Plant-based foods aren’t just for vegans or vegetarians anymore.
New research from Nielsen indicates plant-based food sales have risen 20 percent over the last year and is continuing to grow. Why? Because consumers, especially millennials, want more healthful foods that leave less of an environmental impact.
The upshot: more restaurants are catering to this coveted 18- to 35-year-old demographic. At least that’s what Tracy McGinnis of Phoenix-based Fox Restaurant Concepts thinks.
McGinnis, who will speak on the subject at our upcoming Restaurant Innovations Summit, Nov. 7-8, says even though the trend has been around for a while, its growth is picking up even more steam at fast-casual and full-service restaurants.
“People are looking for foods they can eat every day that make their bodies feel good, provide the energy necessary to fuel them throughout the day, but don’t negatively impact the environment,” she said. “It’s not just vegans and vegetarians leading this trend. People who would rather not eat animal-based proteins every day are on board, too.”
McGinnis, Fox’s marketing director, said the company started its Flower Child concept to serve customers who wanted to feel good about their food choices every day. Now, the fast-casual chain specializes in salads, wraps and bowls that are strictly vegetarian or vegan, or include grass-fed beef, natural chicken, sustainable salmon or non-GMO sourced tofu. They also feature plant-based, protein-friendly alternatives, like brown rice and quinoa.
Why are millennials interested in plant-based items? McGinnis cites three reasons:
- They’re much more informed about where their food comes from
- They want to know how it is prepared
- They want to understand how the food affects their bodies as well as the environment
“They’ve made the decision to change their style of eating based on those reasons,” she said. “That’s where the trend comes from.”
The popularity of plant-based alternatives is also providing expanded opportunities within the industry, she added.
“It is offering opportunities to people who want to open restaurants with plant-based menus and to diners who want more concepts serving those foods,” she noted. “I don’t think we’ll ever see the demise of the steakhouse; they’ll always be an audience for that. But I do think people are going to start spending their [food] dollars differently.”
Logos, product and company names mentioned are the property of their respective owners.