Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that plant-based is the newest trend hitting every part of the food industry. Consumers are demanding it, big brands are making it, and restaurants are trying to serve it. Heck, if you’ve been following us for any length of time, you know that we’ve been working on enjoying our slice of the plant-based pie as well. If you’ve been following the trends, you can probably agree that it’s been a warp-speed evolution from functional foods to now seeing plant-based burger options roll out at nearly every major fast food franchise in the United States. Maybe you’ve hopped on the bandwagon, maybe you haven’t, and maybe you want to (and that’s why you’re reading this article). Well little do you know, that there are ways to do this that are not only easy, but have well-established organizations backing these efforts! No, really! There are well-funded organizations that want nothing more than to connect with you and help you evolve your menu to meet consumer demands for more plant-based options! Trust us, it’s worth the read.
The Evolution (A Quick Summary, We Promise 🙂
As we mentioned earlier, you may remember the emergence of superfoods or functional foods about 4-5 years ago. They’re still pretty much a hot commodity today but with the growth of plant-based, they’re a little less of a trigger word as of late. But these superfoods sprung out of nowhere touting benefits from immunity-boosting to focus-enhancing and even skin rejuvenating. What we were beginning to see is the education of the consumer of what functions that food could actually perform in the body. Until then, the only thing that mattered when it came to food was if it was “good” , “bad” or had “weight-loss boosting” properties.
The word “Superfood” began teaching us that foods have an impact on our bodies beyond making us bigger or smaller. For example, we’ve been eating blueberries for years, but with “super-food” terminology, we began learning that those everyday berries actually helped our immune systems! In an article published by outsideonline.com, this evolution from everyday fruit to superfood was a combination of research, some luck and strategic marketing:
“Savvy promotion of the fruit was about to help usher in an era of health food obsession that we’re still living in today. No longer mere tasty treat or part of a balanced diet, blueberries would become known as cancer combatants, inflammation interceptors, defenders of cognitive function—each berry a nutritional Navy SEAL. A superfood was born.”
Now, if you take that example and add in the environmental component, we now have unveiled the mystery of the plant-based movement.
The Environmental Component We Told You About…
So that environmental thing is probably something else you’ve also had on your radar. Back in 2019, we all watched in a semi-confused state as veggie burgers made a dramatic re-entrance onto major fast-food chain menus everywhere. Burger King famously rolled out the “Impossible Whopper” with heavy marketing around not being able to tell the difference between a real whopper and the veggie version. Dunkin Donuts came out with a Beyond Sausage Sandwich and more plant-based options hit the grocery store than ever before. Then a fight broke out between the meat and plant based industries as the demand for plant based meats increased as a result of the education of the consumer on the environmental impact of meat consumption:
“Reducing meat consumption is one of the best things you can do to reduce your environmental impact. Livestock farming has a vast environmental footprint, contributing to 18% of our total greenhouse gas emissions. Calorie per calorie, replacing the meat with equally nutritious plants would reduce emissions by more than 90%, while also reducing biodiversity degradation. Producing one kilogram of beef (2.2 lbs) requires 25 kilograms of grain to feed the animal, and uses up roughly 15,000 litres of water. “
This new approach in food marketing educates the consumer on things they genuinely care about: their health and the environment they live in. The plant-based movement captures both. To capitalize on the consumer demand for functional foods or superfoods that improve their health as well as impact the environment, adding some plant-based options to your menu is a great place to start. And, as we mentioned earlier, it’s a lot easier than you think.
Creating the Right Connections
To add plant-based options to your menu, you can either DIY by having your chef create new vegan meals and test them out with your regulars. Or, you can collaborate with a well-established organization like the American Vegan Society and become a restaurant sponsor while you’re offering these new Vegan options. With the help of organizations like the American Vegan Society, you can reach plant-based customers in your area to let them know that you are debuting new plant-based options. The American Vegan society helps restaurant sponsors host Vegan events and informs their vast number of members that you’ve hopped on the plant-based bandwagon. And while it is a sponsorship, it’s totally a tax-deductible opportunity. You can sink $100 into google ads and try to get the targeting right, or you can immediately connect with your target audience. (Not that you shouldn’t do an Ad Campaign because… sales.)
As the industry continues to evolve and the plant-based movement continues to grow, it’s important to make sure that you are connected with groups that can help you ride that wave by supporting your efforts. The American Vegan Society is just one of those organizations. Get connected!
Work smarter, not harder. Connect with organizations that share your same interests. (Ps. We’re one of them. Follow us on Instagram @my_smartmenu)
Make sure you subscribe for more tips on how to connect with your diners! And if you want any help providing plant-based options to your customers, we’re here to help. Our Registered Dietitian consulting services assists restaurants, like yourself, in expanding their menu categories — including plant-based! Contact us to get started.