Sponsored by Nestle Stouffer's
Getting an onsite foodservice operation back up to speed today requires casting a wide net for customers. One of the best ways to broaden menu appeal and mealtime participation is to showcase familiar comfort-food classics that highlight on-trend plant-forward foods as ingredients.
As many operators know, plant-based foods and beverages are on the rise. Globally, sales of plant-based dairy and meat alternatives hit $29.4 billion in 2020 and could grow to $162 billion by 2030, reports Bloomberg Intelligence. And 47% of consumers say they will plan to add more plant-based ingredients to their diet in 2021, according to a report by the delivery company DoorDash.
Moreover, offering plant-based menu options can make a restaurant a destination for consumers, according to a report by The Hartman Group.
A new Datassential report underscores the broad consumer acceptance of plant-forward eating. It notes that 41% of the general population, 60% of foodies and 69% of strict dieters are interested in primarily plant-based dishes with a small amount of meat, fish, poultry or dairy for flavor.
The term “plant forward” fits this discussion of pleasurable and flexible eating. "Plant forward is a style of cooking and eating that emphasizes plant-based foods but is not strictly limited to them,” notes the American Heart Association in an online article. “Meat may be included, but it’s usually not the main feature of the meal.”
“There is certainly a growing desire among consumers to add more plants to their diets,” says Susannah Shelley, associate marketing manager for STOUFFER’S® at Nestlé Professional. She suggests that operators can satisfy them by promoting Meatless Monday, swapping meat for plant-based ingredients in familiar recipes or by turning to plant-forward specialties that are ready to heat and serve.
STOUFFER’S® offers a pair of comfort-food classics that perfectly fit a plant-forward eating style: Awesome Lasagna Made with SWEET EARTH® Awesome Grounds and Tuscan-Style Vegetable Lasagna. “We're going after the consumer who wants to add more plants to their diet without sacrificing good, rich flavor,” says Shelley.
These products appeal to customers across the foodservice spectrum, from commercial restaurants to the business dining, healthcare and college and university segment. The latter is a particular hotbed of interest. “There is a lot of curiosity among students and staff about plant-based eating options, especially ones that are sustainable,” says Shelley.
Flexibility and variety
What’s driving the plant-forward trend? Look first at changing consumer attitudes toward personal choices, environmental sustainability and ethical food. Then note the inherent flexibility and variety of eating this way. You don’t have to be committed to a strict dietary regimen, just eager to explore how plant foods add flavor and nutrition to meals.
“Once people try them, any hesitation they might have about plant-based ingredients in traditional classics is erased,” says Shelley. “These items have the scratch-made look and feel, and flavor they look for in a traditional dish.”
In addition, these comfort-food classics are ready to heat and serve and are always consistent. That is important with a dish like lasagna, which is laborious to make from scratch. That convenience comes in handy for operators at a time when labor is in short supply and operational efficiency is imperative. Furthermore, due to the strong interest in plant-forward eating, menu items that feature on-trend plant proteins and vegetables may have greater value for consumers and thus justify higher menu prices.
Another advantage is versatility. STOUFFER’S® Awesome Lasagna with SWEET EARTH® Awesome Grounds and Tuscan-Style Vegetable Lasagna can simply be heated and served as is or tweaked as the chef sees fit. For instance, a sprinkling of fresh herbs or additional cheese adds to “the fresh-out-of-the-oven, homemade feel,” Shelley says.
What’s more, a creative chef can customize the lasagnas into a variety of other items. For example, pieces of lasagna can be tucked inside cannelloni or stromboli to riff on those Italian specialties.
The above products travel well for off-premises service, which remains a prevalent customer demand. “They hold up well under a heat lamp or in a hot case or packaged to-go, for consumers to enjoy at home, in the dorm or at the office,” says Shelley.
Onsite operators can’t afford to turn away any customers as they strive to rebuild mealtime participation. Promoting the broad appeal of STOUFFER’S® plant-forward specialties can increase the overall appeal of the menu, invite new patrons and keep them coming back. Visit https://www.nestleprofessional.us/ for more information about optimizing your menu with STOUFFER’S® plant-forward culinary options.