February 11, 2021



Whether motivated by health, ethical concerns or simply the novelty of trying something new, consumers are ready to incorporate more plant-forward foods into their diets. Plant-based ingredients such as mushrooms, beans and lentils lend their naturally earthy flavors to entrées, side dishes and even beverages. On the flip side, plant-forward dishes that replicate the flavor and texture of meat show no signs of stopping—and they appeal to diners who don’t necessarily identify as vegetarian or vegan.
While veggie burgers may have planted the seeds of curiosity for diners to expand their palates, the future of the category lies in such innovations as meat-and-vegetable blended proteins, chicken analogues and even seafood made from pea protein. Plant-based versions of popular menu items—such as chili, tacos and stir-fry— are ideal for customers caught between the desire for comfort food and for healthier options. To make plant-based dining even more intuitive, operators should consider carryout- and delivery-friendly dishes, such as pizza, pasta and grain bowls. Across both commercial and noncommercial channels, the plant-forward trend is sure to grow in the year ahead!1,2,3


3 ways to add more plant-forward items to your menu

growth of menu mentions for the term  "plant-based" over the past year.4

growth of blended burgers on restaurant menus over the past year.4

growth of cauliflower pizza crust on restaurant menus over the past year.4

#meatlessmonday gives a mouthwatering, colorful look inside the plant-forward movement, with more than 898,000 posts on Instagram. Photos of vegan and vegetarian alternatives to dishes traditionally made with meat truly appeal to a wide consumer base.5

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Conversations around sustainable dietary patterns, or "eco-dieting", demonstrate consumer desire to support the planet. By increasing the usage of ingredients such as beans and lentils, which are both rich in nutrients and eco-friendly, operators can start building more sustainable menus.6


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In our latest "Cooking with Custom Culinary® " podcast, Chef Michael Hornback poses the question, "Does what you eat influence your health?" Learn how plant-based dishes fit within the whole-food trend, and discover the acceptance of plant-forward dining across generational groups. 


1. “3 ways to offer plant-based dishes with a global spin,” Restaurant Business, February 13, 2020.
2. Katie Ayoub, “Plant forward on the move,” Flavor & The Menu, July 8, 2020.
3. Katie Ayoub, “Planting comfort,” Flavor & The Menu, December 3, 2020.
4. Datassential MenuTrends, U.S. menu penetration growth 2019-2020
5. Instagram, #meatlessmonday accessed January 20, 2021.
6. Mintel, Saving the Planet with Sustainable Ingredients, March 2020