It’s not often that the foodservice industry gets to welcome a whole new category to the menu. But that’s exactly what’s happening with the latest plant-based alternatives to meat.

Whilst this trend began in fast food, these products are becoming widely accepted in different channels around the world. Here in Australia, plant-based meat generated $31m in foodservice sales in FY20 and is projected to be a $3B opportunity by 2030.

But why is this trend growing so rapidly? Although plant-based presents a whole new world for foodservice, that’s exactly what we don’t have. Relying solely on current meat production systems, two planets’ worth of resources would be needed to meet the world’s projected demand for meat by 2050.

The rise of flexitarian eating

The need for changes to traditional meat production based on population growth and demand isn’t the only driver behind this trend. According to the Food Frontier 2020 State of the Industry Report,

42 per cent of Australians are actively reducing the intake of animal products in their diet. This is seeing a rise in ‘flexitarians’, those people who are choosing to reduce their meat consumption for some or even all their meals.

Health is also a key motivator driving increased interest in plant-based eating as more Australians seek to reduce their meat consumption. In response to this rising demand for healthy ways to eat, plant-based proteins are popping up on menus all over the world.

And unlike traditional tofu, tempeh, or even early meat alternatives, these new foods capture the taste and texture of real meat and poultry, making them a hit with all kinds of consumers, from vegans to flexitarians and meat eaters.

The trend, unsurprisingly, has a significant generational bias toward Gen Z and Millennials. Demand for plant-based foods is skyrocketing among these younger generations because both tend to hold strong beliefs on, health and the environment.

We love an occasion

So why can’t people who want to eat less meat just eat more vegetables? As the hospitality industry has seen with the rise in proper non-alcoholic spirits, people still want to have their ‘occasion’. We crave social interactions and so the popularity is soaring for products that enable occasions to still happen, meaning you can have a burger that is meat-free or a G&T that is alcohol-free.

These products are also ones that work for venues and staff. With non-alcoholic spirits, bartenders can mix the drinks they have always mixed, in the same way, understanding those techniques and flavours. And this is hugely important for chefs as well, being able to offer meat-free items on the menu, without having to radically change kitchen operations is of paramount importance. It needs to be a simple switch.

The plant-based opportunity

It all adds up to create an exciting opportunity for out of home menus across the country. Whether consumers are changing their eating habits out of concern for their health, the environment, animal welfare, or other reasons, people are actively looking for options. As venues begin to finally reopen, a global study shows 33 percent of consumers will prioritise their health after the pandemic crisis, which may lend to future growth of plant-based protein sales.

Put simply, if a menu doesn’t cater to these consumers seeking to reduce meat, regardless of the reason for their choice, then venues are closing themselves off to potential revenue and incremental sales. Don’t get left behind – Visit the Nestle Professional GROW WITH IT Hub to view the full range and download recipes or contact your local representative to find out more.

Plant-based: everything you need to know