Foodservice Equipment & Supplies

MAR 2018

Foodservice Equipment & Supplies magazines is an industry resource connecting foodservice operators, equipment and supplies manufacturers and dealers, and facility design consultants.

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Page 53 of 107

52 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • MARCH 2018 T he so-called plant-forward movement in the food industry is — forgive the expression — growing like a weed. Vegetarian, vegan and vegetable-centric concepts are rubbing shoulders with burger, pizza and chicken restaurants on lists of hot new emerging chains. Celebrity chefs from Jose Andres and Richard Landau to Matthew Kennedy, Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Yotam Ottolenghi keep launching big-buzz veggie-centric restaurants. Others, such as Eric Ripert at New York's Le Bernardin, winner of multiple Michelin Stars, show- case artfully composed vegetable tasting menus alongside more traditional menus. Ripert cites the growing demand for meat- less options and the creative challenge of high-end vegetable cookery as key drivers for the veggie additions. Noncommercial trendsetters such as Yale, Stanford, Harvard, University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Google, Microsoft and Bon Appétit Management continue to implement innovative plant-based menu platforms that strongly resonate with younger consumers' concerns about health and sustainability. With excess consump- tion of red meat, in particular, directly tied to critical health issues (coronary disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes) and environmen- tal damage (beef production generates more greenhouse gasses, according to environmental groups), these and many other noncommercial leaders increasingly weave both human and planetary health into menu-planning strategies. Behind the scenes, major food manufacturers have also put stakes in plant-based protein startups, bringing resources and scalability to the category. Announcements abound regarding better-burger operators, among others, adding different brands of plant-based burgers to menus, with beet and pea protein alternatives now in the mix of beef-replacement options. The trend made appearances on several 2018 lists: Whole Foods Market named plant-based proteins as a top food trend for 2018; vegetable-forward/ veggie-centric cuisine took the No. 5 spot on the National Restaurant Associa- tion's list of What's Hot for 2018; and the Specialty Foods Association's Trendspot- ter panel ranks plant-based foods No. 1 on its list of 2018 trends. BEEFY BLENDS Even the beefiest of restaurant concepts continue to take note. Last December, McDonald's made the new McVegan soy- based burger an official menu addition at several hundred units across Sweden and Finland, following tests that proved demand was strong and customer response was positive. Developed in partnership with an Oslo, Norway-based manufacturer, the burger's toppings include tomato, lettuce, pickles, onion, ketchup, mustard, oil and an egg-free sandwich sauce. McDonald's has said that it will evaluate further McVegan rollouts on a country-by-country basis. Last fall, Sonic Drive-In became the first national U.S. quick-service burger chain to begin testing a blended beef and mush- room (25 percent to 30 percent) burger, try- ing a tactic that many in the plant-forward movement hope will gain traction as a way to begin weaning consumers off high-fat, high-carbon-footprint animal proteins. Operators including Compass Group USA and Sodexo are participating, as well, with their own blended burger menu introduc- tions. Sodexo, for instance, partnered with the Mushroom Council in 2016 to create The Blend burger, now served in more than 250 participating K-12 school districts nationwide. And many operations, commercial and noncommercial alike, continue to work toward introducing menu items such as salads and entrees that con- sist mainly of vegetables, pulses and/ or grains, with small portions of meat used as flavor-enhancing garnishes or optional add-ons.

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