Sponsored by Bush's Best
The new year means a fresh start and new menu items, and in 2021, that means plant-forward, global foods. Both trends have been gaining popularity for years, and now consumers, especially Gen Z, crave these foods more than ever. Foodservice operators are developing meals and snacks that answer these demands, and that also fill other consumer preferences.
According to the International Food Information Council’s (IFIC) 2020 Food & Health Survey, 85% of Americans made at least some change in the food they eat or how they prepare it because of the coronavirus pandemic. Among the changes, 28% said they were eating more protein from plant sources than in the previous year, and 43% of consumers said they would assume that a product described as plant-based would be healthier than one that is not.
Consumers are also looking for global flavors. As the pandemic continues, people are not traveling, so foodservice operators are developing menu items inspired by international foods. Many of these new items feature fiber and protein rich beans, which are mainstays in the cuisines of many regions.
Focus on a fresh new beginning
“As with most new years, consumers are looking to make a fresh new beginning whether it be with lifestyle changes, personal goals or just eating healthier,” says Ken Oakley, Foodservice Marketing Manager for Bush’s Best Foodservice. “Many are looking to make healthy changes in their daily dieting habits to combat the indulgence of the holidays or kick start weight loss. Introducing plant-based menu items offers them flavorful options that feel indulgent and still maintain a balanced diet.”
Beans can be incorporated into dishes in many forms. One way is to add beans as toppers, such as crispy chickpeas or warm black beans or pinto beans as a salad topper. They can also be featured as a pureed base or sauce for breakfast items such as huevos rancheros. Beans add not only a flavorful and healthy nutritional punch to these dishes, but can also add many textural variants to breakfast, lunch and dinner items.
Appeal to a young audience
According to Mintel, Gen Z is not only the most diverse generation, but it is one that cultivated an appreciation for international cuisine from a young age: 36% of U.S. parents of children under age 18 agree that their kids enjoy eating international foods. That includes legacy favorites such as Italian, Mexican and Chinese foods as well as emerging international foods. Mintel also reported that Gen Z is interested in eating in international restaurants such as Indian (36%), Middle Eastern (38%) or African (27%).
“Global flavors have become such a hot trend for many reasons, which I think is a result of younger generations, specifically Gen Z, because these global flavors are a part of many of their traditional diets starting from early childhood,” Oakley says. “This knowledge and experience with their own traditions continue a growing curiosity of what other cultures bring to the table and what other flavor combinations and global flavors are out there to try.”
Exchange beans for meat
With their high protein content, beans make a perfect exchange for meat. Beans also have an advantage over meat, as beans are budget friendly and can help operators keep food costs down. Adaptable beans also offer health benefits that some meats cannot provide, such as being a low fat option while also maintaining a healthy amount of protein and fiber. They also add nutritional benefits of antioxidants, promoting heart and stomach health and also stabilizing blood glucose.
Beans are extremely versatile and have long been a crucial ingredient in international cuisine. They are great flavor carriers for spices and other ethnic ingredients, which makes them perfect for grain bowls, soups, salads, and snack wraps, and in global mashups such as Taco Fiesta Lasagna, Thai Chili, Sunshine Hummus with North African flavors, and Korean Red Bean Lettuce Cups.
As more consumers look for plant-forward, global flavors, black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, pinto beans and others can be incorporated into global flavors and can be an essential part of any menu. “Introducing plant-based items in January and beyond is a perfect way to offer menu options that fit within many consumer goals, whether eliminating meats, incorporating more plant-based protein and fiber, or adding more health halo to their diet,” Oakley says. “It’s showcasing items that are tasty and full of flavor, without all the added guilt.”