The better-for-you menu items that were trending prior to the pandemic are expected to continue to explode over the next few years, due at least in part to a renewed awareness of health and nutrition. Additionally, diners are increasingly voting for sustainability with their dollars, and both of these factors are responsible for driving the continuation of the plant-based craze—According to Datassential, by the end of 2020, “plant-based” had shown over 3,000-percent four-year growth on menus.

“There’s no doubt that plant-based burgers have received a lot of attention over the last few years, as many large national chains launched a plant-based version of their signature burgers,” says Marie-Claude Laprade, vice president of foodservice strategy and customer marketing at Rich Products. “But this is so much broader than that. Plant-based products are available across multiple categories including dairy, bakery, desserts, pasta, and a variety of prepared foods.”

This slideshow will examine a few areas where Laprade and her team believe operators can make sure their menus appeal to a broader array of consumers by including plant-based options, or even building entire menus centered around plant-based ingredients.

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Plant-Based Handhelds 

Whether it’s a plant-based bun, or plant-based proteins in between two buns, handhelds present unlimited possibilities when it comes to menuing plant-based items. Rich Products offers a Cauliflower Sandwich Roll and a Sweet Potato Brioche Roll that can be proofed and baked in house, creating the perfect building block for an on-the-go, veggie-forward option for health-minded consumers.

“Consumers will increasingly look for plant-based menu options,” Laprade says. “And the offerings themselves will keep getting better and better as food scientists and chefs continue to work together to perfect their craft and produce food that tastes great and that consumers both feel good about and love to eat.”

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Plant-Based Beverage Toppings

Many diners are leaning into the plant-based possibilities presented in the beverage segment, with milk alternatives being especially popular. Rich Products offers a coconut milk version of its liquid whip topping, allowing for customization with indulgent beverages. Later this year, Rich Products will launch an oat milk version of its iconic On-Top whipped topping. According to Datassential, oat milk was one of the top 20 trendiest items by the end of 2020, having grown 583 percent across four years.

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Plant-Based Pizza

Gluten-free items have also exploded in popularity over the past few years, with more consumers discovering the benefits of cutting out some or all of the gluten from their diet. To wit, Datassential reports that 34.3 percent of industry menus now feature at least one gluten-free item.

One item in particular that showed 44.4 percent growth between 2016 and 2020 was gluten-free pizza, and one of the best ways to create that is with Rich’s Gluten-Free Cauliflower Pizza Crust, a thin, flavorful crust.

“Plant-based doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition,” says Laprade. “Plant-based components offer an approachable appeal to consumers that may desire a ‘healthified’ dish more than a full-tilt vegetarian or vegan option. For example, many operators offer our plant-based pizza crust topped with regular dairy cheese.”

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Plant-Based Desserts

In 2020, Datassential reported that a whopping 36 percent of consumers wanted to try plant-based substitutes for ice cream. That’s a number that operators ignore at their own peril. The good news is that Rich Products offers vanilla and chocolate soft serve bases made from oat milk to help operators deliver delicious, indulgent frozen dessert items.

“Our Oat Milk Soft Serve Ice Cream Base is one of my favorite products in Rich’s portfolio at the moment,” Laprade says. “It’s just so delicious and creamy without the dairy!”

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Rich’s Business Solutions

Whether it’s a result of the health implications, or because of the thirst for more sustainable practices, or just a general craving for plant-based products, the momentum behind the plant-based movement is too strong to ignore. Some operators may know this but not know where to start. That’s where Rich Products comes in, says Laprade.

“Rich’s made a significant investment in health, authenticity and plant-based research over the last several years and our marketing and R&D teams have utilized this research to inform our new product development efforts,” Laprade says. “Our website offers valuable resources and tools to help operators in this space. From consumer insights, a plant-based guide and menu inspiration, to multiple recipes, videos, and of course, a strong portfolio of products to choose from…we’re really a one-stop-shop for operators looking to build their offerings in the plant-based space.”

Image credits:Rich Products
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