As consumers’ definition of health evolves, so do their dining demands. Younger consumers are increasingly concerned about health, social responsibility and sustainability, and they call for more offerings that satisfy their vegetarian- or vegan-leaning ways, according to Technomic’s recent “Center of the Plate: Seafood & Vegetarian Consumer Trend Report.”
The majority of consumers who eat vegetarian or vegan options allow meat, fish and dairy in their diet, but younger consumers are more likely than their older counterparts to follow restrictive diets. About 30% of consumers say they eat vegetarian options or substitutes at least once every 90 days, compared to nearly 40% of 18-34-year-olds. Half as many (14%) say the same for vegan options. As these consumers age and become core consumers, it will be increasingly important to satisfy their demands for vegetarian and vegan foods.
The report found these demands for vegetarian or vegan burgers, tofu and vegetables—like beans, eggplant, salad and sweet potatoes—often are unmet. Pasta, quinoa and rice were also mentioned by consumers as fare they would like to see more often at restaurants.
Younger consumers say protein substitutes provide enough protein for their diet and would like more restaurants to offer protein substitutes; older consumers are more likely to reach for eggs or dairy products. Between 60-70% of consumers would consider ordering beans, grains, eggs, and nuts or seeds as protein substitutes in dishes at restaurants or other foodservice locations.
Keep in mind that consumers tend to view dining-out occasions as a treat and a chance to ignore their usual diet restrictions. This means demand for flavorful, meatless options may be even more important for at-home meals.
Consumers generally prefer adding flavor through methods that don’t include liquid-based ingredients that may alter or conceal the flavor of the dishes. Salsa, teriyaki, and sweet-and-sour sauces are the top sauces or condiments consumers would consider ordering with a vegetarian or vegan item.
Consumers are likely looking for preparation styles, seasonings and spices to bring out the natural flavor of the vegetarian or vegan ingredients in what is perceived as a more healthful way. Nearly 70% of consumers favor preparation styles, such as roasting, grilling or braising, as ways to add flavor to vegetarian or vegan dishes. Highlighting how the preparation style complements the natural flavors of a dish indicates it is flavorful without adding unhealthy ingredients.
Adding tasty, flavorful vegetarian and vegan options can satisfy not just those consumers following strict diets, but also the large number of other consumers—particularly younger consumers—who are looking for these healthier offerings.