Report Reveals a Predicted Surge of 400 Percent in Plant-Based Menu Offerings Within the Upcoming Year

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Plant-based food options are not slowing down, according to the 2022 State of the Marketplace: Food Service report by the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA). The report reveals that 95 percent of foodservice operators offering plant-based foods and beverages anticipate sales to increase or remain stable in the coming year. Furthermore, four times as many operators plan to increase plant-based options in 2023 compared to those planning to remove them.

The popularity of plant-based foods is evident in the significant growth of restaurants offering plant-based options on their menus. Over the past decade, there has been a 62 percent increase in the number of restaurants in the United States providing plant-based choices. Currently, close to 50 percent of restaurants across the country offer plant-based options, from popular chains like Burger King’s Impossible Whopper and Shake Shack’s vegan shakes to innovative plant-based offerings like vegan steaks and vegan Crunchwraps at Charley’s Steakhouse and Taco Bell, respectively.

The increasing availability of plant-based options in various segments of the foodservice industry has garnered positive feedback from consumers, with 43 percent stating that it enhances their restaurant experience. Younger consumers, particularly Gen Z and Millennials, who are more conscious of the climate crisis, exhibit a stronger preference for the terms “plant-based” and “dairy-free” over “vegan” and “vegetarian.” This shift in preference reflects a wider acceptance of plant-based foods across all generations.

The report highlights a broader range of plant-based options appearing on menus, moving beyond the focus on plant-based burgers. Comfort classics like wings, mac and cheese, and grilled cheese sandwiches are now being revamped with plant-based alternatives. This trend will continue to grow, with four times as many foodservice operators planning to add more plant-based meat options to their menus in 2023.

Plant-based dairy, especially oat milk, continues to experience substantial growth in both retail and foodservice segments. Oat milk has seen a remarkable 400 percent increase in menu penetration over the past four years. Its presence is particularly prominent in fast-casual settings, where health-forward offerings are prioritized. Midscale restaurants have also incorporated plant-based dairy into their savory menu offerings.

To encourage greater adoption of plant-based options, foodservice operators should focus on providing ample trial opportunities. Studies have shown that simply trying plant-based products is the top motivating factor for consumers to eat more of them. Offering samples, providing options at restaurants, and having friends prepare plant-based meals are effective ways to increase consumer trial rates.

Consumers, especially younger demographics, are seeking eco-friendly options and desire greater clarity from restaurants regarding the environmental impact of different food choices. With health, ethics, and sustainability becoming prioritized, plant-based foods have emerged as a powerful choice that transcends demographics.

The Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) is dedicated to supporting consumer demand for plant-based menu options. PBFA members continuously introduce exciting new products, such as honey alternatives, fungi-based meats, and liquid vegan eggs, to meet the evolving needs of the foodservice industry. PBFA provides resources, connections, and initiatives like the recently launched Foodservice Playbook to inform and foster collaborations between operators and the innovations in the plant-based food sector.

The current trajectory of plant-based food in the food service sector indicates that the path to a healthier and more sustainable future is being paved, one plant-based meal at a time.

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