As more consumers embrace the potential health and sustainability benefits of plant-heavy eating, a few chains are taking on the unique challenges of being more veg-focused—from finding innovative and inclusive ways to include pant-based meals to elevating standards for freshness and sourcing.
According to Whole Foods, flexitarianism – eating predominantly, but not strictly, vegetarian – is going to be one of the biggest food trends of 2017.
After the rise and fall of clean eating, flexitarianism is emerging as a much more achievable alternative to going full vegetarian or vegan.
Studies have shown that cutting down on meat has a number of health benefits including reduced risk of diabetes, cancer and heart disease, and flexitarianism gives people a way to improve their health without going the whole hog and giving up burgers and steaks for good.
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Plant-Based Trend Becomes Mainstream
Plants have invaded the mass market, too—not just in the form of more veg-forward fast-casual restaurants, but also in notable investments from Silicon Valley bigwigs in next-gen mock-meat manufacturers like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat. Though health woes could be a contributing factor—owing to headlines like the World Health Organization’s recent warning that red and processed meats likely are contributors to cancer—the mainstreaming of plant-based diets seems to be linked to a deeper generational shift in eating habits.
Over the past decade, consumers under age 40 have upped their fresh vegetable intake by 52 percent and frozen by 59 percent, compared with those aged 60 and up, who’ve decreased fresh vegetable consumption by 30 percent and frozen by 4 percent over the same period, according to The NPD Group. This indicates that millennials and members of Generation Z are adopting “fresh” at an early age and are likely to sustain it over time. Indeed, fresh vegetable consumption is expected to increase another 10 percent over the next several years, per NPD.
The impact these merging trends could have on the limited-service industry, meanwhile, could be enormous—and operators ahead of the curve could stand to gain the most.
QSR: A Plant-Based Future for Foodservice – March 2017
Independent: Flexitarianism predicted as key food trend for 2017 – December 2016