Trend Watch: Plant-based and healthy options continue to dominate foodservice

By Sophie Mir

If there was any lingering doubt about plant-based meat mainstreaming, Beyond Meat’s recent IPO, the biggest of 2019, ought to have quelled them. Founded in 2009 with venture capital from Bill Gates and Tyson Foods, amongst other, Beyond Meat’s share price started the day at $25 and reached a high of $63.43, and raised a quarter of a billion dollars in the process. The excitement is real, and the plant-based protein is naturally trending up.

Beyond Meat isn’t succeeding in a vacuum, though. Consumer demand for healthier fare is driving commercial foodservice to adopt new, inventive products that can serve that growing demographic. While Beyond Meat is dominating the headlines, humble hemp has gained ground, as have easy beverage add-ons like turmeric and matcha. Below, we outline the trend, how it’s happening, and where.

Imitation Meats Beyond Burger Patties

Last year, we saw an influx of plant-based burger patties popping up at major chains’ menus, with a special spotlight on offerings from Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. The plant-based movement continues to grow and evolve with the introduction of imitation meats beyond beef burger patties, such as chicken and pork. They’re achieving success because they’re actually — finally — mimicking the taste and texture of real meat (the Impossible Burger is well known for “bleeding”). Moreover, while plant-based meats appear to have the most up-front appeal to the vegan and vegetarian consumers, they’re resonating with the increasing number of sometime meat-eaters, a.k.a. flexitarians, as well as people looking for something that they view as a healthier alternative.

Menu Examples

  • A&W: The first chain in Canada to introduce — and run out of — the Beyond Meat Burger now serves a Beyond Meat Sausage & Egger and Beyond Meat Sausage & Veggie, which feature Beyond Meat’s new breakfast sausage.
  • Quesada Burritos & Tacos: Showing off Beyond Meat’s produce range, the Beyond Meat Burrito is made with Crumbles Feisty, a seasoned, broken-down version of its plant-based protein.
  • Paramount Middle Eastern Kitchen: Partnering with Mississauga-based Sol Cuisine, Paramount added plant-based “chicken” to its menu, which can be substituted for any traditional protein products.

Hemp

With the legalization of cannabis last year, operators are modernizing their menus to include creative hemp-infused offerings and making use of hemp seeds, oil and high-protein, hemp-based baking flour in everything from salads and grain bowls to wellness snacks and beverages. Hemp is a member of the cannabis sativa plant family, but differs in that it contains a very low concentration of THC — the psychoactive ingredient cannabis — so consumers don’t experience a high after consumption. Like cannabis, it’s particularly appealing to Gen Zers and Millennials.

Menu Examples

  • Freshii Canada: Freshii recently menued a kale Caesar salad dressed with hemp seeds.
  • Jugo Juice: A limited-time carrot cake smoothie features hemp hearts, lending a bit of indulgence to the wellness trend.
  • Booster Juice: Double chocolate protein balls, made with hemp, have made the trend conveniently available for on-the-go consumers — another consumer subset typically dominated by Millennials and Gen Zers.

Health and Wellness Lattes

Restaurants are revamping their non-alcoholic beverage menus by spotlighting ethnic-inspired lattes. With 31 per cent of 18-to-34-year-olds reporting they like to try new and unique beverages offered at restaurants, according to Technomic’s 2018 Canadian Beverage Consumer Trend Report, health and wellness lattes appeal to younger consumers’ demand for bold and novel flavours in their beverages, including coffee and other hot beverages. Vibrant, brightly hued turmeric lattes have become a common sight, and green tea, matcha and even butterfly pea flower (also known as blue tea) are also increasingly menued in Canadian cafes.

Menu Examples:

  • Good Earth Coffeehouse: With a turmeric latte on offer, Good Earth highlights its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
  • Blenz Coffee: Recently debuted its limited-time Blue Latte, featuring butterfly pea flower
  • Cafe Van Houtte: Hewing away somewhat from the health halo, Van Houtte’s Sugar Shack menu features a matcha latte spiked with maple syrup.

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