The plant-based food industry has never been more mainstream in food service, restaurants, and general consumer trends. Moreover, plant-based products are set to grow year on year – by 15% from 2021 through 2027, reaching $14.9 billion in valuation as reported by Globe News Wire(1).
As defined by Insider(2), plant-based meat is created and manufactured to appear, feel, and taste like animal meat. It uses plant materials, like soy protein, wheat protein, pea protein, beans, and others to replicate savory, meaty textures. Based on a growing concern for health, the environment, and the overall curiosity of modern diners, various experts and reports have dubbed plant-based diets as a trend that’s here to stay.
Senior Sous Chef of Unilever Food Solutions Brando Santos validates this claim: “[Plant-based diets] are here to stay because of younger generations who are more aware of sustainability, environmentalism, and the future of the planet–especially when it comes to the food they eat."
But more importantly, health-conscious Filipino millennials and Gen-Z are also on the hunt for delicious yet nutritious alternatives. Since the pandemic, there’s been a worldwide shift to reduce meat consumption and shift to plant-based. Flexitarianism (vegetarians who occasionally enjoy meat) has been the global food trend in the last year, especially in the Philippines where it was driven by health concerns. Flexitarians understand that eating too much meat increases the risk of high blood cholesterol and heart disease. The use of antibiotics and hormones in livestock is also a primary concern.
"If this can be sustained, the plant-based trend can become mainstream and gain more traction in the Philippines, with more restaurants offering these types of dishes,” he adds.
As food business owners, you must understand market movement and growth opportunities plant-based products present. For example, did you know that 98% of plant-based consumers are also meat-eaters? Or that Filipinos hold the biggest percentage of flexitarians in Southeast Asia?
Here are top trends that indicate incremental growth for the category, insights about the modern diner and their purchasing behaviors, and tips to consider when designing a business to be inclusive of this movement.
The Plant-Based Industry: Trends, Takeaways, and Tips
1. Meat-eaters are the biggest growth drivers of plant-based consumer products.
Surprise! According to Deloitte in The Future of Food(3), plant-based products aim to replicate the traditional meat experience. Hence, they target flexitarians, who must satisfy the occasional meat craving. Moreover, as previously mentioned, most plant-based food consumers are meat buyers, who are looking to shake up their diets.
Despite the meat-heavy Philippine cuisine, Chef Brando says that “Filipino chefs and operators are aware of what’s happening and are adding a vegetarian selection to their menu.” Several chains have also launched vegetarian options because of the rising demand, such as the Burger King Plant-Based Whopper and Pancake House's plant-based tacos made with The Vegetarian Butcher plant-based meat.
2. People care about their health and climate change.
Knowing the environmental impact of traditional meat sourcing and farming is a huge motivator across both young and old consumers, as well as the known health benefits of a largely plant-based diet. Forbes drives this point home:
“Adopting a more plant-based lifestyle can lessen the impact of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions that result from food production. Furthermore, water usage decreases significantly; if the U.S. cut animal product consumption even by half, our food production would require 37% less water.”
Neilson also reported that 62% of consumers are willing to reduce meat consumption due to environmental concerns, and 43% say they would replace meat-based protein with vegan protein sources. Deloitte further describes that technological advancements in food are disrupting the industry by acknowledging food as medicine.
Plant-based meat also contains more vitamins and minerals since its base ingredients are soy, wheat gluten, or peas. This quality, minus the demerits of meat, creates a healthier eating experience.
3. Notoriously meaty Filipino dishes are just as delicious when turned plant-based.
Many Filipino entrepreneurs have been able to break through barriers and recreate Filipino favorites without meat products. Cosmic, a 100% vegan Filipino restaurant in Makati City, is loud and proud about getting the taste and texture right despite using plant-based products. In a feature article by Rappler, co-founder Lali Balagtas mentions that 70 to 80% of their customers are non-vegans.
The Corner Tree Cafe founded by Chiqui Mabanta in 2009 is also proof enough that local demand is here to stay, with Filipino favorites like arroz ala Cubana and adobo served in new (but still familiar) ways.
How Can You Be Part of the Plant-Based Movement?
Pay attention to consumer wants and needs, identify creative ways to incorporate big trends, and experiment with new plant-based products without compromising on taste. Introducing plant-based protein to your dishes can simply mean using more dark leafy greens or plant-based ingredients that can incorporate flavor and texture to your dish, like Knorr Liquid Seasoning. Vegetables can be fun and delicious when you season them well using the right products.
Chef Brando’s tip? “Vegetables are generally more affordable than meat. As a food business owner or chef, you can look into maximizing the affordability and variety of vegetables. At the same time, dealing with vegetables will spark your creative juices to develop more creative offerings for your diners. And, in the long run, you’ll be helping the planet and humanity even in a small way by contributing to sustainability and good environmental practices.”
Read on for other tips to introduce vegetables and plant-based cuisine into your menu:
- Utilize seasonal vegetables since they are usually cheaper. You can also ask your supplier for more affordable or local alternatives to your usual greens.
- Season them well. Vegetables not only add color to your plates, but they are effective vehicles for enhancing your dishes in terms of flavor. Marinate them in Knorr Liquid Seasoning. You can also create dips or sauces using Lady's Choice Real Mayonnaise or Hellmann's Miso Ponzu Dressing.
- Offer plant-based products to your guests. These meat-like alternatives are tasty and extremely versatile. Moreover, they’re pre-seasoned and pre-cooked, which can help shorten your kitchen prep time.
Plant-based products have a long way to go. However, anyone in the food business should acknowledge their impact. Don’t treat them as a trend that will come and go. Start recognizing plant-based as a culinary force to stay.