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For one thing, caring about farm animal welfare is becoming more mainstream—New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently focused an entire column on the suffering of chickens used for meat. Environmentally, meat-heavy diets have been shown to worsen the climate crisis, degrade the land, pollute the water and cause habitat loss. Additionally, the United Nations listed human demand for animal protein as a top risk factor for a future pandemic. To top it off, plant-based eating also benefits heart health and lowers stroke risk.
But even if you don’t care about animals, the environment or being healthy, it is still a savvy business decision to embrace the plant-based future.
Plant-based offerings equals profitability. This is what I’ve seen in the food service sector. I work for one of the largest animal protection nonprofits in the country—and my entire focus is food. We have a team of experienced chefs who work with the biggest food service companies to meet the demands in dining operations across the country for more plant-based options.
We hear all the time from line staff and managers in kitchens, coast to coast, north and south, that their customers want more plant-based options. Aramark, touting the success of its Plant Forward initiative, surveyed over 5,200 customers, and a substantial number said they would choose plant-based or plant-forward options every time or most of the time: 45% at hospitals, 53% at colleges and 37% in workplace settings.
Compass is doubling down on its Rooted plant-based concept, working with chefs from our team to roll out over 50 new plant-based recipe concepts. Fresh Ideas has committed to shifting at least 50% of its menu to plant-based meals.
The largest and most successful companies are embracing plant-based initiatives. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson called the move to plant-based food and beverages the industry’s “dominant shift.” Unilever’s CEO deemed the plant-based movement an “inexorable” trend.
Even the world’s leading meat companies—including Cargill, Tyson and Conagra—are investing in the plant-based meat sector. The plant-based meat category alone is now worth close to $1 billion, with sales up 18% over the previous year. In contrast, sales in the conventional meat category grew just 3% during the same period. Meat companies clearly are preparing for the plant-centered future.
One of the best business mindsets is that companies can do well by doing good, and the plant-based trend emerges as one of the powerful examples in sight. The companies that move to accommodate this shift will surely reap the benefits.
Karla Dumas, RDN, is director of food & nutrition at the Humane Society of the United States. She works with food service companies seeking to add plant-based foods to their menus and can be reached at [email protected].