Plant-Based Alternatives See 62% Increase in 10 Years: The Future of Food in Restaurants

The Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) and Datassential have recently released a report, The State of Plant-Based in Food Service, which highlights the explosive growth of plant-based foods on US restaurant menus.

By Milo Runkle

60% of operators believe plant-based alternatives represent a long-term trend.

This report serves as a baseline for understanding how plant-based foods are performing in the food service industry, and how they can be implemented to optimize overall brand strategy.

According to the report, 48% of US restaurants now offer plant-based food options, a significant increase of 62% in the last 10 years.Fast-casual establishments are the most likely to offer plant-based options, while fine dining is the least likely. The term “plant-based” has seen the highest growth out of all lifestyle and menu descriptors, such as “vegan” and“vegetarian."

Consumer perceptions of plant-based foods are also explored in the report. Nearly one-third of the US population has a strong affinity for plant-based food, with women, younger consumers, Asian and Black ethnicities, and fast casual customers being the most likely to show this affinity.

However, many consumers still express concerns about the taste and affordability of plant-based meals at restaurants, with about one-third of consumers surveyed worrying about paying too much for plant-based ingredients or not being satisfied with the taste of their meal.

The report also explores the growth of plant-based meats, with plant-based meat burgers expected to double their penetration in the next four years and surpass veggie burgers in 2025. New proteins such as crumbles, seafood, and plant-based eggs saw the highest growth in 2022, and nearly 30% of food service operators plan to add more plant-based meats to their menus in2023. 60% of operators believe plant-based alternatives represent a long-term trend.

The popularity of non-dairy milk and cheese alternatives has also skyrocketed, with almond milk being the most common milk alternative and oat milk experiencing extreme growth on menus in the past four years. However, compared to liquid milk, non-dairy cheese is not as accessible on menus, leaving room for growth in the plant-based cheese market.

In conclusion, the report notes that limited time offers, such as Beyond Meat’s collaboration with KFC, can produce significant impact that leads to new innovation, consumer trial, and permanent menu expansion.

According to PBFA Director of Marketplace Development,Foodservice, Hannah Lopez, “Plant-based foods are the arm of innovation for food service operators and a key opportunity to engage a new segment of consumers looking for a variety of plant-based options.” This report provides valuable insights for food service establishments looking to implement plant-based options into their brand strategy.

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