Trend watch: Plant-based burgers, almond milk and candy-spiked classics

By Sophie Mir

Once-unorthodox ingredients are increasingly going mainstream, and are getting better every day. These days, plant-based burgers are, for lack of a better word, genuinely meaty substitutes, while almond milk has become a ubiquitous substitute for dairy, and now features everywhere dairy used to. There’s still room for old-school indulgence though; some quick service restaurants are blending candy into familiar favourites. Below, we highlight some of the restaurants and trends that are shaping summer.

Plant-Based Burgers

With increasing demands from consumers for healthier and more sustainable cuisine, operators are adding plant-based burgers to their menus. These burgers often feature patties made from vegetarian ingredients and are increasingly positioned as indulgent counterparts to traditional burgers. They appeal to health and wellness, diversify menus and, naturally, appeal to vegetarian and vegan consumers.

  • A&W: A new burger featuring the pea-and-mung bean Beyond Burger patty is the first of its kind to be offered by a hamburger chain in Canada.
  • Earls Kitchen + Bar: Impossible Foods’ Impossible Burger is a plant-based burger that “bleeds.” Earls complements it with classic toppings on a baked brioche bun. It’s not currently available in Canada, but it’s still a sign of the times.
  • St. Louis Bar & Grill: St. Louis’ newest addition to its burger menu is plant-based, but it’s by no means clean eating. This veggie burger is topped with a messy mixture of chopped onions, tomato, peppers, mushrooms, jalapenos and cheese.

Almond Milk

Touted for its high vitamin E content and low calorie and fat counts, this dairy alternative is found in a variety of new beverage items, including coffees, teas and smoothies. Operators are offering it to cater to health-conscious consumers and those with special dietary needs. It also just happens to have a luscious, nutty flavour as well.

  • Jugo Juice: The smoothie-slinging chain now offers Jugo Java, a blend of cold brew and almond milk that’s sweetened with dates.
  • Second Cup Coffee Co.: The chain’s signature Flash cold brew’s cocoa notes are enlivened with chocolate syrup, with almond milk supplying smooth, creamy finish.
  • Freshly Squeezed: Its new matcha menu works powerful powdered green tea together with almond milk for an energizing midday lift.

Candy-Infused Drinks

Looking to infuse new excitement into their beverage menu, several chains are incorporating classic sweets, offering consumers a mashup of craveable candy flavours with their favourite non-alcoholic beverages. They’re creative twists on familiar drinks, appeal to both kids and adults and have a nostalgic quality for the latter.

  • Burger King: Kit Kat gets blended in to a limited shake featuring a double dose of vanilla, with soft serve getting an extra kick from vanilla sauce.
  • McDonald’s: Whipped cream-topped and Arabica coffee-spiked, McDonald’s newest addition to its iced coffees also features pieces of Skor bar blended in and sprinkled on top for good measure.
  • Harvey’s: Fluorescent blue and ice cold, Harvey’s blue raspberry slushie also features Nerds, the tiny, pebbly fruit-flavoured favourite.

Sophie Mir is an Associate Editor for Technomic Inc., a Chicago-based foodservice research and consulting firm. Technomic provides clients with the facts, insights and consulting support they need to enhance their business strategies, decisions and results. The company’s services include publications and digital products as well as proprietary studies and ongoing research on all aspects of the food industry. Visit for more information.

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