Plant-forward ingredients increasingly make sense in a quick-service setting.

It’s no secret that plant-based menu items are trending in a big way. According to a recent Datassential study, 28 percent of consumers prefer plant-based proteins over animal-based proteins—and a Nielsen study found that 39 percent of consumers are trying to eat more plants in general. Consumers’ desires to eat gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, low-carb, and keto-friendly are driving interest in products that accommodate these unique dietary needs. Many of these items include plants as primary ingredients.

“Plant-based is here for the long haul,” says Julie Altobello, senior marketing manager for health and authenticity at Rich Products. “Our June consumer sentiment tracker found that almost half of consumers are somewhat or extremely likely to purchase a plant-based product in the next 30 days.” Altobello reports that consumers are most interested in foods like plant-based pizza, dips and spreads, and desserts.

“Those categories are good examples of the move toward the ‘plant-forward’ space—where foods celebrate and highlight plants such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and grains,” Altobello says. “These ingredients, not only delicious and indulgent, also come packed full of nutrients.” It’s an opportunity to deliver on consumers’ growing interest in better-for-you, functional food.

Rich Products oat milk frozen dessert

There are plenty of advantages to adding more plant-based products to your menu. Plant-based food is a cross-generational phenomenon. According to Datassential’s 2022 Plant-Forward Opportunity report, many consumers are willing to pay a comparable price for plant-forward meals as they would for meat. This means better margins for restaurant operators.

Statistics show that a menu item doesn’t have to be completely plant-based to attract interest, either. Recent OnePoll research found that 47 percent of Americans describe themselves as flexitarians, with a goal to eat less meat. A mix of plant-based and non-plant ingredients appeal to this crowd.

Operators can start fusing plant-based food into their menus by adding plant-friendly customization options to popular items. “Taking a popular item and making a simple swap for a plant-based ingredient is a great way to add it to the menu—for example, a favorite margarita pizza with a cauliflower crust, or a signature sandwich made with a veggie spread,” Altobello says.

Rich Products offers a portfolio of plant-based options that provide operators a way to experiment with their customer base or scale up their plant-forward offerings. Operators can swap in items like Rich’s Plant-Based American Style Cheese on a turkey burger, or use Rich’s Cauliflower Pita Pocket to create a falafel sandwich. “Each of Rich’s plant-based products has been crafted with the operator in mind—easy to use, flexible across the menu, and above all, delicious,” Altobello says. 

One Rich’s customer added a cauliflower crust to their menu about two years ago, and has seen noteworthy results. “Not only has it been growing ever since, but it’s now their second-best-selling crust,” Altobello says. “It’s well-positioned to appeal to their loyal flexitarian customer base. There’s a good reason why plant-based is growing on quick-service restaurant menus.”

To learn more, visit Rich Products’ website.

By Kara Phelps

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