavours easily. Chop and eat raw, slice into “steaks” and oven roast, add to curries and stir-fries, or boil and mash or put through a ricer.
- Root vegetables
Cost-effective, filling, and absorbs flavours readily. Boil, bake, roast, mash, or fry. Try sweet potatoes with black beans in enchiladas.
Fennel and artichokes add textural interest and presence on the plate. Roast with olive oil and add to salads or dips.
Roasted and caramelised, it plates nicely and adds rich colour. Roast or boil and add to soups or salads.
- Nuts and peanuts
Enhance food with a nutty flavour and crunch. Add to salads, pasta, desserts, etc.
Click here for more information about catering for the growing flexitarian diner.
- Nestlé Professional & fiftyfive5, 2023. Consumer Research, n=1,032.
- FAIRR Sustainable Protein DD09, Feb. 2018
- Lea, E., & Worsley, A., 2001. Influences on meat consumption in Australia. Appetite, 36, 127–136.
- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Climate Change and Land. https://www.ipcc.ch/
- World Resources Institute. Plant Based Menu Items, 2019. www.wri.org/insights/itsall-name-how-boost-sales-plant-based-menu-items